This spectacular antique ring features a beautifully translucent large cabochon of dendritic agate -- the type with dark inclusions resembling ice crystal, also called mocha stone. It's collet-set in a sleek Arts & Crafts mounting of sterling silver that will please either a gentleman or a lady who favors bold forms. The ring's face is large, but not overpowering (not quite 3/4" tall)and stylized decorations on each side show the slight variations that demonstrate hand-craftsmanship.
These so-called "fancy" agates were highly prized in Late Victorian and Edwardian times. They suited the taste for unusual gems that we see in both Art Nouveau and Arts and Crafts jewelry, along with their emphasis on artistic design and meticulous workmanship. The new ideal was for everything to be special and unique in some ways, as opposed to the mass-produced goods of the Industrial Revolution. Ultimately this worthy movement died of its own good taste. The insistence on ultra-fine fabrication priced most people out of the market.
The maker in the present instance, Clark & Coombs of Providence, R.I., is a perfect illustration of that. Established in 1862, C & C had a national reputation for gold and silver rings by the early 20th century and tried to carry on without further mechanization, but was unable to compete effectively. Although the firm still exists, it was taken over by new management and modernized for greater output after World War II.
It's wonderful when we find an example of their exquisite early creations. Most likely this ring dates from between 1890 and 1910. While the basic shape of the setting was used through much of the 19th century, the very clean lines of its ornamentation anticipate Art Deco, which began to evolve around the turn of the century. Its interior bears a "Sterling" hallmark and the C&C stamp used until 1915 (two Cs in triangles around a stylized ampersand tilting right).
Based on all these facts, it really isn't stretching a point to say that this ring has historical importance. It's also distinguished by being in near-mint condition, despite great age. Provenance is a Pacific Northwest estate and the current size, about a U.S. 8 - 8.5, can be easily altered, since the back of the shank is plain.
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