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  • Place of origin:

    England (made)

  • Date:

    17th century (made)

  • Artist/Maker:


  • Materials and Techniques:

    Gold, inscribed and set with a cut diamond

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    Jewellery, Rooms 91, The William and Judith Bollinger Gallery, case 1, shelf 6

This tiny gold ring is set with a small diamond or 'spark'. The phrase 'This spark will grow' is engraved around the hoop - perhaps as a play on words. The small size of the ring suggests that it may originally have been worn by a child. The 'spark' may refer to the child who wore the ring and also to the diamond spark itself. Or perhaps if the ring was worn on the little finger of a small adult, the phrase may suggest the growing spark of love between the wearer of the ring and its giver?

Rings were the most commonly worn jewel, suitable for women, men and children at all levels of society. The most prosperous wore rings made of precious metals and set with gemstones. Diamonds were particularly valued for their lustre and their exceptional hardness. The term 'spark' was used for small diamonds from the mid-sixteenth to the late eighteenth century- generally referring to small cut stones, but occasionally to pieces removed from a larger diamond while cutting it or small uncut stones - 'natural sparks'.

This ring forms part of a collection of over 600 rings and engraved gems from the collection of Edmund Waterton (1830-81). Waterton was one of the foremost ring collectors of the nineteenth century and was the author of several articles on rings, a book on English devotion to the Virgin Mary and an unfinished catalogue of his collection (the manuscript is now the National Art Library). Waterton was noted for his extravagance and financial troubles caused him to place his collection in pawn with the London jeweller Robert Phillips. When he was unable to repay the loan, Phillips offered to sell the collection to the Museum and it was acquired in 1871. A small group of rings which Waterton had held back were acquired in 1899.

Edmund Waterton used the fortune which was made by his family’s involvement in the British Guiana sugar plantations to put his collection together. His grandfather owned a plantation known as Walton Hall and his father, Charles Waterton, went to Guiana as a young man to help run La Jalousie and Fellowship, plantations which belonged to his uncles. When slavery was abolished in the British territories, Charles Waterton claimed £16283 6s 7d in government compensation and was recorded as having 300 slaves on the Walton Hall estate.

Physical description

A small gold ring with a small circular bezel set with a cut diamond, inscribed 'THIS SPARK WILL GROW.'

Place of Origin

England (made)


17th century (made)



Materials and Techniques

Gold, inscribed and set with a cut diamond

Marks and inscriptions



Height: 1.4 cm, Width: 1.3 cm, Depth: 0.3 cm

Object history note

ex Waterton Collection

Descriptive line

A small gold ring with a small circular bezel set with a rose-cut diamond, inscribed 'THIS SPARK WILL GROW.', England, 17th century

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

'British Guiana 2426 (Walton Hall)', Legacies of British Slave-ownership database, http://wwwdepts-live.ucl.ac.uk/lbs/claim/view/7157 [accessed 28th May 2019].

Jack Ogden 'Diamonds: an early history of the king of gems', Yale, 2018
Church, Rachel, Rings, London, V&A Publishing/ Thames and Hudson, 2017, fig. 38, p.36


Gold; Diamond


Jewellery; Metalwork; Children & Childhood; Europeana Fashion Project


Metalwork Collection

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