Working for decades crafting the settings for The Lord of the Rings trilogy and The Hobbit, Tolkien poured vast amounts of detail and minutiae into every page. For fans of his works, it’s the opportunity for an immersive experience in faraway lands and a time long ago. This even applies to Lord of the Rings jewelry. As, in addition to the One Ring, many of the gems and jewelry of the setting wielded influence and power over the denizens of Middle Earth. Specifically, we are focusing on elven jewelry, treasures crafted by the Elvish race and known for their love of beauty and nature in many forms.
Who is J. R. R. Tolkien?
Perhaps the single most influential figure in modern fantasy stories, J.R.R. Tolkien, was born on this day in 1892. A lover of language and storytelling, Tolkien is best-known for penning the Lord of the Rings trilogy and The Hobbit. Tolkien was also an accomplished university professor, teaching English and literature. His life experiences and love for language and mythology inspired his world-famous tales of adventure.
The Jewelry of the Eldar
Elvish Rings of Power
“Three Rings for the Elven-kings under the sky”
– Fragment from J.R.R. Tolkien’s epigraph to Lord of the Rings
Even for those with light exposure to The Lord of the Rings, it is known that certain rings enable the ring bearer to wield incredible influence and power over the world around them. Did you know that the rings gifted to men, elves, and dwarves were created by the elves? The Silmarillion tells us how.
Sauron, the primary villain of the books and movies, visited the elvish people under a guise of friendship. Obscuring his ultimate intent, the Dark Lord taught the elvish smiths how to craft rings. In time, he coaxed them into crafting the Rings of Power. Unknown to these people, Sauron secretly enchanted the rings, while forging a unique ring, the One Ring, which would bind these treasures together under the might of its wearer. With them, Sauron intended to rule all of Middle Earth.
An elvish prince and chief of smiths known as Celebrimbor never fully trusted this mysterious ally. Creating three powerful rings in secret, these would become the Rings of the Elves. Somehow, while still mysteriously bound to the One Ring, these three rings remained uncorrupted.
Celebrimbor would entrust their safe-keeping to powerful allies for safekeeping. By doing so, he spared the elves from Sauron’s rule, but not his wrath. Celebrimbor would be captured by the forces of the Dark Lord, and tortured, but never revealing the location of these three rings. His sacrifice spared the elvish race from a worse fate.
Each of the Rings of the Elves shared certain powers. The rings were invisible to most. They could protect the wielder from remote scrying, and to bring resistance to the ravages of time, keeping them in good health while preventing aging. Each individual ring also possessed its own unique influence described below.
Known as the ‘Ring of Fire,’ Narya was thought to grant mystical power over flame. Housing a prominent red gemstone, it is believed to be a ruby. In the modern film adaptations, the ring is set in a brilliant yellow gold mount with a custom-faceted jewel. Delicate chain work joins opposite sides of the stone as it travels along the outside of the band. Some may read this symbolism as a visual cue of the ring bearer’s responsibility to elvish kind.
The ring would grant the bearer the ability to inspire others, especially during the darkest of times.
Also called the ‘Ring of Water,’ Nenya was sometimes called the White Ring in reference to the great white stone it housed and the white metal cradling it. In Tolkien’s writing, this gem was known as adamant, and many consider it to be analogous to diamond. In Latin, a diamond was known as Adamas, and it wouldn’t be surprising to learn that a lover of language like Tolkien would make this connection.
This ring is described as being set in ‘mithril,’ a rare and powerful metal invented by Tolkien for his Middle Earth setting. Some compare it to platinum for its color, and others compare it to titanium for its strength.
In the films, the ring is a delicate affair, with strands of white metal intertwining to form a breath-taking floral design. The petals of this flower host and guard an enormous white gem, the adamant itself!
The White Ring would protect the bearer and their allies from evil.
The third ring was known among elven kind as the ‘Ring of Air.’ It was also called the Blue Ring or Ring of Sapphire for its magnificent blue gemstone. Among the elves, Vilya was thought to be the most powerful of the three Rings of the Elves.
In its movie portrayal, Vilya was a bright and golden ring. A large oval-cut blue stone in a bezel setting sat at the top of the band. Two strips of yellow gold flowed around the band. These pass on either side of the sapphire gem, giving the appearance of an eye. Further along the band, these metal strips rise and fall like waves, creating an airy reminder of the ring’s influence.
The powers of Vilya were never fully explored in the books or movie, though many attribute the protection and prosperity of Rivendell to Elrond’s access to this ring.
Other Elven Jewelry
The Leaves of Lorien
During the Fellowship’s quest to destroy the One Ring, and to bring peace to Middle Earth, they passed through the Elf-realm of Lothlorien. Here, each member of the party received a gift unique to them and their needs. Also, each member received an elven cloak and an elegant brooch with which to secure it.
Described to appear as new leaves from the beech tree, the movie depicts these brooches being cast in white, silvery metal. Gentle wire work wraps around the petals of each leaf. Emerald-colored enameling gives the brooch verdant vibrancy, with silver veins of the leaf peeking through.
The Evenstar of Arwen
Unique to the Peter Jackson films, the Evenstar took the shape of a delicate silver pendant, owned and worn by Arwen of Rivendell. Later, when Aragorn joins the Fellowship and prepares to leave Rivendell, Arwen bestows the jewelry to him as a symbol of her love and affection.
Maintaining the minimalistic look of elven jewelry, the Evenstar is a simple affair. A single teardrop-shaped white stone rests at its center, point down. Marquis petals radiate from here, housed in prong settings, leaning gently against the silver wire that tapers toward the bottom in two simple twists. A pair of fern-like leaves emerges from behind this piece, creating a triangular silhouette for this pendant necklace.
With its nature-inspired designs, and minimalist sensibilities, what is your favorite part of elven jewelry?