Engagement rings are a relatively new invention – prior to the Victorian era (1837-1901) they were a rare delight.

During the reign of Queen Victoria there was an increasing interest and demand for jewellery, although a diamond engagement ring would still have been the preserve of only the wealthiest.

With the announcement of their engagement in 1839 Prince Albert presented Queen Victoria with
an 18-carat gold, serpent engagement ring, which he had designed himself.

The head of the serpent was adorned with rubies for the eyes, diamonds for the mouth, as well as a large emerald set at the centre, representing Victoria’s birthstone.

A serpent may seem a curious choice for an engagement ring, however, it is an ancient Roman symbol for everlasting love and was a particularly popular expression of adoration during these times.

It is believed Queen Victoria was wearing the ring when she was buried.

The design sparked a fashion for jewellery pieces featuring serpents. An example of this is featured in the January antiques sale at Greenslade Taylor Hunt’s Taunton salerooms on Thursday, January 6.

The Victorian rose cut diamond and blue enamel serpent cross and heart brooch has a pre-sale estimate of £900-£1,800.

The sale will also include a special section of 20th Century design items. For more information please ring the salerooms on 01823 332525.