Eternity rings are a fairly recent tradition, but they hold a special place in many people’s hearts. Tradition holds that they are given on the occasion of the first wedding anniversary.
The History of Eternity Rings
The first type of ‘eternity’ rings known to history appear in ancient Egypt, where husbands and wives would sometimes exchange ‘ourobouros’ rings, made in the shape of a snake consuming its tail. These rings still appear today, but they are not as common as diamond or precious stone eternity rings.
In the 18th century, eternity rings featuring paste gems, white topaz, and mixed stones began appearing, but they were mostly confined to wealthier couples.
Like the diamond engagement ring, diamond eternity rings are a product of De Beers diamond marketing ingenuity. In the 1960s, Russian mines were producing large amounts of smaller diamonds, usually less than 0.25ct each. To prevent a stockpiling situation, De Beers ran an advertising campaign aimed at older married women and their husbands, showcasing ‘eternity rings’ which were set all the way around with diamonds smaller than the usual engagement ring stone. These were originally aimed at older married couples, but in recent years they have been marketed as a tenth or even a first wedding anniversary gift.
Whenever you give them, eternity rings are a precious and gorgeous gift for a special someone.
Types of Eternity Rings
There are two main types of eternity ring - the full eternity, and the half eternity. The full ring has diamonds right around the ring, and the half eternity has them only around half of the ring. Full eternity rings can be difficult to wear, so the half eternity was created as a slightly easier-wearing ring.
Settings can vary in eternity rings, but the two main ones are the claw- or prong-set eternity ring, a setting type which shows the diamonds’ sparkle best of all setting, and the channel setting, which holds the diamonds in very securely. Other types of setting can include shot or flush setting, and bezel or rubover setting.
Eternity rings can be made in 9ct or 18ct white, rose, or yellow gold, or even platinum. Prices will vary widely depending on the fineness or type of metal chosen, the quality of the diamonds, and the inclusion of other stones either alongside or instead of the diamonds.
When are Eternity Rings Given?
The gift of an eternity ring can be given at various times in a couple’s relationship, depending on when it is most significant to that particular couple. Diamonds were once the traditional 75th wedding anniversary gift, but when the British Queen decided that her 60th anniversary of assuming the throne would be celebrated with a diamond jubilee, the 60th wedding anniversary was adopted as the diamond anniversary. As mentioned earlier, the De Beers mining conglomerate pushed the diamond eternity ring as a tenth, or even a first anniversary present.
Another significant event that is often marked with the gift of an eternity ring is the birth of a couple’s first child. This significant event is seen as a continuation of the circle of life, and the eternity ring represents that.
How are Eternity Rings Worn?
Traditionally, eternity rings were seen as a woman’s ring, but in more modern times, they can be worn by any gender. As with the tradition of the engagement ring, as time has passed the gendered norms are passing also, and people of all genders are wearing the jewellery they want!
The eternity ring is traditionally worn on the left hand ring finger, which in ancient times was believed to contain a vein that led straight to the heart. In modern times, this is changing, and the eternity ring can be worn wherever it is most comfortable, although the left or right ring finger is still most common.
How do You Buy an Eternity Ring?
There are two main ways to choose an eternity ring - you can buy off-the-shelf or you can get it custom made. Here at Albany Village Goldsmiths, we have a few half-eternity styles in stock most of the time, but in general we hand make our eternity rings to order.
Buying off-the-shelf is most practical from larger high street or chain jewellers, while smaller manufacturing jewellers are more likely to help you create your perfect custom ring. The main advantages of off-the-shelf are price and time - they are likely to be cheaper and ready immediately. The advantages of custom makes are that they will be the perfect size and style for the person wearing the ring.
It is important to bear in mind when you are choosing or creating particularly a full eternity ring that they can be tricky to resize, so they should be as close to the right size as possible. Half-eternity rings are a bit more forgiving.
If you go for a custom piece from a manufacturing jeweller, they will guide you through the process of sizing, choosing your design, choosing your stone types, size and quality, and then they will execute your design for you. It takes varying lengths of time to make your ring, but expect to be waiting around 6-8 weeks, depending on how busy the manufacturer is.