Antique Children's Jewelry

For the eighteenth and most of the nineteenth centuries, children were thought of as miniature adults. This is great, because it means that there is lots of antique miniature children’s jewelry for us to find. It was not uncommon for infants and young children to receive rings, necklaces, bracelets and even earrings as gifts from friends and relatives.

Coral beads were particularly popular, as the material was thought to protect children from evil forces.

Baby rings were made with the same care as their adult counterparts. Today, we like wearing them as midi rings between the first and second knuckle.

Victorian 10k gold and 14k gold child's rings with enamel, pearl and garnet, at Gray & Davis. 

Victorian 10k gold and 14k gold child's rings with enamel, pearl and garnet, at Gray & Davis. 

To get the most out of your investment, tiny pairs of bracelets were made to be outgrown and clasped together to form one grown up bracelet!

Victorian pair of baby bracelets, at Gray & Davis. 

Victorian pair of baby bracelets, at Gray & Davis. 

Victorian baby bracelet pair as one large bracelet. 

Victorian baby bracelet pair as one large bracelet. 

If you'd like more information, Shirley Bury knows all. Check out her "Jewellery 1789-1910," one of our favorite resources. 

A Brief History of Christmas Dinner

What's on your holiday dinner table? Be it seven fishes or seven cartons of Chinese takeout, it's surely steeped in tradition. Several classic Christmas recipes (roast beast anyone?) began appearing a few centuries ago and were made around the same time as our antique jewelry. 

So, put on your favorite gems and pour yourself a glass of egg nog (enjoyed since the Middle Ages)! It's party time.

A Georgian holiday table might feature marrow bones, mince pies, roast pig and fowl and some sort of baked fruit dessert. We now consider this dinner a bit rustic, but most holiday dinner staples such as a roast turkey and pie date to this era, if not before. 

Georgian Enamel, pearl and rose cut diamond ring, at Gray & Davis.

Georgian Enamel, pearl and rose cut diamond ring, at Gray & Davis.

A Georgian holiday party, c.1808

A Georgian holiday party, c.1808

A Georgian five diamond ring in silver and 18k yellow gold, at Gray & Davis.

A Georgian five diamond ring in silver and 18k yellow gold, at Gray & Davis.

Victorian literature gives us a taste of what could be found for a 19th century holiday table. Christmas dinner was meant to be the finest meal of the year. Roast poultry, oyster stuffing, and plum pudding were staples. It is said that Prince Albert's sweet tooth is the reason for pudding's place at the royal feast and, subsequently, at almost every English Christmas meal. Just as several jewelry trends were swayed by Victoria's tastes, so too was the preference for rich dessert encouraged by Albert. 

Victorian Christmas party, c.1873

Victorian Christmas party, c.1873

Victorian watch fob and nested snake ring, available at Gray & Davis. Diamond snake ring is available in our  online shop . 

Victorian watch fob and nested snake ring, available at Gray & Davis. Diamond snake ring is available in our online shop

Edwardian opulence called for massive Christmas trees, over the top decorations and a holiday feast to match. In wealthy homes, classic dishes such as roast pork and ham would have been preceded by champagne, quail eggs and caviar. Delicate soups replaced heartier stews of yore as French cooking became the global standard for excellence (partially thanks to Edward VII, for whom the Edwardian era is named!) 

An Edwardian dinner party, bathed in candlelight.

An Edwardian dinner party, bathed in candlelight.

Edwardian paste dangle earrings, silver on 14k gold, available in our  online shop . 

Edwardian paste dangle earrings, silver on 14k gold, available in our online shop

The Art Deco period coincided with the American prohibition of alcohol sale and consumption, though we know this stopped few from enjoying a tasty tipple. Cocktails such as the French 75, whose recipe was published in 1930 and features a festive champagne float, and the Bee's Knees, meant to take the edge of bathtub gin with soothing lemon and honey, are still being mixed in restaurants today. And, they are perfect for holiday festivities. 

An Art Deco era holiday party. 

An Art Deco era holiday party. 

A fabulous stack of Art Deco eternity bands, available at Gray & Davis, and in our  online shop . 

