Here’s our February 2016 updated version of this highly popular article:
The Meaning of Eternity Rings
THE ultimate romantic gift? A mind blowing feat in jewellery craftsmanship? A ring with a spellbinding history? Whichever way you look at eternity rings, they’re true marvels of physics and beauty. But do you know the many curious facts and real meaning behind them?
1. What is an eternity ring?
An eternity ring is a ring most often worn by women, although men’s eternity rings are also becoming popular as wedding bands. An eternity ring’s distinguishing feature is that it has diamonds or gems going around the band in a continuous line. A “full” eternity ring has stones that go all around the band. A “half” eternity ring has stones set across the top half of the band.
Benefits of full eternity rings: Many people consider full eternity rings more beautiful because they have diamonds (or gems) going all the way round the band. This makes them look and feel more luxurious. As a slight downside, the diamonds or gems on the underside of your hand can catch more easily, so you have to be careful while wearing them. They’re also more expensive.
Benefits of half eternity rings: Some people say half eternity rings are more practical and comfortable. They also allow larger stones for the price, since the diamonds or gems sit only on top of the band. Half eternity rings tend to be more affordable than full eternity rings.
2. Early Egyptians invented them
In Old Egypt, dating back to about 2000-1800 BC, the circle was a powerful symbol that represented eternity. Additionally, the Egyptians believed the bond of marriage between a man a woman to be so strong that it could not be interrupted by death.
When these two concepts came together, the wedding ring emerged as a symbolic way to represent a lasting union between two people in love. In Egyptian tombs, archaeologists have found simple rings made from carved bone and beads, as well as elaborate metal bands set with precious gemstones. These ancient designs are what inspired the modern day eternity ring.
3. They stand for love and commitment
The Egyptian idea of an “eternal” ring – a continuous circle that can never be broken – still exists today. That’s of course where the word “eternity ring” comes from. Made with precious metals and indestructible diamonds, many people consider them the ultimate symbol of everlasting love, and everything it can endure.
4. They’re usually bought for romantic reasons
Eternity rings are most often gifted by one life partner to another. Usually, at special times in a relationship. A wedding day, an anniversary or the birth of a baby are perfect times to gift one of these rings to a beloved person. Of course, they can also mark important birthdays or be given as elaborate Christmas presents. Most of all, eternity rings immortalise your love. They act as reminders of a cherished moment or a special occasion in a your life together.
5. Diamonds are the most popular stone
The rarest, toughest and most valuable gem on the planet, diamonds are the stone people most often choose for eternity rings. Not only are they beautiful and sparkly, they represent lasting love. This fits the eternity ring’s symbolic nature perfectly.
6. Coloured gems are highly personal
Aside diamonds, there are many gemstone variations to eternity rings. Vivid, colourful gems make for beautiful designs. However, gems are most often picked because they mark a particular occasion. Some gemstones represent particular wedding anniversaries. An example of this would be the 40th Ruby Wedding Anniversary. As other examples, sapphires are September’s birthstone and emeralds symbolise motherhood.
7. They’re usually worn on the fourth finger of the left hand
An eternity ring can be worn instead of a wedding or an engagement ring, or in addition to them. This also dates back to ancient Egypt, where people believed the “vein of love” ran from the fourth finger on the left hand to the heart. Of course eternity rings can be worn on other fingers too, and are sometimes seen even on the thumb.
8. They’re difficult to make
The most beautiful, valuable and lasting eternity rings are handcrafted by skilled jewellers. Eternity rings are very difficult rings to make. First, the jeweller cuts the gold or platinum into a strip. The length must match the ring wearer’s finger size exactly. The jeweller then shapes the strip into a band and joins it at the ends, with no final joins being visible.
Meanwhile, another skilled professional, the diamond setter, chooses the diamonds or gems. This must be done with utmost care. The stones must match each other in size, cut, clarity and colour. They also need to give off beautiful sparkle.
The reason why the diamonds or gems must be so exactly measured, is so that they fit perfectly side by side around the band, without any gaps. As you can imagine, the diamond setter cannot just overlap stones at the end if he miscalculates the space!
Because handcrafted eternity rings are tailor made for their intended wearers, most jewellery retailers won’t later re-size them or allow for returns or refunds. So if you’re about to purchase one, it’s a good idea to double check you got the ring size right (as well as reviewing your jeweller’s refund and re-size policy).
9. Cuts and settings differ
Princess cut (square) and emerald cut (rectangular) diamonds are perhaps the most common gem shapes used in eternity ring. Jewellers like their compact shape, as it’s harder-wearing than round stones.
For the same reason, channel settings (see far left image below) and rub over settings (see second image from right below) are often preferred by jewellers. These are the most secure ways to attach diamonds safely to an eternity ring, while being very elegant.
However, round cut diamonds in a claw setting or a pavé setting are far more dramatic, because they have much more sparkle. These designs make stunning eternity rings, but they must be treated more carefully so they don’t catch or knock while wearing.
10. Men wear them too
Traditionally, eternity rings were considered to be women’s jewellery. However, modern designs and fashion trends have made them very accessible to men too. Wedding bands, which feature diamonds all the way around, are the most often seen type of men’s eternity ring, although celebrities like Johnny Depp have also made “mangagement” eternity rings popular.
Should I buy an eternity ring?
Eternity rings are beautiful, but not cheap. Therefore it’s good to look at them both as emotional as well as financial investments – as heirloom pieces you can pass onto your children and grandchildren. If you’re going to purchase one, it should symbolise a really special moment in your relationship, or in the gift recipient’s life.
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