A Coil in Common

A Coil in Common

A Short History of the use of the Coil in Adornment.

While wandering the wonderful collections in The Metropolitan Museum of Art during my last trip to NYC I noticed the reoccurring theme of the coil. Once I noticed it, it seemed to be everywhere.

In the coils of a byzantine Kings gold bracelets.

In the rings lining the shelves of the Egyptian exhibit. Even in the earliest form of adornment, a simple seashell with a hole drilled in it for suspension from a leather thong. I often wonder if the natural coil inside a seashell was the inspiration for this concept in adornment.


There were snake rings from 200 bce and a Pair of Triton bracelets, that have long been a favorite of mine, occupying the cases in the Ancient Mesopotamian hall.

And then I wandered into the Ancient Greek Hall and there was a magnificent trio of bronze faces, wearing their meticulously curled beards.


And I was reminded that the power of the coil wasn’t just reserved for adornment as jewelry but also used as a symbol of power in other ways. Gods were pictured with massive curling beards, and soldiers would use iron rods, heated in fires to curl their beards before going into battle.

As humanity moved into the modern era the coil continued to be a common design element in Jewelry. We see the snake, which was used in rings and bracelets in Greek jewelry circa 300 bce, becoming a popular style for jewelry again in the 18th and 19th centuries. For the Victorians the snake represented eternity, and as such was frequently given as a Love Token.

We see the simple stylized design of the snake, a coiling effect, in many cultures. The Romans, Greeks, Egyptians, and even the Chinese favored this style. This is a ring from our stock in high Carat Gold from the early 20th century that could just as easily be from any of the aforementioned cultures, as the design hasn’t changed in thousands of years.

I am delighted as I go thru my day to see the abundant design in nature that informs and inspires us in our designs today just as it has for Millennia. 

I am so thankful for The Metropolitan Museum of Art and the many hours of Joy it has brought to my Life.

Written by: Paula Bixel


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