The lost history of Regard Rings & why we should bring them back

What is a regard ring?

Regard rings were an early form of Victorian and Edwardian engagement ring with a row of five stones that spelt out the word regard – ruby, emerald, garnet, amethyst, ruby and diamond.

The forgotten history of regard rings

Catherine Hills Jewellery, regard ring sketchbookI’d first heard about regard rings during a lecture on the history of jewellery many years ago. I studied Jewellery Design at Maidstone School of Art before completing a Masters in Goldsmithing, Silversmithing, Metalwork and Jewellery at the Royal College of Art. Neither of my courses looked into the history of a jewellery but it’s a subject I’m fascinated by. Regard rings were popular from around 1820 the 1900’s and original antique regard rings are now highly coveted. However, what I find fascinating is that there’s hardly anything documented on regard rings. They are not mentioned in any of my jewellery history books – of which I have quite a lot!. There’s hardly anything on the internet and the V&A only have a short explanation.

The meaning of regard rings

The diamonds and rubies in regard rings represent passion and eternity, emeralds symbolise love, garnets stand for truth and consistency, and amethysts are seen as a talisman for modesty and honesty. If you are interested in the meanings of birthstones you can find out more here.

To my dearest

Catherine Hills Jewellery, regard ring researchDearest was also spelt out using precious stones on rings and given as a gift for a lover in Victorian times. Dearest was spelt out using a diamond, emerald, amethyst, ruby, emerald, sapphire and tourmaline.

Modern regard rings

Catherine Hills Jewellery, regard ring stone settingWhen I first opened my Tunbridge Wells jewellery shop I was asked by a customer to design a ring for his girlfriend based on Victorian regard rings. Rather than spelling out regard I used precious and semi-precious stones to spell out the name he called her. It was a big hit!

I’ve been researching traditional Victorian regard and dearest ring designs – they typically had the stones mounted in a horizontal row or as a circular flower pattern with a pearl at the centre (hearts and flowers were very popular in Victorian jewellery). I felt my stacked design would make a classic, modern interpretation of a traditional regard ring. I’ve set the stones vertically rather than horizontally and used a pip setting so the stones sit close together on a moveable bar that feels wonderful to wear.

Stone of significance

Catherine Hills Jewellery, regard ring gemstonesThe colour palette of regard rings really appeals to me as I think both green and purple and purple and red work so well together. Rather than using two identical rubies I chose a classic scarlet red Thai ruby, which I’ve combined with a pinky red ruby. Instead of a common red garnet I chose a moz garnet, which is a gorgeous orange (garnets can also be green but the green is very close in tone to an emerald). I wanted to use colours that sat really well together but were also slightly more unusual and modern.

Let’s bring back regard rings!

I really love the idea of championing the return of regard rings! I also think there’s so much fun to be had spelling out different words, names and meanings to create a completely bespoke and unique ring design. It’s also a lovely idea for a modern engagement ring. I’ve put together an A-Z of precious and semi-precious stones and their meanings below so you can think about what you’d spell on your own regard ring:

Catherine Hills Jewellery A-Z gemstones, gemstone colours, gemstone meaningsHere’s the link to my finished regard ring design. If you are interested in the history of jewellery take a look at my blog on the history of love in jewellery here. And you can discover more about the meaning of your birthstone here.

If you’d like to get in touch about creating your own unique regard ring you can call me on 01892 540888, email me here or pop into my jewellery shop in the historical Pantiles in Tunbridge Wells Kent – you can find more details here.