My fascination with antique jewellery started many decades ago. The first piece of antique jewellery I purchased was when I was a student. It was a Victorian ‘regard’ ring. I bought it on layby over several months, paying for it gradually with money from a part time job I had. I loved the concept of it, lovely gemstones spelling out a message. Over the years, I gradually purchased more antique pieces – a Victorian bangle with grapes and vine leaves, a Georgian garnet lace pin, a long gold book chain collar, a carved Whitby jet necklace.
But it was probably my first antique mourning ring, with a tiny piece of coiled hair under the bridge of the ring, that pushed me over into the edge. I wanted to know more about that ring. It was a fairly simple ring as you can see above- black enamel (slightly worn), gold, small diamonds – but I wanted to know when it was made, who would have worn it and so on. I read articles on mourning jewellery, bought all the books on the topic I could find, and spent hours searching online for different types of mourning jewellery. Early on, I found the marvellous ‘The Art of Mourning’ blog (https://artofmourning.com/) which is a must for anyone interested in mourning jewellery.
Grand tour jewellery became my next passion, starting with some small black lava studs. Next, I moved onto micromosaics and pietra dure, and coral jewellery. I read some more, bought some more books and kept searching online. Then I discovered snake jewellery, intaglio rings and the list goes on.
What is so interesting about antique jewellery is that, beyond admiring the fact that it is good to look at, you can delve into the period of history in which it was created, the context about why and how it was worn, who wore it, how it was constructed, where the gemstones, if any, came from, and how the piece might have been changed since it was first worn. It helps to understand the clothing and hairstyles of the period as that helps explain, for instance, why earrings for day use went out of fashion for a time and why men wore tie pins. It is fascinating to me to learn about foiling of gemstones and why this was so popular during the Georgian era, about how sepia mourning pieces were made and about how the sale of hair became so vital for producing mourning jewellery, and why snake jewellery has been so popular for centuries.
There are so many pieces of jewellery to locate and learn from. 2019 should be a good year.