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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.

 

 

12 / 17

 

ITEM OF THE WEEK: ANTIQUE VICTORIAN GOLD BUCKLE RING, HALLMARKED

 

This is a hand engraved (star in lozenge) and hand-carved (plumes) gold band ring with a buckle motif from the Victorian period. We’ve been looking for the perfect gold buckle ring for stacking and this one checks all the boxes.

 

 

© Copyright Sugar et Cie 2014

 

The buckle motif has been popular throughout jewelry history. It was popular during the Georgian, Victorian, and Edwardian periods (the design of the buckle changing with style and time).

 

Victorian life was filled with symbolism and jewelry was no exception. A buckle symbolized fidelity in love, or loyalty in friendship, through the joining of the two pieces. When the buckle wraps around a finger, like the serpent or snake, it can be interpreted as a symbol of eternal love (an unending circle or bond).

 

From our latest buying trip in London, this buckle ring would make a great stacking ring or wedding band.

 

 

 

© Copyright Sugar et Cie 2014

 

SHOPPING IN LONDON: MUST HAVE AND LUST HAVES

 

I couldn’t leave Knotting Hill without checking out some of the vintage fashion boutiques and a few of the home design stores. Specifically on my list was Jane Bourvis (located on 89 Golborne Road, London). Known for her antique and vintage wedding dresses and accessories, she also has a selection of vintage and reproduction skirts and dresses. Brides come from all over, making appointments to carefully select one of her designs, or a one-of-a-kind vintage or antique dress.

 

For me, the inside of her boutique was like being in a candy store: lots of lovely tulle, lace, feathers, and silk. I tried on a few of her tulle skirts. I really liked the one below, a vintage black tulle skirt with gold embroidered flowers (1940’s/50’s). I would wear it over a pair of leggings and boots for winter days and perhaps over a black slip for evening.

 

 

© Copyright Sugar et Cie 2014

 

 

 

Tulle for Winter

 

 

 

For details on any of the above, see Sugar et Cie on Polyvore.

 

Next stop, a stroll along Bond and New Bond street to see the latest from Mappin & Webb (dating back to 1775) and Bentley & Skinner (est. 1880). My favorite was this necklace/choker from Bentley and Skinner.

 

 

 

 

© Copyright Sugar et Cie 2014

 

A modern piece in the vintage spirit made to represent the night sky. It is exquisite in-person, made by hand, and with more diamonds than I wanted to count. Each diamond is bezel set (millegrain edge) on a velvet ribbon in midnight-sky blue.

 

Part III, Friday: Home Decor and the Dogs of London…

06 / 10

 

VICTORIAN DIAMOND STAR BROOCH: A LUST HAVE!

 

We just got back from a buying trip and picked-up a lot of great things which you will be seeing on our site this week and next. One item in particular has been on our must have list for a while: an antique star brooch set with old mine cut diamonds in silver over gold from the Victorian Period. 

Antique Diamond Star Brooch

© Copyright Sugar et Cie 2014

 

 

A Close-Up of Old Mine Cut Diamonds

 

© Copyright Sugar et Cie 2014

 

ROYAL TRENDSETTERS

 

The minute I saw this portrait of Empress Elisabeth (“Sisi”) of Austria (1837-1898) wearing diamond stars pinned into her hair, I was hooked.

 

Empress Elisabeth of Austria bry Franz Xaver Winterhalter

 

Attributed to Franz Xaver Winterhalter (Public domain), via Wikimedia Commons

 

According to the Schloss Schönbrunn palace and the Sisi Museum, the Empress commissioned Rozet & Fischmeister and other court jewelers to have multiple stars made. Some were 8 points, some were 10 points, and some had a pearl at the center.

 

Empress Elisabeth was not the only royal to favor wearing diamond stars. Queen Alexandra of England (1844-1925) had a set. There are numerous pictures of her wearing her stars pinned across the bodice of her dress. Just like Sisi, she was also a royal fashion trend-setter. Everything she did and wore was copied by society’s elite. The collier de chien (multiple strands of pearls and diamonds in the form of a collar necklace) is still associated with Alexandra to this day.

