|Early Victorian Era Keeper Ring|
Photo Source: Denham's
It is somewhat of a misnomer to speak of Early Victorian engagement rings, as the custom of giving them was not well established until the 1890s. Instead, early-century brides were given “keeper” rings, a custom which began in 1761 when King George III gave his intended, Princess Charlotte, a gold band encrusted with diamonds prior to their wedding.
These keeper (or guard) rings later served as custodian for the actual betrothal (wedding) ring to protect it from slipping off the finger. This custom continued into the Early Victorian Era, so many of the rings call Early Victorian engagement rings today were originally crafted to be worn as wedding bands set into or behind said guard rings.
Guard rings are still quite popular today and are typically purchased as part of a bridal set or wedding set. The main difference is that today guard rings are given during the wedding ceremony, whereas in Victorian times they were given in lieu of an engagement ring at the time of a couple’s formal engagement.
It appears that in 1839
Prince Albert was the first to break with the
tradition of presenting a keeper ring to his intended. Instead, he gave Queen Victoria a diamond
memento ring. According to George Harlow, author of The Nature of Diamonds, this sentimental ring was likely paved with
several rows of tiny diamonds which adorned her finger in a nearly invisible 18k
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