French Napoleon III Empire Natural Pearl Ring

A rare and incredible 19th century French antique ring, of solid 22K gold casted in the form of double openwork laurel wreaths encircling deftly suspended natural pearls, and connecting to a ring shank with shoulders chased in the ‘branche de laurier’ pattern. Weighing an unusual 5.9 grams, this is a substantial and gorgeous piece– the incredible richness of the 22k gold pairs well with the luminous translucency of the sea-harvested natural pearls (i.e. not farm cultivated from an artificial nucleus).

Though crafted between 1860-80 during the “Second French Empire” period, this ring is stylistically rooted in the 1810s neoclassicism of Napoleon Bonaparte’s First French Empire. This “Empire Style”, as it is commonly called today, provided a kind of visual & aesthetic vocabulary for Napoleon’s consolidation of power. Archeological motifs from ancient Rome, such as the gold laurel wreaths seen on this ring, were adapted to evoke the elegance and stoic virtues of Republican Rome, while finesse of craftsmanship and adoption of bold, ostentatious colors (such as gold, red, and black) lent Empire style decorative arts a sense of grandeur and authority. Indeed, this ring is all at once reserved, elegant, and glamorously chic. Art and designs from the First French Empire proved to be so enduring that European monarchies adapted its look throughout the 19th century, even after the fall of Napoleon I. The Empire style experienced a particularly strong revival in France during the monarchical restorations of Louis Philippe I and Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte (later Emperor Napoléon III).

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Date: c. 1860-80s, Napoleon III / Second French Empire period

Ring size: USA 7, UK N, EU 54

Materials: natural pearls, solid 22k gold (tested with acid and checked with neodymium magnet)

Weight: 5.9 grams

Diameter of pearls: 5 mm

Dimension of ring face: 21.7 x 9.8 mm

Width of shank: 2.5 mm

Thickness of shank: 1.24 – 1.6 mm

Condition: In excellent antique condition. Toward the back of the shank, there are two small depressed areas were previous owners have scratched off the gold for acid-testing and to rule out the possibility of a lower karat gold core (not a significant problem visually, mentioned here for accuracy of description).