A fabulous stack of Art Deco eternity bands, available at Gray & Davis, and in our online shop

Jewelry Hallmarks: the rings of Ostby & Barton

Jewelry hallmarks can be an antique seller’s best friend. With a little bit of research, these tiny stamps can reveal a lot of information: a piece’s age, country of origin, the jeweler that originally made it, etc. The other day we noticed that two of our antique men’s signet rings had the same maker’s mark, and we were bitten by the research bug. Who made these rings and where did they come from?

The mark has two initials “O” and “B” with the gold fineness stamped in between. Just a few searches later, we learned that these rings were made by Ostby & Barton, a prominent jeweler based in Providence, Rhode Island. Multiple sources say that this company was the largest producer of gold rings in the United States at the end of the 19th century; these two rings are part of that history.

Engelhart C. Ostby, the company’s founder and president, was born in Norway. He trained as a jeweler in Oslo before immigrating to the United States. He worked for jewelers in Providence before partnering with Nathan B. Barton in 1879 to form Ostby & Barton.

Late Victorian 14k gold signet ring with monogram "RCN," at Gray & Davis.

Late Victorian 14k gold signet ring with monogram "RCN," at Gray & Davis.

10k gold early 20th century made signet ring, at Gray & Davis. 

10k gold early 20th century made signet ring, at Gray & Davis. 

Ostby regularly traveled to Europe to survey jewelry and design trends; his daughter Helen began joining him on these trips in 1906. Alas, one of the reasons we know so much about Ostby’s life is because it ended tragically. In 1912, Engelhart and Helen booked return passage from France on the RMS Titanic. Helen made it to safety, but unfortunately Ostby perished. The company continued to make jewelry until the 1950s.

1812: A War and a Ring

The War of 1812 is a bit of a misnomer, mainly because the war actually lasted for two and a half years. It officially ended with the ratification of a peace treaty in February, 1815.

Oh, to be a fly on the wall in 1812. America had been autonomous for less than half a century, and it was already declaring war!  This conflict between the United States and Great Britain almost bankrupted the new nation and lead New England states to consider secession. At one point, the British Army burned down part of the White House.

The war also pitted the young American government against the land’s native inhabitants. A confederation of over two dozen native tribes allied themselves with Great Britain, hoping an American defeat would curb westward expansion. Fighting and disease claimed approximately 15,000 American casualties; more, given the unnumbered Native American deaths.

This ring, which is engraved with the initials “CL,” is inscribed on the inside with the date 1812. We wonder if it was a memorial ring, made to remember a fallen son, brother, or comrade. It is fashioned in a base metal, perhaps bronze or brass, and plated in gold. An incredible antique men’s ring from the Georgian era. 

Aggrandizing Agate: Hardstones Demystified

People have been using hardstones in jewelry since forever, so lots of different names have developed for the same thing. The distinctions between different varieties of hardstones (the science name is chalcedony) are somewhat arbitrary, and are for the most part based purely on visual distinctions, not any actual difference of the mineral’s composition.

Victorian 15k gold and agate seal ring, at Gray & Davis

Victorian 15k gold and agate seal ring, at Gray & Davis

Early 20th c. 14k gold, blue chalcedony and diamond cluster ring, at G & D

Early 20th c. 14k gold, blue chalcedony and diamond cluster ring, at G & D

Victorian 18k gold and moss agate dangle earrings, at G & D

Victorian 18k gold and moss agate dangle earrings, at G & D

Victorian 10k gold, bloodstone and carnelian fob, at G & D

Victorian 10k gold, bloodstone and carnelian fob, at G & D

Victorian 10k gold, diamond and onyx ring, at G & D

Victorian 10k gold, diamond and onyx ring, at G & D

Arts and Crafts 14k gold and carnelian ring with enamel, at G & D

Arts and Crafts 14k gold and carnelian ring with enamel, at G & D

Because we are nerds, we made this flow-chart to help explain how the tangled terminology fits together:

The Victorian "Remember" seal ring, in 15k gold, also has a fun surprise, which we captured on video!