There is no question that we are both fascinated and repelled by snakes. Putting aside Freud and phallic symbols, and Genesis with the demon serpent, we get to Charles Darwin. Snakes are potentially dangerous, and our brain instantly responds to anything that resembles a snake because any earlier ancestors who weren’t so alert, might not have lived to pass on their genes. We are by far not the only species highly sensitized to snakes, but unlike the others, we can make jewelry.
Snake-themed jewelry can serve as a protective amulet – wear the thing you fear, and it will protect you from that thing. This is one reason for the popularity of snakes in jewelry, and when you factor in Freud and Genesis, the serpent becomes even more compelling. The symbolism can also be reversed – rings designed as a snake with its tail in its mouth symbolized Eternity, at least in English jewelry –I can’t speak for everyone else. A diamond Eternity ring was and still is a very popular wedding band. The Eternity snake is also found on Memorial and Memento Mori jewelry from earlier periods.
Images top to bottom (l-r): Victorian gold and diamond serpent ring, ca. 1880; Memorial ring, ca. 1833, the eternity snake with its tail in its mouth can be seen surrounding the central motif; Diamond and emerald serpent ring, ca. 1920’s; Ruby, diamond and emerald snake cufflinks, England, 19th c., Double headed serpent ring with rubies, England, ca. 1900; Edwardian platinum serpent ring with sapphire, diamonds, and rubies, England, ca. 1910.
This article and the images in it are copyright- protected, and may not be excerpted or reproduced in any form without the consent of Audrey Friedman at Primavera Gallery NY.