Throughout history, the symbol of the snake has been associated with many meanings. Ancient civilizations such as the Mayans and the Aztecs worshipped snake gods and revered them a representation of knowledge and protection. Snakes were also featured heavily in the myths of ancient Greece and Rome - reviled for their ability to shed their skin, meaning that they were seen as a symbol of regeneration and rebirth. Moving into relatively more modern cultural references, Queen Victoria was truly the first person to bring the snake ring into fashion, after her husband-to-be Prince Albert bought her one for her engagement ring. This resulted in a huge demand for rings of a similar style.
Fine jewellery houses continue to create snake themed jewellery, and the allure of this creature doesn’t seem to waiver with the fickle nature of fashion. No matter how many jewelled interpretations there are based on this same theme, each designer conjures collections or jewels that are different in terms of design aesthetic and materials used.
Bulgari’s ‘Serpenti’ collection is undoubtedly one of the most iconic snake designs in jewellery, and continues to evolve year after year. Necklaces and turbogas watches in particular maintain their evergreen popularity, which in part is due to the art deco influence evident in Bulgari’s re-working of scales. The Italian house is one of the few who focus on the elegant head of the snake in their jewels - as well as the winding form of the snake’s body - creating an easily distinguishable silhouette.
The Boucheron’s ‘Serpent Bohéme’ is probably the second most extensive collection dedicated to snake after Bulgari’s ‘Serpenti’. The ‘Serpent Boheme’ is a much more muted and less literal take on snakes, featuring gently engraved golden scales and teardrop shaped gemstones and faceted minerals, though their 'Adam' collection is more figurative and realistic. David Webb is another designer who is famed for creating jewellery featuring serpents - as part of the ‘Animal Kingdom’ collection, a brightly decorated enamel snake box encircles a large carved sapphire crystal, with a matching ring that is also embellished with diamonds.
Garrard has just released a new collection of fine jewellery named ‘Muse’ and dedicated to Queen Alexandra and the Victorian trend for snake jewellery that was started by Queen Victoria herself. The diamond embellished serpents feature kite shaped scaled engraved over white gold, that then curl around yellow and rose gold branches on necklaces, rings and earrings.
Making reference to the brand’s Egyptian heritage, Azza Fahmy has numerous interpretations of snakes in their collections, especially ‘Wonders of Nature.’ From slim snake hoops with ruby eyes, to bold mixed metal snakecuffs and double rings with statement coloured gems, these serpent jewels are timeless. A more obtuse snake jewellery design comes courtesy of Cadar, whose ‘Python’ pieces from the ‘Second Skin’ collection are comprised entirely of faceted yellow gold. The geometric version of snake scales are malleable, with tiny links connecting each component so that the metal sits organically against the skin.
Pasquale Bruni’s ‘Look at me’ line is comprised of a ring, bracelet and earrings that are a very literal jewelled representation of snakes made of yellow gold and delicate diamonds. The shape of the snake is another contributing factor to its success in the jewellery world: the winding form means that jewellery can loop and wrap around the wearer’s fingers, wrists and neck.
Cartier, Damiani, Faidee, Dreamboule, Antonio Seijo and many other jewellers have created their own versions of snake jewellery, and soon we will dedicate a separate gallery of images to show the full spectrum of jewellery designs inspired by snakes.