Famously, after Nelson’s death, his brother commissioned 58 enamelled rings from the jeweller John Salter, which were given to family, friends and every Admiral and post-captain who fought at Trafalgar. They occasionally come up for sale and can bring prices of over £10,000 depending on condition.
The ring coming up for auction at Duke’s, however, differs significantly from the Salter rings. Inscribed Lord Nelson Obt. 21st October 1805. A.47, it is thought to be unique.
It was last exhibited at the Chelsea Royal Naval Exhibition in May 1891, where it was described as ‘Ring, with Nelson’s hair, formerly belonging to Mr Benjamin H. Carew. Lent by Admiral Sir Arthur Farquhar, KCB.’
Born in Jamaica Plain, near Boston, Hallowell (who in 1828 took the name Carew) was the only American-born member of Nelson’s ‘Band of Brothers’. His career spanned the American Revolutionary Wars, the French Revolutionary Wars and the Napoleonic Wars.
It was after the Battle of the Nile in 1798 that Hallowell, commander of HMS Swiftsure, sent Nelson a coffin made of wood and iron from the main mast of the French flagship ‘L’Orient’. The accompanying note read: Sir, I have taken the liberty of presenting you a coffin made from the main-mast of L'Orient, that when you have finished your military career in this world you may be buried in one of your trophies. But that that period may be far distant is the earnest wish of your sincere friend, Benjamin Hallowell.
The Admiral is said to have been pleased with the gift and kept it propped against the wall of his cabin. After he was killed by a French sniper, Nelson was buried in this coffin.
The ring has been in a family collection for over a century.
Duke’s partner Guy Schwinge said: “This was quite clearly a one-off commission for a person the family considered to be of particular importance to Nelson. The fact that it has been hidden away has ensured that it remains in near-mint condition.”
He expects it to sell for up to £10,000.