Last month, the Chinese welcomed the Year of the Snake, and I'm joining the celebration by feature two snake rings from Prather Beeland. The first is an original from the Victorian era, while the second is what I call an “updated antique”: a stick pin in it's turn of the century incarnation, I've made it into a ring to give it a new life.
Snakes have been a common motif in religion, myths, and the arts for millennia. They became popular again for jewelry in the mid-Victorian era, when Albert gave Queen Victoria a snake ring as her engagement ring. It was typical at the time for engagement rings to be set with the bride’s birthstone, so Queen Victoria's snake had an emerald head. Snakes, a symbol for eternal love, were a perfect motif for an engagement ring and other jewelry. The first ring is 14K with two diamonds set in the heads of each snake. It is a classic example of a Victorian snake ring, with pointed heads and engraving on the heads and bodies. They coil into each other making the two bodies become one, furthering the idea of eternity. The second ring, although still using the popular snake motif, most likely came from a different influence. In the late 19th century to early 20th century, people were captivated by the controversial ideas of Charles Darwin. His interest in evolution and the living world created an interest in jewelry made to look like bugs and animals. This ring seems more likely to have been part of this trend. In the early-to-mid Victorian era, jewelry had been made to capture the candlelight, but by the late Victorian era, gas lamps were in use, and it was time for jewelers to take note. Lighter stones, like the demantoid garnets used in this ring, were much better at catching the light.
Both snake pieces show the reoccurring popularity and multifaceted symbolism of the creatures. They have been used throughout history and across cultures, and it is without a doubt that snakes continue to capture our imagination today. Beautiful in appearance and meaning, snakes are a great way to remain modern while wearing antiques!