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The Wonder of Antique Rings

When it comes to symbolism, finger-rings sit at the top of the jewellery pile. These small and highly coveted pieces of jewellery have been around for 4,000+ years and have been used throughout history as vows, love tokens, as symbols of power and even as signatures. No other item has survived in the same number quite like the finger-ring and, thanks to this, old rings give us a fascinating insight into the history of mankind.

One of earliest rings found was a signet ring engraved with two lions either side of a God. This incredible piece of history is believed to date as far back as 1400-1300 BC, and likely belonged to a Hittite prince. Even older rings have been found in Ur tombs that date back a further thousand years.

Now we don't stock anything quite that old at Kit Clayton Jewellery! Instead we focus on and have a passion for Victorian and Edwardian rings, Art Nouveau and Art Deco rings. We also love, collect and sell vintage rings from the mid-twentieth century onwards. We've listed some of our favourite antique ring styles below:

acrostic ring

Acrostic Rings

Introduced in 1809 by a Parisian jeweller Mellerio where a name or an expression of love is spelled out using the initials of the gemstones featured. So for example a REGARD ring would feature, in this order, ruby, emerald, garnet, amethyst, ruby, diamond. Genuine antique pieces are hard to come by and valuable.

Snake Rings

A snake with its tail in its mouth was an incredibly popular motif for both men and women during the 1800s. The snake ring signifies endless, everlasting love. The head may be set with precious stones, and scales may be added with enamel.

memento mori ring sold by Burstow & Hewettt auctioneers

Memento Mori Rings

Morbid, some might think, but actually memento mori rings, which frequently feature skulls and other symbols pertaining to the inevitability of death, serve as a reminder to us that our lives are here to be lived. These were made throughout history, but were particularly popular during the 17th and 18th centuries.

art deco rings

Art Nouveau Rings

Be still our beating hearts! Art Nouveau rings are works of art, a push against what was seen as the 'banality' of so many late 19th century rings, and instead featured and idealised view of nature in their designs. René Lalique was the great master jeweller of the Art Nouveau period, and pieces of his are highly coveted.

Art Deco Rings

With Art Deco rings came daring contrasts of colour and gemstones in modern cuts set in a gemoetric design. Scale was an important part of Art Deco design, and where budget was an issue, people came to favour large semi-precious stones on their hand than a smaller diamond or ruby.