Mourning in the 18th Century

Mourning in the 18th Century

A Tale of Two Rings

These 2 rings have long intrigued me. Both from the 1700's, both commemorating love and loss, yet they are very different.

The lovely blue and white enameled navette shaped ring shows the love of a mother and wife. The wear to the crystal tells us she lived long after the loss of her loved ones and wore the ring daily, never forgetting that deepest of sorrows. The ring is so personal it seems as if we too can feel her sadness. The double tragedy of losing a son and then a husband in the space of 18 months.

The ring has a hair and sepia decorated plaque under the crystal. The scene is a woman weeping over an urn, common imagery for a mourning ring of this era. But this ring has the added detail of a phrase written around the image, it says "The Wish That Would Have Kept Ye Here" This ring imparts a great deal of information to us. The ring is engraved on the back with names and dates. "Moulton Messiter ob 5 July 1786 ae 57" "Moulton Messiter Junior ob14 Dec1784 ae 17"

The second ring is as untypical in its imagery as the first is typical. Furthermore, there are no lovely inscriptions to assist and inform us. And maybe for those reasons this is the one that intrigues me the most.

The simplicity of design, a curving cut cornered rectangle made to embrace a finger, a barely-there bezel of rose gold holding in the bevel edged crystal. Where the first ring was stylish and in vogue, this ring was made to unique specifications. But the shape and expensive yet subtle details of the setting are not the most unusual thing about this mourning ring. While the typical mediums were employed, hair and sepia on ivory, the imagery is one I've never seen before. The curved plaque of ivory under the crystal displays musical notes.

The top line of the ring has a highly ornate A with a short line of music displaying one note. The bottom line of the ring has a highly ornate M with a short line of music depicting a different note. In the center is what appears to be a monogram, unfortunately, it is quite difficult to make out. The mystery of this ring continues, Who is A M? What significance do the musical notes have?

I continue to learn from and to be intrigued by antique jewels, they offer a unique insight into the lives of people in centuries past. When Love and Loss went hand in hand with living.


  • Jenny Tomkins: August 02, 2022
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    Moulton and Mary Messiter were my husband’s GGGG Grandparents. Moulton was a gentleman and solicitor who lived and owned property in Wincanton, Somerset. He married Mary Ring (daughter of a solicitor) on 27 June 1754 and they had 14 children. Moulton died on 5 July 1786 (aged 57) and left his property to his wife. Mary died 17 years later on 19 May 1803. Their son, Moulton, died 14 December 1784, aged 17 years. My husband is descended from one of their daughters, Mary, born in 1756.

  • Alexandra Long-Oswald: February 05, 2018
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    You are a wonderful storyteller, I wanted you to keep going.

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