A couple came to me on the occasion of their 20th anniversary after they had seen my Ani L'Dodi Wrap Ring online. They inquired about commissioning something that evoked the same feeling but that was more personal and even more interesting, to update their existing skull-themed wedding rings which were worn with age. They wanted to maintain the original skull theme in addition to adding a Hebrew message less common than "I am my beloved's and my beloved is mine." They also offered that they were simultaneously metalheads and ex-hippies, and were interested in somehow mixing the themes of love and death both in the message and the design.
If you know me, you know that I love a challenge.
For the Hebrew message, the only place in the entire Hebrew Bible where love and death are directly conflated is Song of Songs 8:6, in the phrase עזה כמות אהבה (azah chamavet ahavah), or "strong as death is love." That was the easy part. For the design I borrowed from the floral morbidity of sugar skull designs popular during the Mexican holiday of Día de los Muertos to appeal to both the hippie and metalhead aspects of my clients' aesthetic. I used the lace pattern typically found around the eyes in sugar-skull makeup and turn that into the outside borders of the bands, and created a repeating two-level relief of a skull and a chrysanthemum-like flower joined by a floral vine. Note that the skulls on the bride's ring have flower-shaped eyes, and that the groom's skulls are more ominous and anatomically correct.
The bride also wanted an emerald added to her ring, so I created a secondary motif of two larger leaves and some more abstract botanical patterns in which to center the gem, and then repeated that motif on the groom's ring with the chrysanthemum relief in place of the emerald. The new motif provides a demarcation point for the beginning and end of the Hebrew text, and reduces the number of skulls per ring to two by removing one of the repeating skull motifs. In each pair of smiling skulls, the happy couple is represented on each other's rings.