Snakes or serpents are one of the oldest motifs used in jewellery throughout history. Examples date from as early as Ancient Egyptian times. The Egyptians invented the ‘ouroboros’ or ‘tail devouring snake’ -an image which forms a perfect circle. This unending circle was seen as a symbol of the unchanging, cyclical nature of life and was used for royalty and a symbol of the divine. Another theory behind the popularity of the snake symbol in antiquity was that it was inspired by the Milky Way- ancient texts note a ‘serpent of light living in the heavens’ while the Ancient Romans chose to view snakes as being symbolic of everlasting love.
There was a boom in serpent jewellery in Victorian England when Prince Albert proposed to Queen Victoria with a ring in the form of a snake with an emerald-set head. This was a catalyst event for snake jewellery in the Victorian era, peaking in the 1840s, which started a rage for jewellery in the form of snakes. Because of this Royal influence in connection to romance, the Victorians viewed snakes as representations of everlasting love and perfection- Victoria and Albert were married for 21 years and after Albert’s death, Queen Victoria famously mourned him for rest of her life.
Over the centuries, snake imagery has had continuing allure, perhaps because it has been seen as being symbolic of opposite dual expressions- for example, both rebirth or renewal with the shedding of its skin and poison with its deadly venom.
In jewellery design terms, snakes present an ideal flexible motif, varying from anatomically correct examples to loose stylised designs, single winding snakes or pairs of entwined snakes, coiled in elaborate knots, or wrapped around the finger, with their bodies highly textured, set with gems, engraved with scales or simple smooth flowing metal.
Antique snake and serpent jewellery is still highly sought after because of its enduring appeal and entertaining varied designs. Today we see snake inspired couture jewellery being worn by stars and socialites on the red carpet around the world. Here at Berganza we are extremely lucky to have a range of sinuous examples for you to add to your own jewellery collection!