Collection of Early 20th-Century Gold Signet Rings

Value (2007) | $19,000 Retail

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.

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.

I see.

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.


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.

Oh, my goodness.

Retail value...


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

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

Edith Weber Antique Jewelry
New York, NY
Appraised value (2007)
$19,000 Retail
Las Vegas, NV (August 18, 2007)

Executive producer Marsha Bemko shares her tips for getting the most out of ANTIQUES ROADSHOW.

Value can change: The value of an item is dependent upon many things, including the condition of the object itself, trends in the market for that kind of object, and the location where the item will be sold. These are just some of the reasons why the answer to the question "What's it worth?" is so often "It depends."

Note the date: Take note of the date the appraisal was recorded. This information appears in the upper left corner of the page, with the label "Appraised On." Values change over time according to market forces, so the current value of the item could be higher, lower, or the same as when our expert first appraised it.

Context is key: Listen carefully. Most of our experts will give appraisal values in context. For example, you'll often hear them say what an item is worth "at auction," or "retail," or "for insurance purposes" (replacement value). Retail prices are different from wholesale prices. Often an auctioneer will talk about what she knows best: the auction market. A shop owner will usually talk about what he knows best: the retail price he'd place on the object in his shop. And though there are no hard and fast rules, an object's auction price can often be half its retail value; yet for other objects, an auction price could be higher than retail. As a rule, however, retail and insurance/replacement values are about the same.

Verbal approximations: The values given by the experts on ANTIQUES ROADSHOW are considered "verbal approximations of value." Technically, an "appraisal" is a legal document, generally for insurance purposes, written by a qualified expert and paid for by the owner of the item. An appraisal usually involves an extensive amount of research to establish authenticity, provenance, composition, method of construction, and other important attributes of a particular object.

Opinion of value: As with all appraisals, the verbal approximations of value given at ROADSHOW events are our experts' opinions formed from their knowledge of antiques and collectibles, market trends, and other factors. Although our valuations are based on research and experience, opinions can, and sometimes do, vary among experts.

Appraiser affiliations: Finally, the affiliation of the appraiser may have changed since the appraisal was recorded. To see current contact information for an appraiser in the ROADSHOW Archive, click on the link below the appraiser's picture. Our Appraiser Index also contains a complete list of active ROADSHOW appraisers and their contact details and biographies.