"The Love of the Hunt"
It's the shape, possibly an elaborate monogram, which raises an eyebrow or piques interest upon the spotting of a sterling ring box. Shapes of round, square, bell, and rectangular are the most commonly found but the oval, heart, and hexagonal shapes seem to make an appearance every once in blue moon which renders them more desirable. I recommend you snatch whatever you can find, but of course I would, I collect them!
Sterling ring boxes date from the 1880's through the 1960's and one might speculate the influences for their riveting designs were inspired by the Victorian and Art Deco eras. The creative imagination of the silversmith was endless. My most vivid imagination can just see the engulfed work area of the silversmith with their many tools, the silver scraps, the polisher, etc. "So what is so intriguing about them?", you may ask! Well, the outside might be what initially catches your eye but lets not forget about the interior of these boxes. The luscious velvet linings of various rich colors and the sleek satins reveal the "over the top" quality of the time and hopefully the jewelers name. The makers and finishers of this era left no stone unturned when it came to perfectly completing one of the beautiful ring boxes. As if the gorgeous sterling wasn't enough, the detail to the inside of the box was just as important. Richly colored velvet in garnet, amethyst, royal blue, or emerald green and let's not forget the delightful pastels of baby blue and butter cream yellow would set off the engagement ring stunningly.. Be still my heart!
Retailers of jewelry or novelties often have their store name on the lid satin of a sterling ring box, which I personally love, because it gives one a sense of where it's been hiding until it found its way to our eyes. Great means were taken to make them desirable and desirable they still are today. Considering their age, most are in impecible condition with the insides in tact and hardly a scratch on the surface. I believe one could assume they were as prized a possession as the ring presented. Sterling ring boxes usually bear a company name and/or makers mark on the bottom of the box or possibly on the lip of the lid or lip of the bottom. English boxes most always have a date mark and maker mark but the American and Canadian boxes sometimes just offer an unidentifiable makers mark, the word "sterling", or if you're really lucky, the makers name such as Birks of Canada or their associated companies such Ryrie and Ellis Brothers. It's come to my attention that maybe some companies made them for other smaller companies to purchase and have their names put on them which would explain why a box from a company like Blackinton would have any jewelers name on the satin lid of a box marked with their name and "sterling" mark on the bottom of the box.
Sterling Ring Boxes must have been dearly beloved by someone special. The proof is simple when you experience the display of extravagant vintage monograms or extensive engine turned designs, leaving an oval or round cartouche for the recipients initials. Sterling ring boxes have been playing a game of "hide and seek" with us for decades. They've been tucked away in our great-grandmothers, great aunts, grandmothers, and various other early 20th century relatives dressers or special hiding spots ( I know my Meme had one) and now they are making their second debut.
While they are beautiful and intriguing, mysterious describes the boxes best. I often wonder: Were they indeed given as premiums with the purchase of an engagement ring? What's the "whole" story? Who once possessed them? Where did he buy it? Did she say "yes"? I can only imagine the delightful squeal she expelled when he pulled the box from his pocket! The answer to some questions will never come but I believe there are still some to be found.
~My first sighting~
My personal story took place about 14 years ago as I was thumbing through an issue of Victoria Magazine and as always, I started at the back when my eyes went to an article about an antique jewelry dealer who used sterling ring boxes to display the gorgeous rings she offered for purchase. My breath was taken away, the wheels in my head were turning, and I was hooked! Hadn't even held one yet and I knew I had to find at least one. I made the declaration that I was now in search of these little beauties! My mom and I gathered our belongings and off to Memphis we went to the beloved Memphis flea market, a place the women in my family gathered on many a weekend. The tents, the smell of the food vendors, the collectors, the old buildings, the newcomers, and the regulars- it was a joy! I searched the acreage over and went back to a booth where something caught my eye but I hadn't asked to look at it. I meandered back that way and took a second glance and thought, "why not!". The dealer happily placed it in my hand and I, of course, asked for a bit of information. To my surprise, I opened it up and viola! a sterling ring box I had in my possession. My heart jumped a beat or fifty and I squealed with glee on the inside for I didn't want the seller to shoo me away! I immediately said, "I'll take it!", paid, smiled, and marched off as though I had hit the lottery. Never, in a million years, did I imagine I would actually find a sterling ring bo that weekend. It was destiny!
Pictured above is the Prince of Wales Plumes ring box by Birks of Canada. The Plumes have a ribbon intertwined with the words "Ich Dien" which means "I serve". The words below the plumes are "By Appointment" which means Edward VIII, the then Prince of Wales, had to issue a royal warrant to Birks of Canada permitting them to use his plumes on their sterling boxes. Edward, Prince of Wales held this title from 1911-1936.
Royal warrants of appointment have been issued for centuries to tradespeople who supply goods or services to a royal court or certain royal personages. The royal warrant enables the supplier to advertise the fact that they supply to the issuer of the royal warrant. Royal families of the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Belgium, Denmark and Sweden, among others, allow tradesmen to advertise royal patronage. Suppliers holding a royal warrant charge for the goods and services supplied; a royal warrant does not imply that suppliers provide goods and services free of charge. Royal warrants are typically advertised on company hoardings, letter-heads and products by displaying the coat of arms or the heraldic badge of the royal personage issuing the royal warrant. Warrants granted by members of the British royal family usually bear the phrase "By Appointment to..." followed by the title and name of the royal customer, and then what goods are provided; no other details of what is supplied may be given.
ahhhhh......the love of "the hunt"!