All rings are in some way a symbol of eternity. From the simplest band of precious metal through to incredibly elaborate combinations of multiple stones and materials, each is built around a single unending circle – a physical representation of the infinite.
The eternity ring takes this powerful symbolism and augments it. In place of the “face” present in most rings, these pieces boast an unbroken line of gemstones which are often as close as possible to being identical. Where the stones in solitaire or trilogy rings are often larger and more elaborately cut, the eternity ring relies on their combined effect, which in many ways underscores the reason why they are given.
Solitaires are often given to illustrate how the object of a person’s affection is singular and unique. Trilogy rings can represent the creation of new life, with each stone symbolising one of the people in a new family, representing the three words “I Love You”, or may speak to religious devotion by standing for the holy trinity. The eternity ring is both subtler and arguably more potent in its meaning, in that it shows the enormity of one’s love for another – a love crafted from precious and unassailable materials – a love without end.
The first gemset rings were forged as early as 2000BC when the ancient Egyptian people crafted bands of metal set with precious stones. These early rings were often carved in the likeness of a snake swallowing its own tail – a timeless metaphor for eternity.
Over many centuries different combinations of stones and metals began to have different meanings. Wedding rings are often simply designed, made for every day wear and practicality as well as beauty. Engagement rings are impressive vessels for the stones they carry, and count among their number some of the most impressive and extravagant gems and settings that can be found.
”Keeper” rings, a precursor to the eternity ring, were intended to be worn with wedding and engagement rings to prevent them slipping from the finger, and were originally fairly plain by comparison, however in the early 18th century variants began to appear with ranks of identical stones.
This practical origin, that of preserving and safeguarding the tokens of love and marriage, led to the eternity ring picking up meaning of its own in a more transcendental fashion. The eternity ring came to be associated with the infinite, immortal nature of love.
Depictions of the Infinite
Since its inception, the eternity ring has been crafted in many different manners. Each successive generation of jewellers has elaborated upon and refined the core concept to create an incredible variety of beautiful pieces scattered throughout the ages.
This Victorian eternity ring has been crafted in sterling silver and set with three bands of paste stones, a simulacrum of diamond expertly crafted from flint glass. Though the Victorians are often thought of as a restrained and austere people their jewellery was often extremely extravagant, and the depth of this piece is far greater than later examples.
This ring is a far more compact arrangement, but the intricacy of its construction is still evident. Two lines of diamonds are laced together with delicate strands of white gold engraving which dissipate the strong curved lines into a latticework of diamond and shining metal. Whilst these true diamonds may be smaller than the paste stones above they have been cunningly set so as to maximise their natural brightness.
The jeweller creating this piece chose to use old cut diamonds and French cut rubies in identical lines of five stones, alternating in colour across the band. Rubies and diamonds naturally complement one another, and are often paired for this reason. In this case, the sparkle from the old cut diamonds marvellously accentuates the pink lustre of the rubies, allowing each gem to present its best features without either one overwhelming the other.
The jeweller who created this piece has taken the eternity ring design and adapted it into an ingenious new format. The central band is adorned with pink French cut rubies on one half and blue French cut sapphires on the other. When these old stones were reset into their new gallery the craftsman decided to add two half bands of old cut diamonds, which rest on hinges that allow them to be reversed, and let the wearer choose from four different ways to wear the piece.
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