Dazzling 18th century mourning rings reunited at Harley Gallery thanks to 'extraordinary coincidence'
A pair of 18th century mourning rings lost to each other more than 200 years ago have been reunited thanks to a 'remarkable' discovery at Worksop's Harley Gallery.
The “extraordinary” coincidence came about when jeweller Joel Arthur Rosenthal, also known as JAR, was searching the gallery’s Portland Collection for pieces to incorporate in his new exhibition, The Portland Miniatures.
While choosing a selection of miniatures and jewels, JAR’s eye was caught by a “dazzling” antique ring he spotted in a cabinet.
Made from gold and enamel with a large sapphire, it appeared similar in style to a ring JAR kept in his personal collection.
On closer inspection and with research by curators at the gallery, JAR’s emerald ring was identified as the “lost” partner of two mourning rings made for Edward Harley, 2nd Earl of Oxford in 1725 to commemorate the death of his son Henry just four days after his birth. Each ring has a small chamber containing a lock of Henry’s hair.
Last believed to have been together in 1785, the Gallery’s research found that the two rings were likely to have been separated by marriage and inheritance as over three successive generations- between 1691 and 1741, there were no male heirs and the family estates passed by marriage through the female line.
The sapphire ring has been prominent in The Portland Collection since 1725, and can be clearly seen in a 1727 miniature painting of Edward Harley and his daughter by CF Zincke.
In contrast, the emerald ring is only mentioned in a scribbled note about a similar ring appearing at auction in 1911.
JAR’s display at The Harley Gallery will bring the two rings together for the first time in more than two centuries.
They will be one of the highlights of the exhibition, which came about through JAR’s fascination with “miniatures’, the jewel-sized paintings, popular with European aristocracy in the 18th and 19th centuries.
Running until December 31, the exhibition will also see jewellery by JAR, dubbed ‘the Fabergé of our time’ by Diane von Furstenberg, on display- including a newly made piece.
For more information about The Portland Miniatures exhibition and other events running at the gallery, visit: www.harleygallery.co.uk