The gold and enamel mourning ring offered at the Jewellery sale at Woolley & Wallis in Salisbury on July 14-15 is one of a handful known that were made to mark the death of the poet in Greece in 1824.
At least three of this type with marks for the London goldsmith Charles Rawlings have survived. Made with a compartment for a lock of hair, each is worked in 18ct gold and black, white and red basse taille enamel with a central plaque which reads In memory of Byron under a coronet. Engraved inside the band are the words: Died 19 April 1824, Aged 36.
One is in the Pforzheimer collection in the New York Public Library while another sold for £9200 at Tennants in 2018, thought to originate from the contents of Newstead Abbey, Byron’s family seat.
This particular ring, part of a private collection of early jewellery, had been bought at Gorringe’s of Lewes for £6200 in 2013. Subsequent research suggested it was possibly gifted by Augusta Leigh (half-sister to Byron) to Rev Francis Hodgson, an assistant master at Eton and close friend of Byron. A ring matching this description and mentioning a lock of hair was offered at Christie’s in January 1899 by a Mrs Hodgson, selling to a J Ward.
Expected to bring £8000-12,000, the Woolley & Wallis ring did not disappoint, selling at £13,000 (plus 25% buyer’s premium).
The only other Byron memorial ring recorded is of a different type with a black enamel inscription around a panel of plaited hair.
It sold for £7000 as part of the Hone collection at Christie’s in 2016 and again as part of the collection of John Schaeffer at Bonhams in December 2021 for £30,000.