A recent episode of Antiques Roadshow UK has turned up something very interesting: a ring kept in a locked box which has links to a very famous 19th century author. The ring was found in an attic in Wales by the daughter-in-law of the man who owned the house. After his death, the family was going through all the possessions when they found this mysterious box which contained this unusual ring. Filmed on a sunny day at the historic site of Erddig, near Wrexham, Wales, you have to see this incredible ring for yourself.
The ring features a hideaway compartment filled with brown hair, delicately and finely braided. This style of ornament was very common in mourning jewelry form the era. Loved ones would wear the hair of the dearly departed in order to feel connected to them.
The ring is decorated along the outer edge and compartment with filigree designs. But, there’s more to this story because the inner band is engraved with the name “C. Brontë” and date of “31st March 1855” which is the date that Charlotte Brontë died. Charlotte is now suspected to have died from hyperemesis gravidarum, a life-threatening form of morning sickness.
Brontë authored three books in her lifetime, Shirley, Villette, and most notably, Jane Eyre. Her sisters were also writers, making the family an extremely unconventional one for the era in which they lived, Emily writing Wuthering Heights and Anne writing The Tenant of Wildfell Hall.
Appraiser, Geoffrey Munn, tells the ring’s owner that the practice of wearing a deceased loved one’s hair was quite common back then and that the “incorruptible fragment” in these charms helped ease fears of forgetting loved ones.
The complicated braid within, according to Munn, echoes the design of mourning bracelets that Charlotte owned which were made of her sisters’ hair (Emily died in 1848 and Anne died in 1849, both suspected from tuberculosis). We do not know who would have worn this ring, but both her father (Patrick Brontë) and her husband (Arthur Bell Nicholls) outlived her.
Munn also admits that the ring, seemingly authentically filled with Charlotte Brontë’s hair, has raised his pulse a bit. Without the hair inside Munn said it would be worth only £25, but with the inscription and the hair, the number went up quite a bit. See what the ring was appraised for in the video below.