It may not be our most wearable piece but this ring is beautiful and charming and is greatly admired by our customers.

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It’s a Georgian portrait ring, circa 1820 which contains a miniature painting of a young girl.

Lots of people have admired it, and a few have considered buying it but they have all decided against on the grounds that they can’t wear it everyday. 

The trouble is people expect different things from their jewellery nowadays. Most of our customers want maximum wear for minimum effort. They don’t want to spend thousands on a piece of jewellery that they can only wear on high days and holidays. 

When this ring was made life was very different. Everyone knows these portable portraits were the first incarnation of the wallet photo which has since been replaced by mobile phones and icloud. We own thousands of pictures of our loved ones, but it’s quite likely this portrait was the only image possessed by the original owner of this ring and would have been greatly treasured. Personally, I think it was probably a gentleman; mainly due to the size of the ring. It’s possible that the shank has been replaced at some point but the size is still large for a woman of that era. The portrait was likely painted specifically to be set in this ring and may be 10 years or so later due to the style of dress the girl is wearing. The pink of the bodice is reflected in the blush of her cheeks and her blonde hair and blue eyes give her a charming appeal. It’s also probable that the identity of the subject and/or the artist may be written on the back of the picture. Unfortunately it would be risky to tamper with the glass so we have left the secrets of the ring’s history hidden within.

She is certainly very attractive and was undoubtedly a great love of the wearer although we may never know what form of love this was – either suitor, guardian or friend. The portrait has been beautifully and painstakingly executed. It is hard to imagine only having one image of your loved one when we are so used to uploading holiday photos on facebook and chatting to loved ones via webcam. How many times was this portrait gazed at? And how long were the owner and subject apart?

I must admit I’m slightly disinterested in galleries, but these tiny artworks really resonate with my hopeless romantic side. I could quite easily find a home for a ring like this (and consequently, no doubt others like it!) It survived this long specifically because it was treasured and not worn during mundane chores like shopping and washing up. So for the time being we have become it’s guardians, at least until someone else falls as in love with it as the original owner did all those years ago. Pieces like these always find the right person the end.

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When this locket came into our shop the central panel was full of decades of dust and lint which completely obscured the beautiful micro mosaic within. When we removed the panel, at best we were hoping to find an old sepia photograph but it became apparent quite quickly that we were dealing with something special! It took a lot of time and (careful) effort but we managed to gently brush the dirt away to reveal the intricate mosaic beneath and then carefully cleaned away the more stubborn grime. It sounds silly but I did feel a bit like an archaeologist unearthing a long lost artifact – like Indiana Jones without the spring loaded booby traps!

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The backing for the mosaic appears to be mother of pearl, and the design is just staggering in its intricacy. Most of the pieces are 0.5mm long, so it’s difficult to comprehend the skill required in cutting each individual gem or stone to create this picture. These pieces are typical of those purchased as souvenirs by wealthy Victorians – this piece is 18ct gold and was more than likely made in Rome. The image is that of a bird with a fish in it’s beak. I’ve tried to find what this may be symbolic of but am still unsure, if anyone out there would like to hazard a guess I’d be very interested!!

The faded picture in the back is the original; it could be replaced but I don’t think that’s our decision to make. I love it, but then (as dad tells me) I love most antique jewellery. Still, I don’t think it’s difficult to see why in this case. It’s unique, beautifully crafted and very wearable. Personally, I think it would go fabulously with any outfit; dressed down with trousers or jeans or dressed up with a fabulous LBD!