What is an eternity ring?
An eternity ring is a ring most often worn by women. However, men sometimes wear eternity rings as wedding bands or engagement rings.
Many people consider eternity rings the ultimate type of romantic gift jewellery that you can give your spouse or life partner. They’re usually bought to commemorate an important occasion in a couple’s relationship, such as a big wedding anniversary or the birth of a baby.
The eternity ring’s circular shape, with diamonds all around the band, symbolises everlasting love.
What makes eternity rings different from other rings?
Traditionally, the key element of an eternity ring is that it has diamonds or gems going all the way around the ring’s band.
An eternity ring that has diamonds or gems set all around the band is often referred to as a “full eternity ring”.
There is also a type of eternity ring called the “half eternity ring”. As the name indicates, these have diamonds or gems only along the top half of the band.
Here’s more about each type:
“Full” eternity rings
A full eternity ring has diamonds or gemstones set in a continuous line all around the band. In the jewellery world, eternity rings are the most luxurious kind of ring that you can buy.
Many people consider full eternity rings to look more beautiful than half eternity rings, because they have diamonds (or gems) going all the way round the band. This makes them look and feel much more substantial and opulent.
As a slight downside, the diamonds or gems on the underside of your finger can feel thicker than a normal ring’s plain metal band. Plus they can catch on things as you use your hands, so you have to be careful while wearing them. They’re also more expensive than half eternity rings.
“Half” eternity rings
A “half” eternity ring has stones set only across the top half of the ring. Some people say half eternity rings are more practical and comfortable than full eternity rings.
They also allow larger stones for the price than full eternity rings, since the diamonds or gems sit only on top of the band. So you can get more for your money if you choose to spend your budget on a half eternity ring.
Half eternity rings tend to be more affordable than full eternity rings. Although their price ultimately depends on the total carat weight of the diamonds and gems used and whether the ring is made of gold or platinum (the latter being the more expensive metal).
Invented by early Egyptians
In Old Egyptian hieroglyphics, dating back to around 2000-1800 BC, the circle was a powerful symbol that represented eternity.
The Egyptians also believed that the bond of marriage between a man a woman was so strong it could not be interrupted by death.
When these two concepts were brought together, the Egyptians first invented the wedding ring as a symbolic way to represent a union between two people.
In ancient Egyptian tombs, archaeologists have found simple rings made from carved bone, as well as elaborate metal and gemstone bands.
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What these had in common were that the decorations – carvings, beads or gems – went all the way around the band. This feature is what the modern eternity ring gets its inspiration from.
The name symbolises love and commitment
The Egyptian idea of an “eternal” ring – a continuous circle that can never be broken – continues to define the modern eternity ring. This is where it gets its name from.
Some people also call eternity rings “infinity” rings, although this term is less known.
Made from precious metals and indestructible diamonds, they’re the perfect symbol of everlasting love.
Gifted on romantic occasions
Eternity rings are usually given at special times in a couple’s relationship. A wedding day, an anniversary, or the birth of a child are considered traditional times to gift one of these rings to a beloved person.
Sometimes eternity rings can also mark important birthdays or make elaborate Valentine’s Day or Christmas presents, although this is rarer.
Eternity rings act as reminders of cherished moments in a couple’s life together. They can also be passed on to children and grandchildren as heirlooms. In this way, they immortalise a couple’s love for each other.
Diamonds are the most popular stone
Diamond are the decorative stone that people most often choose for eternity rings. They are one of the strongest, rarest and most precious substances on the planet. As such, they are considered a perfect symbol of undying love and commitment. This fits perfectly with the meaning of the eternity ring.
Coloured gems can have special symbolism
Although diamonds are the most frequently used stone in eternity rings, choosing a gemstone instead can make the ring more personal to its wearer.
Vivid, colourful precious gems make beautiful rings. They can also be considered symbolic in nature.
