A Unique & Unusual Folk Art Whitby Jet Sweetheart Ring c.1860


Origin: English
Period: Mid / Late Nineteenth Century
Provenance: Unknown
Date: c.1860-1870
Approximate UK Ring Size: O or US size 7 ¼

The chunky hoop formed from North Yorkshire Whitby jet with punch work detailing in the form of overlapping hearts and lozenge motifs, gadrooned edging and applied metalwork circular beads survives from the third quarter of the nineteenth century.

In fine condition, the ring has a beautiful aged patina, the jet stone tactile, smoother commensurate with age. When worn, you can feel the metalwork on the inner band though not uncomfortable. There are no nicks or areas of loss and the ring remains uncleaned.

Sweetheart jewellery from the Victorian era serves as a nostalgic reminder of an age when people were often parted from their loved ones often for many years at a time, and a simple jewellery memento such as this had a huge significance in helping them feel closer together. Essentially a fossilized and polished wood, Whitby Jet comes from rocks dating from the lower jurassic period, around 180 million years ago and has a rich history of usage in Britain since the Bronze Age. Through Medieval times and then into the nineteenth century jet was used mainly for ecclesiastical ornament such as crosses and rings, but this changed with the Victorian preoccupation with mourning and the death of Prince Albert in 1861 when Queen Victoria led the whole country in mourning.

Whether this ring was a sweetheart ring for a living partner or a mourning ring for one that was lost, one can imagine the person who crafted this ring pouring their creativity, love, and skill into it, and the result is a truly charming and exceptional piece of romantically charged folk art jewellery.