The Life and Times of Cottage Jewelry, Evanston Illinois

Cottage Jewelry Rings

For the second consecutive year Cottage Jewelry took part in this year’s Evanston Charity Wine Walk, which was held in September. This was a chance for ticket holders to visit over 40 different merchants in Evanston and sample various types of wine provided by Vinic Wine. Cottage Jewelry was packed for most of the evening with ticket holders enjoying wine and food, while browsing our collections and taking advantage of our 30% off sale for the evening. We had some of our regular customers visiting while we also welcomed lots of brand new customers.


The last few weeks have continued to be busy at Cottage Jewelry with customers asking us to make custom pieces of jewelry, including a number of rings. A couple from Evanston who were celebrating their Wedding Anniversary worked with us and our goldsmith to design this beautiful blue Sapphire and Diamond ring. It features a round centre Sapphire with two smaller heart shaped diamonds on either side. It is made in 14K Rose Gold with a soft ‘knife-edge’ band with Millgrain details. A truly unique ring for a great couple, who were thrilled with the result.

Cottage Treasure Trove

Antique Fede Gimmel Ring


This time we are looking at a beautiful Antique Fede Gimmel Ring which is possibly English or American in origin. We are not sure of its age but is probably Victorian. Throughout history and in many cultures, hands have been used to convey meaning in jewelry. The Irish Claddagh ring has been popular since the early 18th Century as a friendship or wedding ring. They feature two hands clasping a heart, symbolizing friendship and love, surmounting a crown which signifies loyalty.


A variation of the Claddagh is the Fede Gimmel (or Gimmal) ring. These rings date back to antiquity and like our example are quite rare. As with our ring, these are rings with two hands clasped together, meaning ‘hands in faith/trust’ or ‘mani a fede’ in latin. The name gimmel/ or gimmal originates from the latin, via old French gemellus which means twin. What distinguishes them from the Claddagh is that they are made up of two or three bands, which are articulated and join together with a small pin. Traditionally they had one male and one female hand and when the hands are opened they reveal one or two small hearts.


In the 16th and 17th centuries, Fede Gimmel rings were fashionable in various countries including Germany and England and were often used as betrothal rings. The engaged couple would wear one hoop each and rejoin them to use as a wedding ring. Our ring is made up of three bands, is made of 10 Karat yellow gold and when opened reveals two small joined hearts. It is a great example of this type of ring and it is fascinating to think about the people who may have worn it throughout its history.



Cottage Jewelry Rings

Cottage Jewelry continues to be busy throughout the summer months helping customers to choose their wedding and engagement rings. This year we have seen a lot of couples deciding to make custom rings with our goldsmith. We have also had a lot of customers bringing in some amazing pre-owned jewelry for us to look at. One piece was a stunning vintage large round green Peridot and Diamond Cocktail ring which is pictured above.  Shortly after being placed in our pre-owned case one of our customers was delighted when her husband bought it as a surprise for her after she had admired it earlier in the day! We celebrated our owner Ira’s Birthday and also had a visit from one of our previous employees who stopped in with her family from Scotland to say hi to everyone.


Cottage Treasure Trove

Victorian Onyx & Diamond Mourning Ring

Throughout history and in every society human beings have felt the need to adorn their faces and bodies with precious decorative objects. These objects may be worn for many reasons including conveying the owners wealth, power, gender, spiritual beliefs and position within that society. The creation of jewelry and the actual processes of making it have always been shrouded in mystery. Goldsmiths and Metal Workers were highly skilled and often revered for their magical powers and were given high status within those societies. They were in effect able to create something incredible out of  a lump of stone. This ‘magic’ was sometimes transferred into the actual metal object or piece of jewelry so that people believed the object itself had innate powers. In The British Isles, early societies practiced making offerings to the gods and goddesses by throwing metal objects, including jewelry into water. This practice continued throughout the Medieval period and even today people still throw coins into fountains and pools.


In effect every item of jewelry has it’s own history and it’s own specific story. It’s story refers to how and why it was created, by whom, who wore it and at what period in history it was worn? At Cottage Jewelry we are very privileged to have customers bring in an array of pre-owned items, all of which tell a unique story. In this section of our blog we will explore the story of some of our most significant finds. 

This Blog’s treasured item is an Antique Onyx and Diamond Mourning ring. This item was brought in shortly after I started working here and I was immediately drawn to it. We believe it was created during the mid to late Victorian period onwards and will have been worn as a reminder of the person/ loved one who had died. The ring also signified that the wearer was actually ‘In Mourning’ of losing a loved one and will have been worn with black clothing too. During the Victorian period women were required to wear Mourning clothing and jewelry after their husband had died, for a designated period of time. They were shunned within society if they did not adhere to this strict code. Queen Victoria wore black mourning clothes and mourning jewelry right up till her death in 1901 after her beloved Albert died. Her practice soon filtered into society and it became the norm and the fashion to wear mourning jewelry. 

The use of mourning jewelry dates back to at least the 14th Century. During the early Georgian era the jewelry and their motifs were particularly macabre, depicting skulls, grave-digging tools and coffins. During the Victorian period, mourning jewelry seemed to become far more personal. Items sometimes contained the hair of the deceased and also an inscription of their name, an image of the person, the date of their death and a phrase such as ‘Gone but not forgotten’. 

With the invention of photography in the late 18th Century, photos of the deceased also became popular to be placed within the jewelry. With the advent of the industrial revolution and mass production, by the mid 18th Century, jewelers had started to advertise the speed with which these rings could be made. These pieces of jewelry were usually paid for by the person commemorated, or their heirs and often specified in wills along with the intended recipients.

 As in our ring, stones used in these pieces were black, which symbolized the lack of life and the lack of light. They were sometimes made of Onyx, black enamel, Vulcanite and also fossilized coal which is called Jet.  Jet is only found in a few specific parts of the world including Whitby in the UK. 

Whitby is in the county of North Yorkshire, and is a small fishing town on the North East coast of England. It became famous for it’s ‘Whitby Jet’ throughout the Victorian period forming it’s own flourishing industry within the town. It is now a thriving tourist destination with people visiting the countless antique and jewelry shops which all sell jewelry made of Jet. Whitby also has another strong link with death as it has the  notoriety of being the featured location where Bram Stoker’s Count Dracula becomes shipwrecked and arrives on the British Isles.

Our piece has a large center stone made of polished Onyx, in the shape of a coffin, with a central motif in white gold. The motif appears to have two Fleur-de-Lis shapes on each end with a small diamond in it’s centre. The Fleur-de Lis translates as the Lily flower and was often associated with Catholicism, so the wearer and the deceased may well have followed the Catholic faith. It also has beautiful decorative details on either side of the setting. It really is a stunning piece and a great example of Victorian mourning rings. An item which must have its own unique history and begs us to ask the questions who made it, who wore it and for whom?


Email us: cottagejeweler@gmail.com


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