Antique 1770s Georgian Tree of Life Sepia Mourning Ring with Amethyst
A Georgian Tree of Life mourning ring with an amethyst surround and a dedication to a "John Roughley March, 1775." This is a modest and endearing example of 18th century Georgian mourning jewelry.
The sepia oval portrait is held under crystal. Tiny pieces of human hair are incorporated into the scene, imbuing the tree imagery with added symbolism. The miniaturist either carefully affixed the hair or mixed it with the paint, effectively enshrining the deceased in the portrait. This style of mourning jewelry was popular in the late 1700s and early 1800s, when allegorical symbols of life, loss, and grief were used in mourning jewelry. In this case the "Tree of Life" represents the original, life-sustaining tree in the Garden of Eden as well as the fruit-bearing, healing trees in the Book of Revelations. Nearness to the tree in the Bible suggests a nearness to God, as well as an abundance of life both physical and eternal. The miniature is preserved neatly beneath crystal in a wafer thin face with an amethyst trim. The entire panel is fitted in a scalloped bezel, likely a later fitting.
I do not believe the shank on this panel is original, as it bears the owl hallmark used in France beginning in 1893 to assay completed, imported items meeting a minimum gold content of 18K from non-treaty countries (Canada, Finland, Poland, etc.) I suspect that this ring originally had either a plain gold shank OR an enameled shank with John's details.
I found records of a John Roughley paying an apprentice in his Chester grocery store in 1758, perhaps the same fellow ("Register of Duties Paid for Apprentices' Indentures, 1710-1811"). I believe I also found his burial record, dated March 1775 ("England, Cheshire Bishop's Transcripts, 1576-1933."). He was buried at St. Bridget, an ancient parish where very few headstones are still visible. There were at least three iterations of the church on the same site, the last of which was razed in 1891 to make way for courts, roadways, and a traffic circle.
Measurements: Size 5 US, 2.3 grams. This ring may be sized in the 5-8 US range for $100.
Era: 1770s center, shank unknown, assayed after 1890
Markings: Dedication on verso.
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