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The History & Meaning of the Eternity Ring

Eternity rings are made of precious metal (yellow gold, white gold, or platinum) and are usually lined with diamonds, each one precisely cut so that it’s identical to the next.

Typically, eternity rings are most often worn by women, but men do wear them too. They’re usually purchased by one half of a couple to give to the other – a truly romantic gift to mark a special occasion, such as a special wedding anniversary, or the birth of the first child.

In Ireland, the eternity ring is often presented on the first wedding anniversary. An eternity ring, or infinity ring as it’s sometimes known, symbolises everlasting love.

The origins of the eternity ring

The eternity ring is believed to date back around 4,000 years. The ancient Egyptians were among the first to use what we now know as eternity rings, presenting them to their loved ones as a sign of their lifelong devotion.

In those days, eternity rings were made using a variety of materials, including metal. Some depicted the ‘ouroboros’, an Egyptian symbol of a serpent eating its tail. The ouroboros represents wholeness or infinity, while the ring’s circular shape has long been linked to the concept of eternity or something with no beginning and no end.

In the 18th century, eternity rings became more synonymous with marriage. They began to feature paste gems or a mix of stones during this era. They were also known back then as “keeper” rings, worn in front of wedding bands as a guard to keep them from falling off.

One of the most spectacular examples of a keeper ring during the 18th century belonged to Queen Charlotte. It was given to her as part of a suite of jewels on her wedding day (8th September 1761), by her husband, King George III.

The introduction of diamonds to the eternity ring

Ever heard the saying, a diamond is forever? It’s a slogan coined in the late 1940s by the De Beers Group, a diamond merchant that’s still well established today. Those four words came about as part of a marketing campaign designed to link the precious, virtually indestructible diamond to the emotion of love. Like true love, diamonds are seen as eternal.

By 1951, diamonds were widely used in engagement rings. The diamond eternity ring was introduced in the 1960s. Again, the De Beers group is credited with the concept. It’s believed that De Beers entered into a secret agreement with the Soviet Union to purchase the majority of uncut diamonds produced by Russia.
At that time, the fashion for diamonds meant they were used singularly in engagement rings. In a bid to avoid stockpiling, De Beers used several small diamonds together in one band to create the eternity ring as we know it today. This new jewellery product was aimed at older women who were already married. It was billed as a gift that the husband could give to his wife as a celebration of their marriage.

How diamonds are graded

Every diamond is unique. Each one is graded according to their clarity, carat, colour, and cut (the four Cs). The most valuable diamonds are colourless with very little inclusions, and these are quite rare. Most diamonds have a marginal tinge of yellow or brown to them and some imperfections or flaws. Nearly all inclusions in diamonds are invisible to the untrained human eye without a magnifying glass.

How to wear an eternity ring

Eternity rings are usually worn on the fourth finger of a lady’s left hand, along with the wedding and engagement rings. It’s not compulsory to wear all three rings in a particular order, but if you want to follow tradition, the wedding ring should be put on first (so it’s the closest to the heart!), then the engagement ring, and then the eternity ring last.

If wearing all three together isn’t practical, you can always wear the eternity ring on the corresponding finger of the right hand.

How to choose an eternity ring

There is much to think about when choosing an eternity ring. One of the most significant decisions to make is whether to buy a “full” or “half” eternity ring. A full eternity ring has diamonds or gemstones set all the way around the band, whereas a half eternity ring has them set only partway around.

Full and half eternity rings

Half eternity rings are less expensive than full eternity rings because there are fewer diamonds involved. However, budget isn’t the only consideration. Half eternity rings are generally more practical. As the bottom part is made purely of precious metal, it can be resized easily, should the wearer’s finger size change.

For some people, half eternity rings may be more comfortable and less prone to damage. As full eternity rings feature a whole band of stones, those sitting on the underside of the finger may be vulnerable to wear and tear.

That said, there is much to be said for choosing a full eternity ring. With an entire flow of diamonds, they look incredibly stunning – and if the ring spins around on your finger, you’ll still get the same effect. As they are generally more expensive than half eternity rings, they will also hold their value better too.

Diamonds and gemstones

Diamonds are the usual choice for eternity rings, but some couples might like to choose one set with precision gems as well as diamonds to mark a special wedding anniversary. Rubies are associated with a 40th wedding anniversary and sapphires with the 45th. (Diamonds are usually given as a modern gift for the 1st or 10th wedding anniversary).

Style and width

The width of the eternity ring is an important consideration. The wider the band is, the bigger the diamonds may be. However, the wearer will no doubt want to make sure the band is the right size for their finger, irrespective of the size of the stones.

An eternity ring should complement the wearer’s engagement and wedding rings in terms of style. For a contemporary look, consider a channel setting, where either side of the diamonds is encased in the metal of the band. A grain setting is more traditional – this is where the diamonds are held in place by tiny metal prongs.

The eternity ring: a symbol of neverending love

The concept of giving our loved ones a ring as a token of eternal love stems back thousands of years. The eternity ring is a magnificent gift to present to your spouse after the first year of marriage, or on the 10th, 40th, or 45th wedding anniversary. It can also be given to commemorate other major life events, such as the birth of a newborn child.

When choosing an eternity ring, there is much to consider. Budget, of course, is an important detail, as is the style of the ring itself.

If you opt for diamonds, you’ll need to consider the quality of those too. High clarity, relatively clear, and superior cut diamonds will yield the most brilliant sparkle.

At Bespoke Diamonds, we have an exquisite range of full and half eternity rings available in contemporary, traditional, and classic styles. See them online here or find out more about designing your own eternity ring.

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