Silver may currently be thought of as the ‘poor cousin’ of gold and platinum, especially in regards to jewelry, but that has not always been the case. In fact, antique silver jewelry is often more prized than its gold counterparts are. To fully understand the value of sliver rings, look at the history of the meta l, and its role in jewelry.
Silver is known to have been mined since 4000 B.C. and been used to make jewelry almost as long. The shape of the ring itself – an unbroken circle – is a recognized symbol of prosperity and life. The luster of the sliver is often compared to moonlight, especially as it reflects upon still waters. Because of the comparison to moonlight, silver is associated with witchcraft and paganism in early history.
Pagan priestesses often wore silver rings, frequently on multiple fingers. The circle shape of the ring mimics the cyclical nature of life itself, an important point to early Pagans. Silver jewelry was also used as a sign of class and prestige.
As years went by, jewelers began to carve designs into the rings. Customers were able to place specific requests for intricate patterns, symbols or names for their rings. This way the wearer could show affiliation to a particular group, pay homage to a deity or have a physical representation of their feelings for another person. Rings are still used this way today.
During the 1300’s gemstones became a popular addition to rings. This added another element for jewelry designers, and gave clients even more ways to personalize their jewelry. However, silver rings were not always for show.
Rings with certain carvings, and often the addition of various gemstones were thought to give the rings certain magical powers. These powers were generally thought to be talismans to protect against evil forces and negative energies. Parents would hang rings over their babies’ cribs to protect them from harm.
Some rings had different engravings, ones that were more positive. These rings were believed to enhance courage, concentration, or to help the wearer achieve their goals. Interestingly, this jewelry was often passed down from mother to daughter through the generations – even if the jewelry originated with the father. This passing of jewelry was thought to keep the magic within the ring alive for future generations.
While the magic and power may not be widely believed in now, families still pass down their jewelry through the generations. These family heirlooms now carry memories and stories with them. In their own way, these memories and stories are their own form of magic.
Victorian England had a distinct impact on jewelry design, as did the Art Nouveau and Art Deco periods. The Victorians, who believed in the idea of the more elaborate the better, introduced intricate filigree. Filigree with gemstones, or filigree by itself is highly sought after in the antique jewelry market. Art Nouveau brought elements of flora and fauna into jewelry design while geometric and industrial symbols characterize the Art Deco period. The design of the ring definitely helps to determine the age of the ring.
Silver does readily show its age. In fact, many people try to avoid silver even if they like it simply because of the fact that it tarnishes. However, it is not actually the silver that tarnishes, but really an oxidation of the impurities within the silver. For this reason, it is best to look for the purest silver when shopping for silver jewelry.
An international standard is now in effect, which has helped regulate the quality of silver available. Most silver is now marked with a “925” to indicate that it is 92.5% pure. The remaining content is often nickel, copper or zinc. This additional content helps to make the silver more durable than pure silver while maintaining the original beauty of the metal.
When shopping for an antique silver ring, look for something that truly appeals to you. Jewelry should evoke a gut reaction, one that lets you know that this is the piece for you. An antique ring means you are getting a piece of history. This history has a story attached to it. Even if you never find out the story of your ring, it creates a good starting point for your own story to begin.