THE HISTORY OF A PROMISE: LOVE TOKENS AND PROMISE RINGS

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“Look, how this ring encompasseth thy finger;
Even so thy breast encloseth my poor heart.
Wear both of them, for both of them are thine.” – William Shakespeare, Richard III

Rings are a standing symbol of love and commitment. However, they are not used in engagement or marriage alone. The promise ring is another symbol of intent, and even prior to the promise ring, love tokens like forget-me-nots were common from the Medieval through the Victorian Period. Lockets containing strands of hair as well as cameos composed of coral, shell, or lava were also common during the Victorian Era. In terms of rings given as lover’s gifts, posie rings inscribed with sentiments on the surface of the ring were given in England and France during the 15th through the 17th centuries. In the Victorian Period, acrostic rings, which spelled out a secret message in gemstones, were quite popular. The first letter of the gemstone indicated a letter in the message. For example, a line of ruby, emerald, garnet, amethyst, ruby, and diamond gemstones would spell out “Regard.”

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With Valentine’s Day coming up in less than a month, appraiser / jewelry buyer Patti Geolat has been thinking about modern promise rings.

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“When I first started back in the 70s,” says Geolat, “promise rings were popular. Traditionally, they were small—rail thin bands with a tiny diamond in the middle. Generally, the smaller they were, the more popular. I remember selling them to young men, who were usually making their first major jewelry purchase. It was an emotional moment for them, and a big time in their lives. It was generally the first time they symbolically demonstrated their affection for a special person.”

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Because fashion is cyclical, the thin bands and small diamonds are in style again. These pieces are sweet just as they are, but Geolat proposes that style is not as important as the sentiment behind the promise ring. A promise ring can be any style, or set with any gem because the feeling that compels the gift is far more important. A promise ring is a love token that implies connection and intent. Beyond that, you could argue that there are no rules.

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If one of these rings speaks to you, contact Judy Asa for details.

jasa@geolat.com      972.239.9314      www.geolat.com

 

 

Sources: The International Gem Society and The Metropolitan Museum of Art

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