No doubt you've seen the tall Victorian rings with three stones in a dainty stack -- well, this dazzler not has the three stones (round purple amethyst cabochons), but has them set in a veritable totem pole of swirling Art Nouveau lady portrait heads. It's a whopper -- nearly two inches tall by an inch wide -- and reached us from an estate in New Orleans, always a top source for breathtaking jewelry.
For dating, I'm torn between true Nouveau and Revival. That the stones are cabs and of slightly irregular shape screams Arts and Crafts and the only mark (partly worn away) is sterling, rather than the later 925, which was rare until the 1930s. On the other hand, lack of surface wear could argue for a later dating -- or may simply demonstrate caution or luck. Either way, it's easy to assess the ring's fine condition, because somebody polished it lately. The polishing was more enthusiastic than I prefer for historic jewelry, but time's patina is already restoring itself and, in the meantime, the exposed details provide our best clue to the ring's past. Under a lot of tarnish, who could tell much about tiny faces? Now we can, and they don't seem sufficiently refined to call them Late Victorian or Edwardian with certainty. So little ultra-craftsmanship survived after World War I that I have to say this was probably made during the 1960s Art Nouveau Revival period. It's still almost antique by American 75-year standards -- and no less amazing, but at least $500 more affordable!
Still there remains another puzzler as to dating: the ring's large size. Perhaps it really was made a century ago to wear over gloves, since few bare female fingers would fit a US 8.5 -- or I should say the 8.25 to 8.75 range, since temperature causes readings to vary that much within an average day. Regardless of who wore it last, this wonderful ring can easily be sized to fit you now. To judge by a small dimple at the very back, it may have been adjusted before.
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