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Not currently on display at the V&A

Ring

1850-1900 (made)
Artist/Maker
Place Of Origin

Snakes were a popular device in jewellery, partly because their sinuous shape could be wrapped around the neck, arm or finger. These rings vary from very naturalistic snakes with multiple coils, intertwined snakes forming the hoop and quite simple rings such as this one where the body of the snake is unornamented, forming a single coil which terminates when the tail of the snake wrapped around the head. However, the ring has additional decorative value due to the tiny cabochon rubies which are set in the eyes and a large brilliant cut diamond in the head.

Snakes have been used in jewellery since the ancient Egyptians. They were associated with healing deities such as Isis in Egypt or the Greek God of medicine, Asclepius. They symbolised regeneration, healing and rebirth and therefore were used as a symbol of eternity. According to Christian beliefs, the snake tempted Adam and Eve into sin and led to their expulsion from the Garden of Eden and the snake was also one of the incarnations of the devil. Although the association with healing remained, in particular with the symbol of the staff and snake used by physicians, snakes were not commonly used in medieval jewellery. The renewed interest in the classical world which characterised the Renaissance did lead to a gradual return of snakes to fashion. This association with regeneration and eternity led to their use on both love and mourning jewellery in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Queen Victoria's engagement ring was a snake with emerald eyes.

Snake rings were worn by men and women in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The British kind George IV (1762-1830) was painted wearing a snake ring in a portrait by Sir Thomas Lawrence in the Wallace Collection.


object details
Categories
Object Type
Materials and Techniques
Gold set with a brilliant-cut diamond and cabochon rubies
Brief Description
Gold ring ornamented with a single coiled serpent, set with a brilliant-cut diamond and cabochon rubies. Probably England, 1850-1900
Physical Description
Gold ring ornamented with a single serpent with one coil, the head set with a brilliant-cut diamond, the eyes set with cabochon rubies
Dimensions
  • Height: 2.5cm
  • Width: 2.3cm
  • Depth: 0.8cm
Marks and Inscriptions
Credit line
Given by George A. H. Tucker
Subjects depicted
Summary
Snakes were a popular device in jewellery, partly because their sinuous shape could be wrapped around the neck, arm or finger. These rings vary from very naturalistic snakes with multiple coils, intertwined snakes forming the hoop and quite simple rings such as this one where the body of the snake is unornamented, forming a single coil which terminates when the tail of the snake wrapped around the head. However, the ring has additional decorative value due to the tiny cabochon rubies which are set in the eyes and a large brilliant cut diamond in the head.



Snakes have been used in jewellery since the ancient Egyptians. They were associated with healing deities such as Isis in Egypt or the Greek God of medicine, Asclepius. They symbolised regeneration, healing and rebirth and therefore were used as a symbol of eternity. According to Christian beliefs, the snake tempted Adam and Eve into sin and led to their expulsion from the Garden of Eden and the snake was also one of the incarnations of the devil. Although the association with healing remained, in particular with the symbol of the staff and snake used by physicians, snakes were not commonly used in medieval jewellery. The renewed interest in the classical world which characterised the Renaissance did lead to a gradual return of snakes to fashion. This association with regeneration and eternity led to their use on both love and mourning jewellery in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Queen Victoria's engagement ring was a snake with emerald eyes.



Snake rings were worn by men and women in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The British kind George IV (1762-1830) was painted wearing a snake ring in a portrait by Sir Thomas Lawrence in the Wallace Collection.
Bibliographic Reference
Oman, Charles, Catalogue of rings in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, 1930, reprinted Ipswich, 1993, cat.374
Collection
Accession Number
776-1902

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record createdNovember 7, 2005
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