Symbolism Sunday, The Serpent

August 29, 2010

It’s a lovely Sunday and I hope you’re enjoying your breakfast, lunch (or brunch), so now let’s get you up to speed on some symbolism!

The serpent. Goodness gracious, this is one of my favourite symbols (and I’m sure any trite biography of Queen Victoria would say the same thing), but far be it for the 19th century to have all the fun with this symbol, it’s actually an ancient one and if you’re a collector of mourning and sentimental, chances are you’ve seen it in jewellery going back to the 17th century.

Our slippery friends can be found swallowing their own tail, which represents eternity, often to ‘love another for eternity’ (if the piece is dedicated to someone or from someone), also rebirth and immortality.

Look for the snake surrounding brooches, lockets, on the shank of rings, making up the body of a ring, bracelets and just about any other peripheral jewel during the 19th century.

I would get into the ecclesiastical uses of the serpent for its negative connotations of deceit, the concept of the serpent as a guardian or even Hermes’ caduceus, however in terms of jewellery critique, much of the classical interpretations are justified in sporadic Neoclassical pieces. More on that at a later time, but for now, it’s a Sunday, so go out and enjoy yourself!

3 Responses to “Symbolism Sunday, The Serpent”


  1. […] as a primary motif, often boldly displayed on enamel. Often, other symbols (buckle/belt/serpent/cross) would complement the forget-me-not, rather than it being a symbol used as a design flourish […]


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