‘The man who has experienced shipwreck shudders even at a calm sea.’ Ovid.
An exceptionally rare 18th century mourning ring commemorating a father and son lost at sea. Shipwreck was one of the major causes of loss of life in the 18th century. Marine charts were notoriously inaccurate and there were no weather reports to forewarn ships of impending storms and hurricanes. Ships bravely traversed the world carrying people and cargo to and from the far corners of the earth but shipwrecks were almost a daily occurrence. This gold navette ring is within a guilloche enamel border and set with a sepia miniature and macerated hair miniature depicting a dinghy holding two beseeching figures desperately floundering off rocky cliffs. The scene is covered by a domed crystal. The ring is inscribed to reverse : Wm. Gilbard Obt. 2nd Sept 1786 at. 15. The hoop is inscribed on a black enamel ground : James Gilbard Ob. 2 Sept. 1786 Ae. 58.
On 2nd September 1786, James Gilbard and his son aged 15, both perished in the sea in the West Indies. James Gilbard of Exeter was a Mariner and Master of the ship Polly and Charlotte. From The Scots Magazine, Volume 48, 1786 : On September 2nd a most alarming hurricane threw the whole island of Barbados into the utmost consternation. The Polly and Charlotte went out into the storm and Captain Gilbard and two lads perished endeavouring to board. The ring is size P and 1/2 [US 7 and 3/4] and the head of the ring measures 1 and 1/8 inches by 3/4 of an inch. There is an identical shipwreck brooch for this unfortunate family in the British Museum. Such a rare, poignant ring.
Brooch for the same family in the British Museum below