History of the Canadian Sterling Silver Ring Box: Birks, Ryrie, Ellis Bros., Roden

History of the Canadian Sterling Silver Ring Box: Birks, Ryrie, Ellis Bros., Roden

Published by L. Roth on Mar 11th 2023

Antique & Vintage Silver Ring Boxes

Why have these ring boxes become so highly sought after? Perhaps it's the fact that silver can be engraved with initials or a special date (a work of art in itself). Or perhaps some just can't stop collecting until they get their hands on THE ONE. 

Whatever the reason, so many seem to love choosing these silver ring boxes for the prefect presentation of that special ring. It is especially fitting when the ring is antique or vintage engagement ring.

These boxes are a beautiful way to display, store, or present an important ring (Christmas, Birthday, Anniversary, Engagement) and we are always on the look-out for ones to add to our online store. Like many of you, we like to know as much as we can about the details of the antiques that we buy. And we, at Sugar et Cie always enjoy sharing with those that are interested.

How Do You Determine When They Were Made?

While these Canadian silver ring boxes are for the most part marked sterling or plated, dating them is a bit harder. Unlike English hallmarks, you can't simply look for the city mark, and then look up the date letter to determine the year the piece was made. It was this quest that led us to dig a bit deeper. While you are unlikely to pin down the year, you may have a better chance of identifying the period.

So we did a little research, tracing the histories of a few of these Canadian Jewelry companies that used to offer these sterling silver beauties: when they merged, when they changed their names, and how their maker's marks have changed over time. This, in conjunction, with the style of the box, the amount/type of wear, and the materials used, help give us a better idea on the circa of a box.

According to, a website that provides information on worldwide hallmarks and maker’s marks, in 1925 the London Assay Office granted Birks permission to use their date letter hallmarking system on the sterling silver objects that Birks manufactured. Unfortunately, they do not appear on all of Birks silver and I have yet to see one on a ring box.

Maker’s Mark

If you want to know who made the ring box, there are two places to look. The box is usually marked on the bottom with the maker’s mark (e.g. Birks, Ellis Bros.) and whether or not it is sterling. 

The image below is the sterling mark from a sterling silver Birks Ring Box. All of the images in this blog are our original images from ring boxes we have had in our store and have sold throughout the years.

Sterling Silver mark on the bottom of a Vintage Birks Sterling Silver Ring Box

© Copyright Sugar et Cie

The inside of the lid may also have a maker’s mark and/or a silk lining. The image below is from a Birks sterling silver ring box. 

Vintage sterling silver ring box with Birks name imprinted on the inside of the lid without silk lining

© Copyright Sugar et Cie

The silk lining, if there is one, is often imprinted with the retailer.

Birks and Ellis Bros are examples of jewelers that made silver ring boxes for other smaller jewelry companies. Sometimes the maker’s mark and the silk lining will have the same name. For example, while Birks made ring boxes for others, they also made them for their own retail business. That is why you might see the name Birks on the bottom of the box and also on the silk lining.

The image below is from a ring box manufactured and retailed by Birks. It is currently the only sterling silver ring box we have available.

Vintage sterlings silver ring box with cream silk lining with Birks imprinted on it

© Copyright Sugar et Cie

The following is a brief chronology (not an in-depth study) that provides some clues via key dates in the history of these famous firms. We have also include pictures of a few of the antique and vintage silver ring boxes that have passed through our hands over the years.

Ryrie, Ellis, Roden and Acquisition by Birks

Ryrie, Ellis Bros., and Birks were all premier jewelry companies in Canada during the 19th and 20th centuries. Birks is the only one that continues on today.

Birks or Henry (or Henri depending upon the reference) Birks & Sons was founded in 1879 by Henry Birks in Montreal.


  • 1879: Founded. Ryrie was founded in 1879 by James Ryrie in Toronto.
  • 1897: Ryrie becomes Ryrie Brothers.
  • 1917: P.W. Ryrie Bros. becomes part of Birks.
  • 1924: The name is changed to Ryrie-Birks Limited.

It appears that fundamentally, Birks purchased Ryrie (some report it as an affiliation and others as an amalgamation). The Ryrie reputation must have had value, as the combined entity was then renamed Ryrie-Birks, with the Ryrie name in the first position. Below is the perfect example of a ring box from this time period.

A vintage cushion shaped vintage sterling silver ring box with a silk lining with Ryrie Birks imprinted on it

© Copyright Sugar et Cie


Ellis Bros. was also a successful jewelry business in Toronto.

  • 1872: Founded. Ellis Jewellery Company was founded by Philip William Ellis and his brother Mathew C. Ellis in Torronto. It later became Ellis Bros. Limited.
  • 1915/1916: PW Ellis & Co. Limited appears as the formal name on a catalogue dated from this time period.
  • 1922: Ellis Bros. Limited is the name on a catalogue from 1922.
  • 1928: The wholesale portion of the business fails.
  • 1933: The retail business was absorbed by Birks.

Below is an example of pre-Birks acquisition of an Ellis Bros. ring box. While the silk lining is original, it is likely the ring pad is a replacement.

 An Ellis Bros. Sterling Siver Ring Box in a Hexagon Shape

© Copyright Sugar et Cie

The inside of an Ellis Bros. Sterling Silver Ring Box with silk lining

© Copyright Sugar et Cie

The Ellis Bros. maker’s mark stamped into a sterling silver ring box

© Copyright Sugar et Cie

After the acquisition, Birks was known as Birks, Ellis, Ryrie.


I have very little information on Roden Bros.

  • 1891: Founded by Thomas and Frank Roden.
  • 1953: Acquired by Birks.

Roden made the most beautiful Sterling Silver Art Deco Ring Boxes with a stepped base (See the image at the start of the blog). I have come across three over a period of several years. They are few and far between. The image below shows Roden’s marker’s mark on the side of one of the Art Deco ring boxes: Sterling, R, and a pseudo sort of Lion Passant.

The Roden Bros. maker’s mark stamped into a sterling silver ring box

© Copyright Sugar et Cie

While these dates do not point to the exact date of the name changes, they are good reference points, many from primary sources, which you can use to assess the maker's mark that is on your box (or piece of jewelry from these makers). Keep in mind that because there is not a date letter system it is not an exact science and the marks did not change overnight.

All three luxury jewelry companies have storied pasts that became intertwined during the first quarter of the 20th century. Eventually, the combined businesses officially became “Birks” or “Maison Birks” as it was recently rebranded.

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