Mourning rings and mourning jewelry are a niche item for jewelry collectors: they’re beautiful but so intimate that not all collectors are drawn to acquire them. Personally, I find mourning rings fascinating. I think there’s something wonderful about the idea that a great loss that can be memorialized with a keepsake that you can wear whenever you want to think of them.
But this post isn’t about mourning rings in general – this post is to look at one truly exceptional collection of mourning rings that is headed for auction in Fellows September 30th Fine Jewellery Sale.
One of the most extensive mourning collections to ever be sold in the UK, this collection comprises sixty-three (!!) Georgian and William IV mourning rings. The rings were collected by Elizabeth Snaith (1805-1890) in the 19th century and the current owner is a descendant of the Snaith Family. The collection has never has never been sold before.
Every ring in the collection is gold with enamel with one skeleton band (pictured above in the lower right hand corner of the image).
The collection includes rings memorializing fifty distinct individuals and has been extensively researched. The listing includes documentation assembled by the collector, including the names on the rings, their family connections, history for some of the more notable names, and even extensive family trees for some of the families represented. There is more information in the auction listing, including photos of some of the documentation. It’s truly incredible.
Here’s a little more background from Fellows:
The giving and wearing of mourning rings occurred widely in the period to the late nineteenth century. Many testator providing funds in their wills to important benefactors for the purchase of a ring to be worn during the period of mourning. Such a benefaction was an honour and would have been received with pride and the rings would have been worn with great respect. We note that many of the named persons that occur in this collection left wills that gained probate at the Prerogative Court of Canterbury, and their wills contain details of these bequests.”
If you’ve ever tried to buy a mourning ring you understand how scarce and coveted they are and how remarkable it is that this collection has SIXTY THREE of them all together! It blows my mind more than a little bit.
I’m so glad that these mourning rings made their way into the hands of a collector who treated them with respect and preserved them so beautifully. I hope whoever is the next owner of this standout collection will safeguard it just as carefully.
This extraordinary collection goes up for sale on September 30th, so be sure to go check out the auction listing at Fellows before then. And if you’re in the UK and decide to go see the collection, please tell it hello for me.
All images c/o Fellows.