Liaisons Dangereuses

Antique diamond & ruby ring with secret compartment, around 1910

Rings with secret compartments have been known since Roman times and are often referred to as "poison rings". The infamous Roman emperor Elagabal, for example, is said to have possessed such a poison ring out of fear of falling into cruel imprisonment - but he was murdered before he could consume its contents. Lucrezia Borgia is also said to have used poison rings to eliminate political rivals. However, only a few actual poison rings have become known. Much more often, jewellery history knows of rings with secret compartments that were used to store saintly relics or sentimental mementos such as locks of hair. Rings that hid perfume or other fragrant materials are also known. Whatever function our ring once served, it cleverly hides its secret compartment beneath a detailed ring face. It can be opened by a hinge attached to the side. It is covered by a blossom of precious stones in platinum, in keeping with the taste of the years around 1910. At its centre is a luminous pink-red ruby. Its intense colour and high luminosity suggest that it is a synthetic Verneuil sapphire, as was fashionable at the time the ring was made. Small old-cut diamonds are arranged in a flower shape around this gemstone, which is lined with other rose diamonds. While the flower is set in platinum, the ring band and the secret compartment are made of gold. The fineness hallmark suggests that the ring was made in Germany. It's in very good condition. What secret do you entrust it with?

Of all the gemstones in the history of jewellery, it was rubies in particular for which demand and supply were so poorly balanced that attempts were made early on to produce them artificially. As early as 1850, for example, the chemist Sénarmont undertook experiments in this regard, and by 1878 there was so much public interest in the subject that an article entitled Edelstein-Alchemie appeared on this very subject in the successful German mass and family journal Die Gartenlaube (issue 14, 1878, pp. 228-230). So the excitement was all the greater when in 1902 the first synthetic - not reconstructed - rubies created by Verneuil became commercially available. As late as 1918, it was said: "To distinguish the synthetic ruby from the natural one, it seems that an absolutely reliable distinguishing feature has not yet been found". Rather, goldsmiths suddenly had every conceivable shade of red at their disposal - "from dark Siam ruby to light pink ruby" - and this was not dependent on lucky finds. Just like natural rubies, synthetic rubies were set in precious metal settings alongside diamonds, and the present ring is another example of this development. Cf. on the history of ruby synthesis Jaqcues Boyer: Die synthetischen Edelsteine, ihre Geschichte, Herstellung und Eigenschaften, Berlin 1918, there also above quotations, p. 39.

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We want you to be 100% satisfied! That’s why we examine, describe and photograph all our jewellery with the utmost care.

If for any reason you are still not satisfied, contact us and we will find a mutual solution immediately. Regardless, you can return any item within 30 days and we will refund you the full purchase price.