 

HAIR JEWELS ARE HAVING A MOMENT – OKAY, MAYBE MORE THAN A MOMENT

 

Once worn only for special events (wedding e.g. bridal jewelry), you can now find more and more women with a bit of sparkle in their hair. It’s hard to pick up a copy of Vogue, ELLE, Lucky, etc. and not find a feature or story about something jeweled for one’s tresses.

 

Believe it or not jeweled hair pins can be worn with jeans and a Tee, think a single tiny diamond star pin. Or with a cocktail dress: try two Art Deco Diamond Barrettes just above the ear to pull back your waves (e.g. channeling Veronica Lake). It’s all in how you style it. The below is from backstage at Valentino…

 

Antique Diamond Star Brooch

 

Valentino Show Autumn/Winter 2011-12, courtesy of Vogue

 

For more ideas, take a look at our Pinterest Board: She Had Diamonds on the Crown of Her Head, peruse our website for diamond barrettes, or ask us if we can convert one of our vintage or antique brooches to a barrette.

 

01 / 29

 

THE PROPOSAL – DOES PRESENTATION MATTER? THE STERLING SILVER RING BOX

 

They don’t make ’em like they used to… No really, they don’t!

 

Proposal scene from the movie The Notebook

 

© Copyright Sugar et Cie 2014

 

 

From the late 1800’s to the mid 20th century, when an engagement ring was purchased at a luxury jewelry store like Tiffany, Birks and others, a sterling silver ring box was included. These petite silver treasures came in many shapes and sizes: rectangles, squares, rounds, ovals, hexagons and hearts. Some still have their velvet, silk, or mohair linings (a bit worn or faded). Others are missing them or appear to have been re-done or relined. Like many beloved vintage and antique pieces, they have been around for many decades and have been handled and cherished. This is not necessarily a bad thing. New pieces lack the warm patina, the character and the history that comes only with age.

 

The engraving on the outside of the box can vary from the elaborate, detailed monogram to a simple, single initial. The number of artisans that can beautifully execute a hand-engraving is dwindling (although a few still exist – and we know one in our area). When it comes down to selecting which one to purchase, it really comes down to purpose and individual style. Some look for the absence of a monogram hoping to add their own, while others are purchased for the beauty of the existing artwork and the story behind it (even if the monogram doesn’t match that of the owner-to-be).

 

We contacted both Tiffany and Birks, and while I’m sure the boxes that accompany their engagements rings are beautiful, neither offers the sterling silver ring boxes they used to, once upon a time.

 

CREATE A FAMILY HEIRLOOM

 

We firmly believe that if you don’t happen to have the perfect heirloom already in the family (or if a sibling got their paws on it first) create one of your own. Buy it! Establish a new tradition with your proposal, one that can be lovingly handed down to the next generation. Just in time for Valentine’s Day, we currently have a few sterling silver ring boxes in our collection. One happens to be very similar to, if not identical to the one that is in the movie The Notebook.

 

Art Deco Sterling Silver Ring Box

 

© Copyright Sugar et Cie 2014

 

 

Both the one in our collection and the one in the movie are from the Art Deco period, marked Birks, and stamped sterling silver. Whether you are a fan of the movie or not, the styling and cinematography is hard to resist. So are the Art Deco aesthetics of the ring box that carries Allie’s engagement ring (albeit the one from Lon, not Noah). If you are a fan of the Movie, The Notebook’s official Facebook page has a fairly diverse collection of images.

 

 

Proposal scene from the movie The Notebook

 

Courtesy of Warner Bros. Entertainment

 

 

BEAUTIFUL DISPLAYS

 

The thing I like the most about these ring boxes is that they make a beautiful display for any ring. Keep one on your bedside table next to your other pretty little things or think about collecting a few to create a grouping on your desk or dresser. I have to warn you, that once you start it is hard to stop.

