To say we were stunned when a Tampa Bay woman brought this astonishing ring to us would be an understatement. Valuation, as discussed before, is not always specific, especially with rare or one-of-a-kind items.
The woman came in to sell an important Tiffany piece to us that had been in the family for over 100 years (more on this in a later column), and brought along a few other family treasures.
This ring was made circa 1821. And it was in its original box. It was essentially in new condition, as it had been rarely – if ever – worn.
The small cabochon emerald cleverly slides to one side to reveal a miniature gold coin or medallion, struck and minted in France in 1821 with an image of Napoleon I and an inscription in French, which translates to, “He passes into immortality on May 5, 1821.”
The family folklore, passed down for two centuries, indicates that being a supporter of Napoleon during his last days was seen as detrimental. Half saw him as a brilliant ruler and half as a ruthless dictator. (Similarities to current and former leaders in the US are not exactly comparable.)
So the woman’s great-great-great-great great- great grandmother had this secret ring made to proclaim only to those who she saw as “like-minded” that they revered Napoleon.
As to value, the tiny emerald? $100. The gold value, at 3 grams, maybe $125. This is a terrific example of why you should have someone knowledgeable look at your gold.
There is no book value and no auction records that I can find. (And I have spent many hours scouring the net and good old-fashioned paper books for a ring like this.)
The coin or medal? I find three mentions of something similar, but no pics and nothing specific. One site suggests maybe 16,000 of these were struck. But it appears that few survived.
We offered a speculative $1,200 for it, and also suggested trying it at auction with an auction estimate of $2,000 to $3,000.
We think the only real way to discern value is at public auction, where our worldwide audience and customer base of 20,000+ can fight it out. This is so unique on so many levels that we may never know its actual value.
If you follow this column, we are asking for your help, not for value but for intellectual curiosity. Can YOU find anything on this medal/ coin? We have sent emails to every expert on exonumia, tokens and coins that we know, so far with no response. More later...