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Black Jewelry - Transitional Jewelry - Art Nouveau
by: Anonymous

Hi Angelica, thanks for writing in with the following question:

"I recently purchased an antique ring with an elaborate 14K white gold filagree band, carved and hammered onyx stone with etched roses, a rose cut diamond set in a diamond shape setting in the center of the onyx, along with yellow and rose gold rosettes on the side. I have seen another ring like this, only it had a sapphire as the center stone and seed pearls along the outside, and, after inspecting the area under the rosettes on my ring, I noticed a seed pearl trapped under there. So, the ring originally also had seed pearls.

Here's what I am wondering: I noticed a "14" mark on the band of the ring, which I understand means it is 14K gold. However, there is a mysterious marking to the right of it. I took a magnifying glass to the mark, but I still can't tell exactly what it says. It either says "4BR," "4BB," "BBR," "RBR," etc. I have looked for hallmark/signature identification online and I can't find anything. Could you help me identify what this mark means?"

Angelica - what a beautiful ring! Yes, we agree, very elaborate indeed. Black jewelry was usually associated with mourning jewelry of the late victorian era 1860s -1890s. As you know, not everything black and shiny is black onyx. Whitby Jet, black glass (French jet), gutta percha and English crepe stone, (patented in 1883 on Rhode Island!), bog oak, and bakelite have all been employed in black jewelry at some stage or another.

Testing Jet: Stick a hot needle into a inconspicuous place. Jet will smell like burning coal with a hot point, because basically coal is what jet is.

14 K indicates that it's post 1906 not victorian. It was in this year, in 1906, that gold hallmarking became compulsory in the United States.

I believe this ring is a transitional piece with embellishments evocative of the art nouveau jewelry that followed.

We need to see the marks Angelica. If you're not certain what the jewelry marks are in real life, any research on maker's marks on our part, would be futile. You are welcome to attach a photo in a follow-up submission. Please use heading "Can't Figure Out Hallmark/Signature" in follow-up so that I can assign the photo to the original question here.

best wishes,
Yvonne Hammouda-Eyre
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