I wrote about my love of snake jewellery in a post last year but this time I wanted to focus only on snake rings. But why are snakes even used in jewellery?
Snakes or serpents have been represented in jewellery, art and literature for centuries. In literature and religious texts, the snake was frequently associated with evil, vice and sin but it has more positive image in jewellery. The snake was a symbol of Egyptian gods such as Wadjet and Ra and was shown on diadems, often as a cobra rearing and ready to strike. Cobras appeared on amulets, pectorals and earrings. The coiled snake was popular as bracelets and rings, and still are today. The Minoans had a Snake goddess or priestess who was represented in objects holding snakes. Greeks worn entwined snakes , with the central knot being called a Heracles knot after the Greek myth, as did the Romans. Bracelets and rings depicting a snake biting its tale (Ouroboros) were also worn.
After the fall of the Roman Empire in the 5th century BC, snake jewellery remained popular with the Celts and Germanic tribes but seemed to disappear from Europe throughout the Middle Ages, the Renaissance and the baroque and Rococo periods with a few exceptions. It has been argued that this absence was due to Christianity and the association of the snake with evil. Whatever the cause, snake jewellery did not emerge again in Europe until the 18th century but it has remained popular since then.
It is hard to believe that there can be so many different ways to design a snake ring. Basically, the ring is just a snake wrapped around into a finger ring. But there are lots of differences. So let’s look at some rings. Because snakes have been used in jewellery in the 18th 19h, 20th and 21st centuries, determining the age of a ring can be hard. If the ring is hallmarked, the assessing its age is easy but most antique rings are not hallmarked.
Some rings will comprise two snakes or at least have two snake heads.
Some rings will contain two snake coils, some three and occasionally some will have a single coil.
Some rings may be smooth coils while others will have tiny scales etched into the surface.
Gemstones may be inserted as eyes and some gems might be placed in the top of the snake head.
As I said earlier, it is not easy to date some snake rings without hallmarks. Those with finely crafted scales are usually antique, and certainly antique rings can show finer craftsmanship. Weight can indicate an antique ring, as vintage and modern rings can often be lighter. The use of synthetic gemstones in the eyes and the head will indicate a more modern construction.