I am in the fortunate position to be happily married to someone who does not crave her fingers jewelled with rings. Now I love a jewelled finger, but financially the bare finger does win by more than a short head. We must all agree however that the history of the ring a fascinating one.
Rings have been worn since ancient Egyptian times. Signet rings engraved with a personal seal are associated with power and status, while plain gold wedding rings are tokens of betrothal. Wedding rings have been given or exchanged since Roman times and from the 16th century it has been customary to use a plain gold band.
Before the discovery of large deposits of gold in the USA in the 1840s and diamonds in South Africa in the 1870s, jewellery that was no longer fashionable was often dismantled, melted and the stones refashioned to follow changing tastes. This makes rings before 1800 reasonably rare.
In the early 19th century half hoop and cluster rings were introduced and they remained fashionable throughout the century. Snakes, symbolising wisdom and eternity, were a particularly common motif in the mid 19th century, especially after Prince Albert presented Queen Victoria with an emerald set snake engagement ring in 1839. Serpent rings consist of one, two, or three bands with single or double serpent heads, often set with diamond or ruby eyes.
New patterns introduced in the 1890s reflected the late Victorian and Edwardian revival of interest in 18th century court styles and jewellery of this period is characterised by the use of delicate settings.
Senior Valuer Michael Dowse
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Smoking is very bad for your health and it is many many years since I last had the unbelievable joy of smoking my pipe. The inconsolable heartbreak of dispatching my beloved briar to the bin is still a wound as raw today as the day of the ceremony. I console myself however by counting the money saved on matches or, as they are sometimes called, vestas.
Vesta cases are a very collectable item. In the 1830’s the awkward and inconvenient tinder box was finally replaced when a new method was invented for producing flames. Vesta matches, named after the Roman goddess Vesta, were slightly smaller than modern matches and were tipped with red phosphorus which ignited when rubbed against a rough surface.
This new invention in turn developed a need for the vesta box. Originally the vesta box was an adaptation of the traditional snuff box made by adding a striker. The striker was usually a small plate of silver or iron added to the side, base or even interior of the snuff box. Iron strikers remain rare though because laws in the production of silver prohibited the soldering of any base metal to the silver. Other developments included moving the hinged cover to the base to prevent the chance of a stray spark turning the vesta box into a bomb. So, slowly vesta box design grew separately from the snuff box.
Essentially there are three types of vesta case. Those made in the provinces, those made in London and the novelty cases. Collectors can collect single makers, specific Assay offices, all varieties, have themed collections or specialise in novelty. The most valuable are often the novelty cases. These come in a variety of guises. Examples are the dog, the pig, the dog kennel, the violin, the snake and the corseted female form.
Smoking tobacco is definitely not a popular activity any longer, but collecting smoking memorabilia is a growing passion amongst collectors and the vesta case is part of that passion.
Senior Valuer Michael Dowse
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Specialising in Jewellery, I am very fortunate to see many stunning and exquisite pieces. They can range from something handed down from generation to generation, or a costume piece purchased a few years ago. Fashions and taste play a large part in the open market valuation of jewellery as well as the overall condition.
With the current trend for precious pieces to be set in white gold and platinum, it seems the market for good quality costume jewellery has increased too. Diamante necklaces, earrings and dress rings (with a little mix and match) can look as good as the real thing for a fraction of the cost.
Nevertheless, we all know that diamonds are a girl’s best friend and ‘that’ special ring has got to be special.
Whether you are looking for a timeless classic or something modern and a little different – auction is the place to go. New, second hand or antique, our Specialist Jewellery auctions offer amazing examples to suit every budget – at significantly reduced prices than the high street equivalent.
An example I have seen of this recently was a very good colour and clarity, 2 carat diamond ring in a local retail environment, priced at over £14,000; something which you would expect to see at auction in the region of £3,000 to £4,000 (plus 21% buyers premium), there are real savings to be had!