If you ask the question, “What is an eternity ring?” in Google, you’ll get a straightforward answer: it’s a symbol of undying, everlasting love. It can be a memento of a special anniversary, birthday, or to say ‘I love you’. Eternity rings have been part of human culture for thousands of years and have lost none of their sparkle, appeal, or their passion in all that time.
From marking the birth of a child to celebrating your first or fiftieth wedding anniversary, Eternity rings are hugely popular today. But with so much meaning wrapped up in each unique ring, how do you choose the right one? Are there different types? And how do you wear an eternity ring? This comprehensive guide to Eternity rings aims to answer your questions.
Eternity rings have a specific design and are unlike any other type of ring. A simple metal band, either gold or platinum, is set with a row of gems that either go all the way around the ring or cover just half of the band. They mark important milestones in a relationship, particularly wedding anniversaries or the birth of a child. However, there is no set convention as to how and when an eternity ring can be given to your partner. This is what makes them so unique – each one has its own very personal meaning.
Eternity rings date back to ancient Egypt. In this complex culture, the circle had a strong symbolic meaning representing eternity. For a culture so invested in both this life and the next one, eternity had a very significant meaning. This filtered down to everyday life, where couples gave each other the original version of the eternity ring. Often portrayed as a snake biting its own tail – the ouroboros – these were always treasured and represented the union between two people in this life and beyond.
Today, eternity ring styles may not feature the snake anymore, but they still carry the same type of meaning and symbolism as those 4,000-year-old examples from ancient Egypt. In the 1800s, the fashion for diamond eternity rings really took off; they were even more popular during the Victorian period. The combination of the eternity symbolism and the representation of everlasting love associated with diamonds is a perfect partnership. This is why diamond eternity rings are still popular today.
How you wear your eternity ring is entirely up to you. But traditionally, it is worn together with the wedding and engagement ring on the third finger of the left hand. For some, it replaces the engagement ring and is worn above the wedding band to ensure the band never leaves the finger.
Why is the third finger of the left hand associated with love? It was believed that a vein running down the ‘ring’ finger was directly connected to the heart. Known as the ‘vena amoris’, this myth has led to the third finger of the left hand being linked to the everlasting bond between two hearts.
But the truth is you can choose how to wear an eternity ring in whatever way you want. After all, the sentiment behind the ring is exclusive and unique to you, so if you want to, you can wear an eternity ring on your thumb or your pinkie if you want.
There is absolutely no reason why men shouldn’t wear an eternity ring. While they are traditionally thought of as a woman’s piece of jewellery, today we’ve got rid of those old-fashioned concepts of ‘male and female-only’ jewellery. Celebrities have made more glitzy jewellery for men the norm, including commitment rings, wedding bands and eternity rings for men.
Men’s eternity ring styles follow the same general style as women’s eternity rings but are often more robust in design. Platinum is favoured because of its satin sheen and the way that it showcases diamonds so perfectly. The rings tend to be wider, with a double layer of stones sandwiched between three metal bands to create a more impactful and masculine feel.
There are two basic designs of eternity rings – full and half. Full eternity rings have gems around the entire band, so it doesn’t matter if the ring moves around on the finger, the rocks are always on display. They showcase the stones from every angle and are elegantly slim and simple yet stunning to look at.
The only caveat to a full eternity ring is that because they have stones positioned around the whole band, they cannot be resized or altered. So if you’re looking for a full eternity ring, you must have an accurate ring size to work with to avoid ending up with a ring that’s too loose or too tight.
Half eternity rings are set with gems on half of the band. The other half is plain metal, which means that, unlike a full eternity ring, they can be resized if necessary. Because they have fewer gems (usually between seven and nine), they are considerably cheaper than a full eternity ring.
However, as eternity rings are all about your story, your love for one another, and your personal meaning, then the price is immaterial – you simply cannot put a price on true love.
Today the most popular eternity ring styles are encrusted with diamonds, although the shapes or ‘cuts’ of diamonds have changed in popularity over the centuries. For example, during the 1920s and 1930s, the Art Deco movement favoured geometric shapes such as the square or oblong. So you’ll find rings from this important period of design featuring baguette cut, princess cut, radiant and Asscher cut diamonds. As styles and preferences have changed through the decades, you now have a whole host of cuts to choose from, including the more unusual pear cut and the utterly adorable heart cut.
But you cannot beat round brilliant cut diamonds for sheer timeless style. These produce the maximum ‘shimmer’ by reflecting the most amount of light due to the way the facets are cut. Diamond eternity rings featuring round brilliant cut diamonds also often mirror an engagement ring or even a wedding band with inset round diamonds. For that sensational sparkle, diamond eternity rings are the obvious choice.
