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Antique and Vintage Sterling Silver Ring Boxes: How Old Are They?
03 / 27

 

THE TRADITION

 

From the late 1800’s into the mid 20th century, when an engagement ring was purchased at a luxury jewelry store, a sterling silver ring box was included. Unfortunately, Tiffany’s, Birks, and others no longer offer this option. Your diamond ring is now most likely to be presented in a velvet or leather box, which of course is still nice. But somehow, its not quite the same as a velvet or silk lined sterling silver ring box that screams – HEIRLOOM.

 

Why have these ring boxes become so highly sought after? Perhaps it’s the fact that silver can be engraved with initials or a special date hinting (a work of art in itself). Or perhaps some can’t stop collecting until they get their hands on THE ONE. Whatever the reason, women love these pretty sterling silver objects and men know their wife-to-be, will appreciate having an antique or vintage box to go with their antique or vintage engagement ring. 

 

vintage sterling silver ring box

 

© Copyright Sugar et Cie 2015

 

These boxes are a beautiful way to display, store, or present an important ring (Christmas, Birthday, Anniversary) and we are always on the look out for ones to add to our online collection. And like many of you, we like to know as much as we can about the details of the antiques that we buy and enjoy sharing with those that are interested.

 

vintage sterling silver ring box

 

© Copyright Sugar et Cie 2015

 

Over the years we have come across a few from the U.S., some from England, but the majority of the ones we have been interested in, come from Canada (Birks, Ryrie, Ellis Bros.). The English ones are relatively easy to research and date due to England’s system of hallmarking. Canadian ring boxes can be a bit trickier.

 

an example of a Canadian Sterling Silver Mark

 

© Copyright Sugar et Cie 2015

 

While the Canadian silver ring boxes are for the most part marked sterling or plated, dating them is a bit harder. You can’t simply look at the hallmarks, look for the city mark and then look up the date letter to determine the year the piece was made. It was this quest that led us to dig a bit deeper. It is unlikely that you will be able to pin down the year, but you will have a better chance of identifying the period correctly.

 

the inside of a vintage sterling silver ring box

 

© Copyright Sugar et Cie 2015

 

A LITTLE HISTORY

 

So we did a little research, tracing the histories of these Canadian Jewelry companies that used to offer these sterling silver little beauties: when they merged, when they changed their names, and how their maker’s marks have changed over time. This, in conjunction, with the style of the box, the amount/type of wear, and the materials used, helped us get a better idea on the circa of the box.

 

Here is some of the information we compiled. It is a brief chronology (not an in-depth study) that provides some clues via key dates in the history of these famous firms.

vintage sterling silver ring box

© Copyright Sugar et Cie 2015

 

RYRIE, ELLIS BROS. & BIRKS

 

Ryrie, Ellis Bros., and Birks were all premier jewelry companies in Canada during the 19th and 20th centuries. Birks is the only one that continues on today.

 

Birks or Henry (or Henri depending upon the reference) Birks & Sons was founded in 1879 by Henry Birks in Montreal. Ryrie was founded in 1879 by James Ryrie in Toronto (later becoming Ryrie Brothers in 1897). P.W. Ellis Jewellery Company was founded in 1872 by Philip William Ellis and brother Mathew C. Ellis in Torronto. It later became Ellis Bros. Limited. The company is listed as PW Ellis & Co. Limited on a catalogue dated 1915/16 and Ellis Bros. Limited on a catalogue from 1922. While these dates do not point to the exact date of the name changes, they are good reference points, from primary sources, which you can use to assess the maker’s mark that is on your box (or piece of jewelry from these makers). Keep in mind, that it is not an exact science and the marks did not change overnight.

 

All three luxury jewelry companies have storied pasts that became intertwined during the first quarter of the 20th century.
Ryrie Bros. was an independent company until 1917, when it became part of Birks. It appears that fundamentally, Birks purchased Ryrie (some report it as an affiliation and others as an amalgamation). The Ryrie reputation must have had value, as the combined entity was then renamed Ryrie-Birks, with the Ryrie name in the first position.

 

Ellis Bros. was also a successful jewelry business in Toronto. It was an independent, acquiring others along the way until 1928, when the wholesale portion of the business folded. In 1933, the retail business was absorbed by Birks. This time, the name was changed to Birks, Ellis, Ryrie. Eventually, the combined businesses became just “Birks” as it is known today.