Dark Mirror : Victorian Onyx Signet Ring Hallmarked 1897


The reflection on the inky black surface of this lovely Victorian onyx signet ring  reminded me of a little research nugget from my PhD that I thought you might enjoy.
Have you heard of a Claude Glass? During the Georgian era (before the invention of photography) people used to go on “painting tours” where they would sit in nature and paint the landscape. One of the tools favoured by these holiday artists was a small piece of black or dark tinted convex glass. The reflection in the glass would condense the landscape into a miniature scene and reduce the palette – folks would then paint using the reflected image as a guide. This meant they had their back to the picturesque panorama they were painting, but that was how the technology worked.
These little black mirrors were called ‘Claude Glass’ because the reflection in them is very similar (in palette at least) to the work of Claude Lorrain. (There is no evidence to suggest that Mr Lorrain ever made use of one.)

The high reflective polish and slight convex shape on this lovely onyx signet is much like a tiny Claude Glass, it’s tiny condensed reflections of the world around are fascinating if you take the time to see them.

You can see a little video of this ring in action on my instagram @secret_histories or online here.


A classic Victorian signet ring with full English hallmarks for Birmingham 1897. This 9ct yellow gold unisex ring is in good antique condition with some light wear to the onyx stone and signs of an old resize on the inside of the band.

It has been professionally polished and is ready for the next 100 years of adventure.

Currently a small size I or 4.5 but resizable

Additional information


Victorian 1897


Black onyx 9x7mm

Ring Size

UK/Aus I
US 4.5




9ct Yellow gold


Face of ring is 10.5mm x 11mm, the band tapers to 2.2mm wide at the back.