Not everyone is as passionate about diamonds, but the beauty of eternity ring styles is that they can also feature coloured gems such as rubies, emeralds and sapphires. They can also have even greater meaning to the wearer. The gems may represent particular elements such as the birthstone of their child or simply a favourite stone that’s always had a unique meaning for the individual.
Gemstone eternity rings are not usually exclusively a single gem but are interspersed with diamonds to give the ring added sparkle. The reason that rubies, emeralds and sapphires are the most commonly used gemstones in eternity rings is that they’re also the closest in hardness to diamonds. This makes them tough enough to cope with everyday wear.
However, other gemstones are available, and if you really want something unique, you can have your very own customised gemstone eternity ring created. With so many options available, such as the light green of peridot, the gorgeous sunshine yellow of citrine or even rare opals, you can create a unique token of your love for your partner.
In general, eternity rings are made from either gold or platinum rather than a softer, less resilient metal such as silver. Gold eternity rings are usually either 9ct or 18ct, with the less pure 9ct being both cheaper and harder wearing than the purer and slightly softer 18ct option. Gold eternity rings are available in yellow and white gold, although some collections also include more unusual rose gold options. You can choose a colour matching your wedding band and engagement ring or create a contrast that makes the eternity ring stand out.
Your alternative to gold is platinum. This beautiful precious metal first became popular in jewellery-making at the start of the 20th century and really exploded onto the scene during the Art Deco period. Today, its satin lustre and unique feel make it a popular choice for those who like more modern-looking eternity ring styles. Platinum’s rarity and the way it naturally brings out the best in diamonds and coloured gems make it a great option. Its resilience to scratching and density also makes it suitable for everyday wear, especially for men’s eternity rings.
Both platinum and gold are hypoallergenic, so as long as you clean your ring regularly, you shouldn’t suffer from any kind of allergic reaction.
There are several specific settings used to create the most popular types of eternity ring styles.
Channel settings are designed to create a smooth, even effect where the stones are positioned between two ‘bands’ of metal. They’re sleek, sophisticated and very modern and can be multi-layered so that you have not one but two lines of gems captured between the metal channels. Channel settings are also perfect for men’s eternity rings, offering a more robust and wearable design that showcases the gems in a masculine design. A channel setting is also very secure, as the stones are set flush into the channel rather than positioned above the metal. So you’re less likely to lose a gem or snag it on clothing.
Claw or ‘prong-set’ eternity rings use a time-tested traditional way of setting the stones and fixing them into position using prongs or claws. This method of setting gems has been used for hundreds of years (think solitaire diamond engagement rings) and is robust enough for everyday wear. Claw settings are particularly well suited to round brilliant-cut diamonds and showcase as much of the stone as possible for added sparkle.
Imagine an endless ribbon of diamonds running around a ring with minimal metal showing, and that’s the effect a paved setting gives you. This complex design is reserved for some of the finest eternity rings as the skill involved in matching the diamonds to create a flawless ‘pavement’ of diamonds around the band is reserved for the world’s most experienced goldsmiths.
With each gem in the band separated by a bar, this contemporary style allows the goldsmith to decorate the bars to complement the sparkle of the diamonds or gemstones.
Eternity rings are designed to be worn continuously, like a wedding or engagement ring. So they are generally pretty resistant to everyday knocks and scratches. However, just like any piece of jewellery, the occasional clean will help them keep their sparkle and ensure they look their best.
A very gentle wash in warm, soapy water with a soft brush or cloth will dislodge any dirt that may build up in the gaps between the stones. A super-soft toothbrush is a great way to remove dirt, grease, and the natural oils that your skin produces. Carefully work your way around the outside and the inside of the ring, rinsing well once you’ve finished to prevent a film of soap from dulling the stones’ beauty.
If your eternity ring gets scratched, taking it to a professional jeweller or goldsmith is the best way forward. They have the equipment and the skill to buff and polish out most surface scratches. Platinum responds particularly well to polishing and regains its incredible lustre with just the lightest of touches. Remember that 9ct gold is harder than 18ct gold, so eternity ring styles using this more durable metal are more resilient to scratching.
When you’re not wearing your eternity ring (such as when you’re swimming, bathing or digging in the garden), store it in a soft cloth pouch.
Here at TH March, our team of experts are on hand to provide you with specialist insurance for you and your loved ones can relax and cherish your special jewellery for many years to come.
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