Long before I knew the history of the betrothal rings Prince Albert gave to Queen Victoria, two serpent rings, entwined together to symbolize an eternal life together, snakes represented true love for me. At 10 years old, I’d walk through my backyard to meet a boy name Max on his swing set after school. I knew it was undying devotion, when, after traipsing through the tall grass I found a garden snake slithering around my leg.
Anyone who has read my blog or who knows me understands that I have a slightly neurotic fear of any creature that crawls, lands on me or slinks around, unless it is a delicate butterfly or ladybug or made from platinum, gold and/or gemstones. But Max captured my heart for three weeks out of my fifth grade existence until I found out he was more of a frog than a prince, when he kissed my best friend at recess.
Around fifteen years later in my mid-twenties, I owned anacondas and pythons. I wore them. They were fashioned in to handbags, shoes and even a very cool mini skirt, long before all the controversy over the sexy skin and about twenty years before I had to fill out forms at the Prada store in Milan to return to the States with a pair of snake ballet flats.
And, so I turned my attentions to serpent motifs in jewelry with their sensuous lines, intricate textures and meaning in various cultures. I fell in love with the jewels in each Cleopatra film and pieces that slithered around my neck, wrapped up my arm and coiled around my finger.
So. 2013 is going to be a favorite of mine in jewelry. The Year of the Snake in the Chinese Zodiac coincides with Victorian jewelry and all it’s sentimentality and symbolism, becoming the hot trend to watch.
My personal collection includes two Victorian snake rings—one with two snakes entwined which means a communion of love or the coming together of two life forces and another, which has alternating diamond and rubies in the eyes. I have a pendant that wraps around into a circular shape, which is said to mean eternal love. I have one bracelet and two pendants, which in different cultures represent meanings such as fertility (at my age, let us not get hung up on that one), rebirth, immortality, infinity, wisdom and transformations. They are accented by mine cut diamonds, turquoise, enameling and garnets.
I have also collected contemporary designer’s snakes such as Kathy Rose’s for RoseArk’s cuff in yellow gold, which is delicate and can be worn stacked with other bracelets. (She has since designed it in black rhodium plated white gold with diamonds) Arman Sarkisyan’s elongated snake ring in high karat gold with tsavorite garnets and a black diamond in the mouth as well as a less stylistic serpent ring from Vibes and an ultra cool snake encasing a sapphire crystal and diamond pendant from Mortiz Glik
But like Eve in the Garden, I can be tempted quite easily and have seen quite a few new offerings by designers on both sides of the Atlantic as well as some amazing antique jewelry at trade fairs and auctions.
Back in 2001, twelve years before during the last Year of The Snake, I was dating an Italian guy, Paolo, who lived in Rome at the time. After the show, we stopped, at a pawn shop on the outskirts of Trastevere and I found a snake ring that was ancient going for a price that was too good to resist. It had meaning and was Italian, like him. I told the shopkeeper I would think about it, took Paolo outside under the pretense of needing his advice. “So, I think the price is great. It’s in its original condition and I love the way it slides around my finger.” He kept nodding his head.
“Go for it then. I really don’t think you can go wrong,” he said
I walked back in and bought it for myself.
Holding me in his arms before he fell asleep, he admitted he didn’t know why he could not buy me the snake ring, except that it had connotations of more. “In the Italian tradition you don’t buy a woman a ring until you are ready to marry her.”
After six years, Paolo was never… ready… and I finally let go of our relationship. But I still have hopes for a life entwined with a man of rare quality with whom I can share transformations, an intricate connection and eternal love.
Until I find him, I will continue to purchase my own snake jewelry, although I will never allow one to wrap around my leg again.
Here are some great serpent motifs, archival, antique and new for you to check out…