Three views of the French 18th century betrothal ring, £16,000 at Woolley and Wallis.

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The delicate French courtly ring of c.1765 featured a pair of billing doves among branches enamelled with an indistinct inscription in French expressing with sentiments of love and affection to the reverse. It would probably have been a present between betrothed lovers.

Consigned by a local vendor, it was conservatively estimated at £800-1200, although indications before the sale were that it might ‘fly’. The buyer was a London dealer.

Incredible condition

“Rings of this construction are extremely fragile – enamel chips and cracks easily and the small stones can fall out of antique settings, so to come across an example in such fresh condition after more than two centuries is incredible,” said jewellery specialist Marielle Whiting.

“There were more intrinsically valuable jewels in the auction but a piece like this is worth so much more than the sum of its parts. Unlike the rows of engagement rings that you can see in any modern jewellers, this ring was a one-off – carefully designed and inscribed for the lucky recipient. It is clear from the condition that whoever it was treasured it and looked after it.”

Similar pieces feature in a number of books on antique rings with another of this design in The Art of the Jeweller: a Catalogue of the Hull Grundy Gift to the British Museum, London, 1984.