Posted 6 years ago
I found this ring at Salvation Army this morning. I'll go out on a limb and say it's a real period Victorian mourning ring and not a reproduction. The band is marked "sterling" inside. The pearl in the middle is attached in the same manner as the antique rings I've seen online. I think drilling a hole and riviting glass might crack it. So this seems to be a real piece of onyx. They can also be made of "jet" (lignite- fossilized driftwood-coal). The stone is concave instead of being flat or a cabachon. It's mounted in the filigree sterling silver band with four flat prongs. There are bands of black and red enamel around the outside border. Most of the red has chipped away except for one or two areas. The black seems mostly intact. It was quite dirty when I bought it. Looked almost like dark brass. I took my polishing cloth and went over it lightly. I like patina on silver it highlights the design. At least now it looks like silver. It's a beautiful ring. -Mike-
Love after Death: The Beautiful, Macabre World of Mourning Jewelry
By Meredith Woerner
For hundreds of years, people wore mourning jewelry to commemorate their dead loved ones. But what secrets about the past can you learn from these dark baubles made of diamonds, skeletons and bits of loved ones' hair.
As far as materials go, black enamel is the hallmark of most mourning pieces. But different metals and gems have different meanings. Woerner elaborated that white enamel means the deceased was a woman who died unmarried and a virgin. Pearls would indicate tears and the loss of a child. Red enamel symbolizes of course love, but also blood, passion or anger.
People started making memorial jewelry because there was no photography, and if your loved one died you wanted something as a touchstone to remember them every day. You could also get a painting made of your loved one, and later on there was a fad in "death photography" — but before photography came along, this was the main way that people remembered their departed loved ones.
Different colors represented different stages of grief. If you were observing traditional Victorian public mourning time, the necklace or ring could incorporate various colors that would match the changing period of mourning. It was permissible to wear mourning jewelry with other jewels. However, if you were following the strict Victorian mourning procedure, mourning jewelry was the only type of jewelry allowed for the first two to three years of "deep mourning." The beautiful jewelry would change with the times, eventually incorporating pictures.
The items would be worn by friends and family, by royalty. Queen Victoria, whose epic sadness over the loss of her husband, Prince Albert, popularized the tradition. And she wore her husband's morning ring for the rest of her life.