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The fully articulated gold and silver serpent set with amethysts with emerald and diamond accents was sold in its original case at a timed online auction held by 1818 Auctions (20% buyer’s premium) in Cumbria on July 4.

It came from the house in the Windermere area, the family only knew of its existence when clearing the property. A receipt for £1700 suggested it had been acquired by the late owner from Byworth Antiques, London in 1974. Offered with an estimate of £5000-8000, it sold to a trade bid of £22,500.

Far more fluent than us in the language of jewellery and stones, the Georgians and the Victorians would immediately have made the link between snakes and eternal love. The ouroboros – a serpent swallowing its own tail – was commonly understood as a symbol of eternity and the form took a popular leap forward when Prince Albert gave Queen Victoria a snake engagement ring with an emerald, her birthstone, set to its head.

Necklaces such as this are more often seen fashioned in turquoise or garnets.