 

Proposal scene from the movie The Notebook

 

© Copyright Sugar et Cie 2014

 

 

WHERE TO FIND IT

 

Vintage Silver Ring Boxes Sugar et Cie

Montgomery Round Tray Ralph Lauren

These antique, gilt tooled, leather bound books are from our collection. Another source for vintage and antique leather bound books is Strand in New York.

A pewter option, similar to the silver julep cup pictured, can be found in Match Pewter’s vase and garden collection.

Flowers: cream roses, bleeding hearts, hypericum berries, tulips, and hydrangeas.

06 / 28

 

Item of the Week: Victorian Gold, Diamond and Seed Pearl Buckle Pendant

 

Wedding season is reaching its peak and summer is in full swing. Whether you are looking for the perfect accessories for your special day or a hot summer night, we think you’ll appreciate the eye candy we’ve incorporated into this week’s post.

A Victorian Antique Gold Pendant with a Buckle Motif

© Copyright Sugar et Cie 2013

 

This is our featured item this week, a Victorian Diamond and Seed Pearl Buckle Pendant in 15 ct gold, with 19th century English hallmarks. It has a buckle motif and the kind of detail work that you would expect to find in a well-made antique piece (love the tiny grommets and pearl buckle). Add it to your summer wardrobe, the warm patina of antique gold and creamy seed pearls looks great against sun-kissed skin. It would also make be a meaningful wedding day gift for a bride from the groom or Maid of Honor. During the Victorian period, a buckle symbolized loyalty and fidelity by joining two pieces together in love or friendship. There is a glazed compartment on the reverse side. Consider tucking away a tiny secret message, or a snippet of blue ribbon (“something blue”).

 

Color Trends for Bridal and Summer

 

Deborah Lippmann’s “True Blood” mini nail lacquer set is our inspiration this week. We’ve chosen accessory color combinations that we think would look great either for a fun night out or for bridal. More and more brides are wearing red, pink and blue accessories with their wedding dresses.

 

Color Trend Bridal and Summer

 

 

Accessories

 

 

Color Trends for Bridal and Hot Summer Nights

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Color Trends for Hot Summer Nights

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Color Trends for Summer Nights

 

 

 

 

Vogue recently published its Wedding Guide for 2013. They have 5 mini guides – City Hall, Garden Party, Country Club Affair, Black Tie Fete, and Over the Top Grand Soiree. The pictures are beautiful and its a great source for ideas whether you are getting married, throwing a party or have people over for dinner. We were inspired by the floral editorial in the Garden Party Guide: a beautiful small bouquet featuring a garden rose in an antique silver sugar bowl with a big scrolling monogram. Below is our version.

A Garden Rose in an Antique Silver Sugar Bowl

© Copyright Sugar et Cie 2013

 

Whether you put this arrangement on your bedside table or use it as an accent arrangement at your wedding, consider making it smell as good as it looks. Use garden roses, lavender stalks or even mint sprigs from the supermarket. If you don’t have access to garden roses and feel like splurging, Garden Valley Ranch sells fresh cut garden and heirloom roses (during the season) from their farm to the public, in addition to florists

 

Post a picture of your favorite summer mini-bouquet!

 

 

Sources:

 

Here are the products we featured and the sources for some of our product images. Beauty: Tom Ford Nail Lacquer (Indian Pink and Bordeaux Lust – visit Nordstrom and Neiman Marcus; Tom Ford Lip Color (Nude Vanille, Black Orchid, and Ravenous – visit Nordstrom and Neiman Marcus); Deborah Lippmann Nail Lacquer (Single Ladies, ‘True Blood® – Bad Things’ Mini Nail Lacquer Set – visit Nordstrom). Shoes: Charlotte Olympia (Dolly Puttin’ On The Glitz Platform Pumps and Fleur Platform Sandals with Organza Floral Embellishments – visit mytheresa.com) and Manolo Blahnik (Crystal BB – visit Barneys).