For example, there are gemstones that mark wedding anniversaries or the birth month of the wearer, like the blue sapphire which is the September birthstone, the green emerald which stands for May and symbolises motherhood and the red ruby which is the official gem for 40th Ruby Wedding Anniversaries.
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. In many countries the wedding ring finger is the fourth finger of the left hand, so this is often where you see people placing their eternity ring.
This custom 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; it is a question of personal preference. An eternity ring can even be worn on the thumb.
Read more about the different customs of wearing engagement or wedding rings.
Crafting an eternity ring requires experience and skill
Some eternity rings are machine set, but the most beautiful and lasting ones are handcrafted by a skilled jeweller.
Eternity rings are very difficult rings to make.
Firstly, 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. No joins should be visible.
Meanwhile, another skilled professional, the expert diamond setter, chooses diamonds or gems carefully. They must match in size, cut, clarity and colour. They also need to give off beautiful sparkle.
Choosing and setting the stones on the ring’s band is the hardest part. They must be measured exactly, so 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 with exact measurements, many jewellery retailers won’t (or physically cannot) resize them or allow for returns or refunds. So when you’re purchasing an eternity ring, you should always check the returns policy and make sure you got the finger size exactly right.
Different cuts and settings
Princess cut (square), emerald cut (rectangular) diamonds are perhaps the most ideal shape for eternity ring stones. These geometric diamond shapes are compact and harder-wearing, more so than round cut stones.
For the same reasons, channel and rub-over settings are often preferred as secure and elegant ways to attach diamonds safely to an eternity ring.
Round cut diamonds in a claw or pavé setting are the most dramatic way to display diamonds on an eternity ring, because round diamonds offer more sparkle and these two setting types allow the most light into the stones. However, they are also the most delicate, and have to be worn and treated very carefully.
How much do eternity rings cost?
There is almost no upper limit to how much an eternity ring can cost. The quality of the stones will affect the price. Likewise, the precious metal used in the band will play a part. Platinum is more expensive than 18K yellow gold or white gold. 9K gold is the most affordable metal.
The more diamonds or gems you choose, the more you’ll pay. However, you can buy half- and full eternity rings starting at very reasonable prices.
Here are some examples to give you ideas of prices (*revised in December 2017):
- A modest UK hallmarked half eternity ring in 9k yellow or white gold with 0.02-0.05 carats of diamonds could be as reasonable as £150-200 online, or an average of £300-£500 on the high street. These are great gift rings, but you may want to invest more if you’re looking for an eternity ring as a wedding band that’s going to be worn daily.
- A UK hallmarked full eternity ring in 18K gold with 0.50-1.00 carat of diamonds could cost you around £750-1,500 online and about £1,000-2,300 in a high street store, depending on the quality of diamonds, the setting and the design.
- At the upper end of the market, a UK hallmarked half eternity ring made with platinum and 1.50 carats of G/Vs quality diamonds could cost from about £4,500 online and well over £6,000 on the high street.
- A UK hallmarked full eternity ring made with platinum and 5 carats of G/Vs quality diamonds could cost you in the region of £10,000 online and around £18,000 in a high street shop.
Men wear eternity rings too
Traditionally, eternity rings were considered women’s jewellery. However, modern designs and fashion trends have made them very accessible to men too.
Wedding bands, commitment rings and “man-gagement” rings that feature diamonds all around the band are the most popular.
Between 2009 and 2017, the number of male celebrities wearing eternity rings has increased dramatically. This is trend is likely due to the influence of iconic personalities like David Beckham, Cristiano Ronaldo, Elton John and Johnny Depp wearing diamond eternity rings – both as wedding rings as well as fashion statements.
How to choose your eternity ring
Eternity rings aren’t cheap and most people look at them both as a financial and emotional investment – or as heirloom pieces that can be passed on to children and grandchildren. Therefore it’s always advisable to make sure your eternity ring symbolises a very special moment in your relationship. It should mean something to you and capture the very essence of your lasting love and solidarity.