What Is an Eternity Ring?
The ring, a continuous circle, has been a symbol of friendship and relationships for thousands of years. The first people to make and wear rings were the ancient Egyptians. All rings, in effect, could be called ‘eternity’ rings, but as will be discussed later in this article, an eternity ring, because of its unique construction, is a special category of ring. Comprised of an uninterrupted circle of metal, often encrusted with precious stones, rings have long been a symbol of eternal love and friendship. The round, unbroken circle of an eternity ring meant then, and continues to mean, that two people are binding themselves into a relationship that cannot be broken, and with precious stones set completely or partially around the unbroken circle, they also symbolize the great value of the relationship.
In ancient marriage ceremonies, the ring symbolized the relationship on a number of levels. The unbroken circle symbolized permanence and eternity. The precious metal from which the ring was forged was a symbol of strength and durability, and the precious gems set into the metal symbolized the value placed in the relationship; the more valuable the stone, the more valuable attached to the relationship.
• Wedding or engagement rings
• Friendship rings
• Eternity rings
Eternity rings, like more traditional rings, can be used for weddings, engagements, and as symbols of friendship. In addition, they are used to mark special occasions.
History and symbology of the ring
The practice of bride and groom exchanging rings to mark the marriage was used in ancient Rome, but is in fact probably much older. The rings were not only a symbol of ‘eternal’ love but were used to symbolize the earnest money, or exchange of valuables that went along with the ceremony. In fact, because marriage in ancient Rome and medieval Europe was often more a financial contract between families than love between a man and a woman, the ring was more a symbol of the exchange of value than eternal love and affection. Rings were also used in ancient Celtic wedding ceremonies, and in these cases, they did symbolize the more or less ‘eternal’ nature of the relationship, or ‘forever and a day.’
The custom is usually for the man to give a ring to the woman upon the betrothal or engagement, and for the couple to exchange rings at the actual wedding ceremony. The wedding ring is worn on the right hand because this is the hand that is usually used for taking oaths, and wearing the ring on that hand ties it to the oaths taken during the marriage ceremony.
Friendship rings are often exchanged between people who want a symbol of the enduring nature of their relationship even though they might be separated by physical distance. While men and boys sometimes exchange friendship rings, this is primarily a custom of women and girls. Parents will sometimes give friendship rings to their children just before they leave home. This is a practice that dates from biblical times. Even though the bonds between parent and child are considered unbreakable, rings were exchanged as a potent symbol of the eternal nature of that relationship.
In addition to the familiar types of rings, such as engagement and wedding rings, eternity rings, sometimes called ‘dress’ wedding rings, are increasingly popular. They are also known as diamond infinity rings and diamond bands because of the way they are constructed.
The construction of eternity rings often make them look like a circle of precious stones – most often diamonds. This unbroken circle of gemstones symbolizes the unending, eternal love between two people. Quite often eternity rings are purchased to mark special or significant milestones in a couple’s relationship, such as a child’s birth, or a significant anniversary.
Eternity rings are basically a simple design; even-sized gemstones nestled together, either the full circumference of the ring, or half. Eternity rings with gems around the full band must be individually sized and cannot be resized, making the half bands more popular. The advantage of the full band is that when it is rotated on the finger, the stones are always in view.
The stones in an eternity ring must be nestled close together, making round or compact shaped gems the most popular choices. Full rings require not only compact shapes, but the stones also cannot be overly large.
The most popular gemstone for eternity rings is, of course, the diamond. But, rubies, sapphires, tanzanite and emeralds are also used, often alternating around the band with diamonds. Almost any stone can be used, however, to add unique symbolism to the particular ring.
Many women currently chose to substitute an eternity ring for either their wedding band or engagement ring. Depending upon the size of the stones in an eternity ring, even though individually they’re often smaller than the diamond in an engagement ring, their total carat value is often higher. When all the rings are relatively slender, some women also chose to wear an eternity ring along with the other two, taking care that the setting of the eternity ring is compatible with the others and the prongs holding the stones in place do not scratch the other rings.
Prices for eternity rings vary widely, from several hundred to several thousand dollars depending upon a number of factors.
The first financial consideration is the metal from which the band is forged. The costs of white or yellow gold, platinum, or titanium vary widely depending on world market conditions.
The size and quality of the stones has a major impact on the overall price of the ring. Diamonds are the most expensive of gemstones, with prices that vary depending upon the quality of the stone, color, presence or absence of flaws, and the cut. Other stones, such as emerald and jade, will also vary in price based on color and flaws.
The size and number of stones in an eternity ring will also impact the price. Full rings, because they must be custom made, are often significantly more expensive than a similar number of carats in a half ring.
To ensure you get value for your money, only buy an eternity ring from a reputable store, whether it’s an independent retailer or a chain store. Consulting a licensed gemologist is a wise course of action when selecting the stones for your ring. An eternity ring symbolizes the eternal nature of your relationship, obtaining the advice of an expert to ensure the highest quality will yield you a symbol that will endure.