Here at AC Silver we have a wonderful collection of antique snake rings, featuring both diamond and gemstone accents.
If – like us – you are fascinated by the history of jewellery, especially pieces chosen and worn by some of history’s most important figures, then the story of snake jewellery will spark your interest
Jewellery featuring snakes has been worn and adored by many ancient and modern civilizations. Throughout history, the symbol of the snake has been associated with many meanings. Ancient civilizations such as the Mayans and the Aztecs had snake gods within their religions. These gods were traditionally worshipped and revered for representing knowledge and protection.
Many of our fine examples of snake rings feature two snakes intertwined, suggesting that these pieces were intended as tokens of love and affection. This style would be worn by both men and women.
Snakes featured heavily in the myths of ancient Greece and Rome. They were reviled for their ability shed their skin, meaning that they were seen as a symbol of regeneration and rebirth.
This association with regeneration and fertility suggests links to the Victorian connotations between snakes and eternal love. Furthermore, the common representation of the snake being the ouroboros – meaning a circular depiction of a snake swallowing its own tail- acts as a symbol of eternity. This is one of the reasons that snake rings have continued to be popular across the twentieth and twenty first century.
In the Art Nouveau era, snakes were fashionable because they fit well with the popular design styles of flowing, fluid lines in jewellery. Exotic motifs which featured bright, primary colours utilizing enamel, paste and gemstones were also in vogue; this vibrant style matched well with snakes and their colourful, patterned scales.
During the Art Deco era, snake jewellery and other themes associated with the ancient Egyptians – such as blue enamel and turquoise combined with yellow gold jewellery, and scarab beetles- were all incredibly popular due to the excavation of Tutankhamun’s tomb in Egypt.
Queen Victoria was truly the first person to bring the snake ring into fashion, after her husband-to-be Prince Albert bought her one for her engagement ring. This resulted in a huge demand for rings of a similar style.
Queen Victoria’s jewellery and fashion choices were heavily emulated as she was the first public figure which most people saw on a regular basis: her reign coincided with the advent of print and visual media such as photography, and therefore every item she wore was both criticized and copied in equal measure.
Prince Albert chose a gold snake ring which incorporated an emerald into the design, as this was Queen Victoria’s birthstone.
The Victorians adored birthstones and enjoyed using as many gemstones as possible in their jewellery. Some of the most popular rings and jewellery items were pieces which spelled out personal messages, such as ‘Remember me’ and ‘Darling’ rings. This style is known as ‘acrostic jewellery’. The preoccupation with the meaning and symbolism of each gemstone still occupies the jewellery world to this day.
It is said that Queen Victoria loved her snake ring so much that upon her death in 1901, she was buried wearing it.
What’s Special about Snake Rings?
Another factor which explains the Victorian, Edwardian and Art Deco predilection for snake rings is that the manufacturing process for jewellery changed swiftly after the industrial revolution. Pieces were now being made much more quickly rather than being created painstakingly by hand. This also meant that the cost of jewellery was reduced greatly, making pieces far more accessible to the masses.
The shape of the snake is another contributing factor to its charm. The winding form means that jewellery can loop and wrap around the wearer: another reason why snake bangles and bracelets maintain their popularity.
The origins of snake rings are unusually easy to trace compared to most antique jewellery because many of the rings that were manufactured included a large amount of gold. This meant that these pieces often benefited from full hallmarks, including date letters and makers mark. This is rarely the case with older items as hallmarking was not as fastidious as it is today. Luckily, this means that most of our snake rings have a clearly traceable history, more so than most Victorian, Edwardian and Art Deco pieces.
We hope that you’ve enjoyed our brief synopsis of the history of snake jewellery, and that you’re as charmed by these unique pieces as we (and Queen Victoria!) are.