Eternity rings are back – and some women are buying one for themselves

Princess of Wales
The Princess of Wales has been known to wear an eternity ring - Getty

When the Gen Z pin-ups Hailey and Justin Bieber renewed their wedding vows this month, and announced they were expecting their first child, eagle-eyed fans were quick to spot that the couple were sporting some new jewellery.

The Biebers wore matching Tiffany Forever rings - a type of eternity ring that has scarcely been seen on an A-list celebrity for decades. The jewellery journal, Something About Rocks, has predicted an eternity ring resurgence, thanks to the couple’s popularity with young Gen-Z audiences. But what is an eternity ring, and why did they ever fall out of fashion?

An eternity ring traditionally features an unbroken circle of identically cut diamonds or gemstones, symbolising everlasting love. The design worn by the Biebers, the Tiffany Forever ring, features a full circle of brilliant diamonds on a platinum band and costs £11,800. Some jewellers also offer half-circle eternity rings, in order to save on costs. Historically, the style has been given as a gift on a number of romantic occasions, from a significant anniversary, as with the Biebers, to the birth of a first child. For some couples, it can also be a way of adding to a plain wedding band, once finances allow.

“The circle of the ring is supercharged with the symbolism of love,” shares Carol Woolton, author of If Jewels Could Talk (released this September).  “It’s that circle that means never-ending, strength of love and commitment. The eternity ring is one step further, it’s another way to emphasise that after the engagement and the wedding. People use them for different life moments, whether it’s an anniversary, or a renewal of vows, like the Biebers. Celebrating the commitment that a couple made that is as strong as ever.”

The origins of eternity rings are centuries-old. “The Ancient Egyptians used to give them,” explains jewellery writer and consultant Mary Sanderson. “They would wear gold serpent rings, with the head eating its own tail, to represent eternal love.” Modern eternity rings became fashionable in the 1930s, usually made from coloured gemstones in Art Deco styles - the Duchess of Kent, who married in 1934, had three made in rubies, diamonds and sapphires to symbolise the Union Jack.

“The ring style really evolved from the 1960s onwards and started to include precious gemstones in the designs,” explains Sarah Chenery, Marketing Director for Pandora Jewellery UK and Ireland. De Beers popularised the style, a way of utilising their leftover small-cut diamonds, with the slogan, “She married you for richer or for poorer. Let her know how it’s going.”

However, many Hollywood stars at the time chose eternity styles for their engagement or wedding rings instead of a separate occasion. Mel Ferrer proposed to Audrey Hepburn with a platinum band with baguette-cut diamonds, while Marilyn Monroe’s wedding ring was an eternity band with 36 baguette-cut diamonds.

Joe DiMaggio and Marilyn Monroe
Marilyn Monroe was given an eternity band at her wedding to baseball player Joe DiMaggio - Bettmann

Meanwhile, Richard Burton gave Elizabeth Taylor a diamond eternity ring for both of their engagements, in 1964 and 1975. The pair raised over $1 million when sold together at auction in 2011. In 1995, John F. Kennedy Jr proposed to Carolyn Bessette Kennedy with an eternity band featuring sapphires and diamonds. It was reportedly modelled on one owned by his mother, Jackie, itself rumoured to have been a gift from her husband JFK on their tenth wedding anniversary. Today, Sofia Coppola, Blake Lively and Emily Blunt all have eternity styles - thought not to mark a specific milestone, but the marriage itself.

Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor
Richard Burton gave Elizabeth Taylor a diamond eternity ring (twice!) - Bettmann

Eternity rings as a gift have seemingly fallen out of fashion, except notably for royalty. The Princess of Wales and Duchess of Sussex both wear them: the former was given hers by Prince William after the birth of Prince George, while the latter was presented with hers by Prince Harry on their first wedding anniversary. The concept of the “push present”, as William gave to Kate, is one of the most common reasons for giving an eternity ring today.

Duchess of Sussex
The Duchess of Sussex was gifted her eternity ring on her first wedding anniversary - AFP

While they’ve been out of the limelight, both Woolton and Sanderson agree that they are a classic choice that could never actually go out of fashion. “I think they’ve always been popular,” shares Sanderson. “But there was a time when people probably couldn’t afford them - they are an added extra after all.”

Although usually worn between your engagement ring and wedding ring, in a stacking style, a modern way to wear eternity rings is on its own. As Woolton explains: “Not everybody wants to wear a big showy diamond everyday. I think the eternity ring is a good second ring in that respect, that you can wear instead of your other rings. Hopefully you have a lot of anniversaries and birthdays during your marriage, and it’s good to have something to celebrate and symbolise that.”

Another option is personalisation. “More and more people are incorporating colour into eternity rings,” shares jeweller Kiki McDonough. “People often choose to incorporate their babies’ birthstones or the stone from the month they got married.”

According to jeweller Jessica McCormack, who has been selling eternity bands since she launched her business in 2008, more women are buying them for themselves, too. “We’re getting a lot more clients buying them for themselves, not just as wedding or engagement bands,” she explains. “They look so good with our other bands so we often see people buying them to upgrade their existing stack – maybe a mix of our Rope, Bamboo, and Spaghetti bands. Adding diamonds just gives a little more oomph.”

So, could the Biebers’ championing of the style reignite interest in them? It’s certainly true that where the A-list lead, the rest follow – particularly on social media.

“I think sometimes things just fall from the public consciousness,” says Sanderson. “But the Biebers wearing them will definitely reignite interest in them.” Want one of your own? “A lot of jewellers will make bespoke pieces for you,” shares Sanderson. “You can do them in yellow gold instead of platinum. They don’t have to be expensive these days either.”