Custom Work ~ Metaphor and Symbolism February 05, 2018 09:36


The Mayan Pair

This pair of wedding rings was designed around the intricate glyphs of the ancient Mayan culture. In addition, it uses symbolism from the location and environment of the Mayan culture, which was primarily jungle and ocean.

The couple who commissioned these rings had a touring company that took travelers into Central America to see and study ancient Mayan ruins. The location of these historic sites were in the jungle, which was cut back almost daily to keep the buildings and sculptural carvings free from plant life.

This portion of Central America is bordered by the Pacific Ocean on one side and the Atlantic on the other. Although not directly on the ocean itself, the sea, its life forms and its influence were are an important part of the area.

The couple wanted to use water motifs, the Mayan glyph for the most important ancient Mayan city, Copán, and the foliage of the jungle for the design basis of their rings.

In the center of the ring is the glyph for the city itself, which combines a stylized bat head with other written notation. This one glyph became the visual symbol of the name of this sacred city. In the rings, the bat's eye becomes prominent and significant by using a large oval diamond in the location where the eye would have been carved. This refers to brilliance of vision, and the uncanny way bats "see" with sound. The sparkling light of the diamond helps represent the vibration of sound.

On either side of the central image is a glyph denoting water. It is used in both ascending and descending form, and is a reference not only to the humidity of the jungle, but the importance of rain and the water cycle.

Next to these symbols are banana and palm leaves, whose striking shapes add wonderful texture to the rings. The foliage is followed by an interlocking wave pattern based on the idea of yin and yang, with male and female opposities curling together in the curve of the flowing water.

The material is 14K yellow gold, and G color, VS quality oval shaped diamonds, approximately 1/4 carat each. The band is tapered for comfort, especially the gentleman’s band, which was quite large at a size 12. We wanted to be sure he could close his hand and grip well without interference from the shank of the ring.

The inside is engraved with the date of their wedding in Mayan numerical notation.

Cultural History

The Maya hieroglyphic writing one of the most visually striking writing systems of the world. The "Maya" in general were actually not a single people but many nations with different but related cultures, religions, and languages.

Mayan writing was composed of glyphs, which were symbolic pictures similar to Egyptian hieroglyphics. They also used a phonetic system, where the various shapes and marking represented letter or specific language sounds. These were often combined into a group, with one glyph becoming the symbol for the entire concept, such as in a personal name or place.

Of the many Maya languages, only two (possibly three) were written down with the hieroglyphic system. They had a complex system of numbers written with a curving shape with lines that represented zero, and a combinations of dots and bars to represent the other numbers. Their number system was based on the position of the numbers in the written form to denote value, and the powers of ten.

The Maya also had an incredibly intricate calendar system. The Maya time-keeping involved several interlocking cycles, some of which tracked astronomical events while others followed time intervals modern interpretations have yet to unravel. In the ancient world, the Mayans were the most accomplished astronomers and mathematicians. Some of their calculations weren't reproduced in Europe until the 18th century.

One of the major discoveries of this brilliant culture is the ancient city of Copán. Located on the border of Guatemala in present day Honduras, the city was built around a temple complex and is home to the most astonishing Mayan art. It dates back nearly 2,000 years and was once the easternmost city-state in the Maya World. Copán is considered to be the most "artistic" of the Maya cities and is most well known for an impressive staircase with the entire history of Copán written on it in Mayan hieroglyphs.

Copán began as an agricultural settlement around 1000 BC. Over the course of 400 years, Copán was shaped from a small valley into a great city with pyramids, temples and statues, many of which were painted in brilliant colors. As it grew, the site functioned as the political, civil and religious center of the Copán Valley and a larger territory that covered the southeast portion of the Maya area.

From the early 400s to 820 AD, a series of 16 kings ruled Copán, all of them belonging to a single dynasty. 

During the 8th century the kingdom gradually declined and eventually disappeared. The decline may have been caused in part by internal revolts, war and disease. At its peak, it is estimated that Copán was home to as many as 20,000 people.

Today, you can visit the site and see the intricate stone carvings, the soaring temples with their multitude of steps, and the numbers stone pillars, called stele, which told stories of the ancient kings and their relationships to the gods.