An exceptional 18th century English mourning ring dated 1774, set with a foil-backed facetted amethyst surrounded by 17 early brilliant cut diamonds set in silver, against a gold reeded setting. The bifurcated shoulders are set with 2 additional diamonds set in silver. The body of the ring is in high karat gold, the band is rendered in an undulating wave design, enamelled in white enamel against gold lettering reading "Joseph Tullee Esq Ob 20 Nov 1774 Ae 68". The white enamel signifies the death of an individual who never married. Amethyst has had emotional significance going back to ancient Greece when the word "amethystos" meant 'never drunk', but also signified remembrance. Beginning in the Middle Ages the Christian church used purple garments on All Souls Day and for requiem masses.
Mourning was serious business in the 18th century, and was observed by all members of society. An entire industry existed around death and commemorating the departed. Rings with scenes of weeping women, funerary urns depicted in diamonds on black enamel, and skulls (more common before 1750) under crystal or even a portrait diamond were made for people with means, often commissioned by the departed before their death and bequeathed to loved ones afterward. We have never before seen a mourning ring so spectacularly set with a large gem.
A similar band is pictured on page 174 of Diana Scarisbrick's "Rings: Jewelry of Loyalty, Love and Power"
Dimensions: The ring is a size 7 US. The setting, diamonds included, measures 15.1mm x 13.75mm. The visible part of the amethyst measures 10.40mm x 9.39mm. The depth from the table to the base of the setting is 6mm. Due to the design of the ring it can not be sized.
Weight: 5.5 grams
Condition: Overall the condition is very, very good given its nearly 250 years of age. The whole ring shows gentle, normal wear consistent with age and use. Under a loupe, the stone shows some wear and has two visible chips, though these are very small and hardly visible to the naked eye. One is at "1 o'clock", the other is at "5 o'clock". The diamonds appear to be all original with no repairs. The enamel shows some light losses but enough is intact to show the original design/decoration. The most notable losses are above the 2 of "20", between the 'O' and the 'V' of "Nov", and just around the second 7 of "1774".