Collection of Early 20th-Century Gold Signet Rings

Value (2007) | $19,000 Retail

GUEST:
A family friend of mine gave them to me several years ago. Her father, Mr. Hoff, lived on the outskirts of Baden-Baden, Germany. And between the first and second World Wars, he started collecting these as a hedge against inflation, and he thought when Hitler came into power, it might be some form of currency he could use. So he started buying these and collecting them, and as it got closer to World War II, he buried them in his back yard. Now, he stayed in Germany until the 1980s, when he came and joined his daughter here in Las Vegas, and he passed away here. And after I had these rings for a couple of years, my friend said, "What are you doing with the rings?" And I said, "Well, they're just as you gave them to me. I have them locked away." She says, "They're to enjoy." So I took one of the rings and started wearing it. I did not know until today, till I brought the box out and we examined it, that there was a gold nugget in the middle of one of these rings. I know he purchased them. There appear to be some German inscriptions in some of them, but I know nothing else.

APPRAISER:
Let's deal with the gold nugget first. This is not a gold nugget that comes from prospecting. This is gold that is scrap gold. But it does weigh almost an ounce of 14-karat gold, and something like that is worth about $400 in today's market to melt it. So, right then and there, you see the ability to use gold as a currency. And, of course, gold jewelry was something that took people through wars and got people out of countries in times of distress. Gold was the original portable wealth. But let's talk a little bit about the form of these rings. It was custom in Europe, more so than in this country, to have your family crest engraved or applied to the top of the ring. When a ring has not had the engraving applied, it's called a blank. These rings are beautifully decorated-- you can see the wonderful work-- and most of these rings have wonderful detail, deep detail, going completely around the rings. When gold peaked in the 1980s and we had gold approaching

$1,000 an ounce, men's jewelry was the first thing to get melted.

GUEST:
I see.

APPRAISER:
You didn't want to take your wife's jewelry and melt that for the money, so the men's wedding rings went in the melting pot first. It's unusual to see a collection like this of such ornate, desirable rings survive. When we talk about value, some of it has to do with the quality of the gold, and these three rings are 18 karat and the remainder all 14 karat. These all are European, and they're all basically early 20th-century rings. Some of them are made around the turn of the century and right up to the war. What's interesting is the desirability of these rings now. To give you an idea of the value, I averaged them out. First of all, the melt value is over $4,000 in the gold. Some of these massive man's rings-- the one that you wear that you had engraved-- these each weigh one ounce of 18-karat gold. But on the average, these signets can bring, at retail, nearly $1,500 or more, depending on how decorative they are, and the 18-karat ones, $2,500.

GUEST:
Wow.

APPRAISER:
Even $3,000 would not be unreasonable for such a handsome man's ring. When I add up the whole collection and even toss in your gold nugget, we're looking at $19,000.

GUEST:
Oh, my goodness.

APPRAISER:
Retail value...

GUEST:
Wow.

APPRAISER:
...when they're sold individually as signet rings in the marketplace.

GUEST:
Well, I can assure you they're not going anywhere. Mr. Hoff, I feel like, is watching how I take care of them. I'm going to continue to take care of them and tell his story every time I wear the one ring. And I'm so proud to wear it.

Appraisal Details

Appraiser
Edith Weber Antique Jewelry
New York, NY
Appraised value (2007)
$19,000 Retail
Event
Las Vegas, NV (August 18, 2007)
Period
20th Century
Form
Ring
Material
Gold

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