A ring decorated with the monogram of King Leopold 1st

This man’s gold ring, together with its original box and the deed of gift, was acquired by the Christian Bauwens Fund. It is a wonderful example of the Royal Family’s habit of giving jewellery to court dignitaries, artists, industrialists and civil servants, in recognition of services given. Made by the jeweller Jean-Baptiste Dees, appointed to the royal household, the ring is a rather rare and well-documented example of the art of Belgian jewellery from the first half of the 19thcentury.

The crowned monogram of King Leopold I is set with diamonds on an oval medallion of blue enamel. Around this are four large diamonds and four smaller diamonds set in silver, each surrounded and linked together by gold leaves. The ring is presented in a leather box, in the shape of a shell, lined inside with velvet and silk, and has a gilded brass fastener. It is possible that similarly-shaped ceremonial rings, engraved with the monogram of the French King Louis-Philippe, served as models for this ring.

Offering jewellery as a mark of gratitude was, for royalty of the period, the most natural gesture in the world. King Leopold I and Queen Louise-Marie, one of King Louis-Philippe’s daughters gave several gifts of jewellery to members of their family and ladies-in-waiting, but also, for certain special occasions or in recognition of an exceptional achievement, to artists and industrialists.

This ring was offered to Gérard Waefelaer in 1835, on the occasion of the birth of Leopold II, for whom, in the role of registrar, he drew up the birth certificate. The accompanying letter was written and signed by the King’s secretary, Edward Conway. Waefelaer had actively participated in the revolution (against the Dutch) a few years before. Decorated with the Iron Cross, he was made Knight of the Order of Leopold.

Jean-Baptiste Dees worked in Brussels from 1825 to 1851 as a silversmith, jeweller and diamond setter. From 1838 at least, he was jeweller to His Majesty the King and Her Majesty the Queen. In addition to jewellery, Jean-Baptiste Dees sold gold snuff boxes and participated in making trophies for the royal household, in collaboration with the engraver Isidore Jouvenel and Brussels silversmith Paul Wouters.

Look this object up on the website of DIVA – Diamond, Jewellery and Silver Museum, Antwerp.

Related objects :

Ring box: leather, silk and brass; 43 x 43 x 50 millimetres
Deed of gift: pen on paper; 275 x 222 millimetres

Material / technique: 
Gold, silver, diamonds and enamel
H 32 millimetres, Ø 23 millimetres
Type of acquisition: 
Acquired by the Christian Bauwens Fund
Year of acquisition: 
Depository institution: 
DIVA – Diamond, Jewellery and Silver Museum, Antwerp