1836 Georgian Mourning Ring 18k Gold

A stunning late Georgian era mourning ring, in a rare state of complete preservation, with the hallmarks, original inscription, enamel, and hair all in original condition. The back of the ring face is thus inscribed: “Roger Auster Died April 3 1836 Aged 74.” The inside shank bears four hallmarks, certifying that this ring had been crafted in 1834, is solid 18k gold, and was assayed through the Birmingham office.

In terms of design, this ring belongs to the early Romantic movement, which had replaced the stately elegance of the previous Regency style with aesthetics that were gorgeous and fanciful. The face of this ring is inlaid with the words “IN MEMORY OF” in gold gothic revival lettering, with the hair panel bordered with a heavily chased floral band. The preserved lock of hair itself is silvery and quite fine, and is pressed so tightly within the glass that the panel resembles some kind of agate stone.

The most unusual feature, however, is the pair of high-relief morning glory flowers occupying the ring shoulders. “Morning” being a homonym for “mourning”, the flowers here serve as rebus for the mourning experience itself.

According to a will preserved in the UK National Archives at Kew, Roger Auster was a brass founder in the city of Birmingham. As a skilled tradesman, Mr. Auster would have melted both brass and bronze to pour them into molds in order to form andirons, bells, coach and harness fittings, shoe buckles, sword hilts, furniture hardware, and other utilitarian or decorative objects. From surviving genealogical documents, we know he was born in 1762 and appears to have lived in Birmingham most of his life, marrying his wife Ann Plowden on 3 August 1785 at the Parish Church of Aston-juxta-Birmingham, and being laid to rest on 9 April 1836 at the St. Martin Church of Birmingham.

Judging by the excellent quality of this surviving mourning ring, and by the fact that the London Gazette had posted a notice regarding the estate as late as 1877, it can be surmised that Roger Auster was a hardworking man who passed away leaving a substantial fortune to his heirs.

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