The Three Elven Rings were forged by Celebrimbor and his smiths with the desire of ‘understanding, making, and healing’ and granted the power to preserve all things unstained (Letters, #144). They were named Nenya, Vilya and Narya after the elements of water, air, and fire, respectively. While the other Rings of Power conferred the ability to control and conquer, and also made their wearers invisible, the Three Elven Rings were different, and more powerful. Sauron did not assist in their making nor did he ever touch them, so his taint was not directly on them. But as they were created according to the craft taught by him, they would be under the power of the One Ring.
The Elven Ring-bearers at the Grey Havens
We are told in the last chapter of The Return of the King that the bearers of the Three Rings – Galadriel, Elrond and Gandalf – took them to the Grey Havens before sailing into the West, and may further hypothesise that this is when the Rings were handed over to Sam, who brought
them back to the Shire for safe-keeping, hiding them somewhere in Bag End or its
Nenya was known as the Ring of Adamant and the Ring of Water, and was also regarded as the chief of the Three Rings. It was made of mithril and set with a white stone of adamant (possibly a diamond), having been made by Celebrimbor of Eregion in the middle of the Second Age, along with the other two Elven Rings, Narya and Vilya. After he discovered that Sauron had forged the One Ring, Celebrimbor went to Lothlórien to seek the counsel of Galadriel. They were unwilling to destroy the Rings, so Galadriel advised Celebrimbor to keep then hidden, unused, and dispersed far from Eregion. Celebrimbor followed Galadriel’s counsel, first by giving Nenya to her. The power of this Ring strengthened and beautified the realm of Lothlórien, but it also increased Galadriel’s desire for the Sea and return to the West.
Nenya’s power was preservation, protection, and concealment from evil. After the destruction of the One Ring and the defeat of Sauron, its power faded along with the other Rings. Galadriel bore Nenya on a ship from the Grey Havens into the West, accompanied by the other two Elven Rings and their bearers. With Nenya gone, the magic and beauty of Lothlórien also faded and it was gradually depopulated.
Vilya, like the other Elven Rings, was jewelled – it contained a great blue stone set in a gold band, which contributed to its other titles as the Ring of Sapphire and the Blue Ring. A lesser used title of Vilya was the Ring of Air, signifying its pre-eminence even over the other Rings of the Elves. It was generally considered that Vilya was the mightiest of the three bands. By the middle of the Second Age, Celebrimbor, Lord of Eregion, had forged all Three Rings independently of Annatar, a guise of the Dark Lord Sauron. As a result, none of the three were stained by his evil. However, like all the Rings of the Elves, Vilya was still under Sauron’s influence when he wielded the One Ring, which held dominion over all the others.
When Sauron made the One Ring, Celebrimbor became aware of his designs and in gave the Three Rings to Elven guardians, with Vilya sent to Gil-galad in Lindon. Sauron waged war against the Elves in Eriador but was eventually defeated. Afterwards, Gil-Galad gave Vilya to Elrond, who bore it through the later years of the Second Age and all of the Third. On Sauron’s destruction at the end of the Third Age, the power of Vilya faded and it went over the Sea along with Elrond.
Narya was the Ring of Fire, or Red Ring. It is described as having the power to inspire others to resist tyranny, as well as, in common with the other Elven Rings, hiding the wielder from remote observation – except by he who wields the One Ring – and giving resistance to the weariness of time, as Círdan the Shipwright said to Gandalf:
“‘Take this ring, master,’ he said, ‘for your labours will be heavy;
but it will support you in the weariness that you have taken upon
yourself. For this is the Ring of Fire, and with it you may rekindle
hearts in a world that grows chill.’” (The Return of the King, Appendix B, The Third Age)
Created by Celebrimbor after Annatar (Sauron) had left Eregion, Narya
was free of the latter’s influence because the Elves had hidden it, and the other Rings, on discerning his intent, but it was still bound to the One Ring.
According to Unfinished Tales, at
the start of the War between the Elves and Sauron, Celebrimbor gave
Narya and Vilya to Gil-galad, High King of the Noldor. Gil-galad
entrusted Narya to his lieutenant Círdan, Lord of the Havens of
Mithlond, who kept it after Gil-galad’s death. In The Lord of the Rings,
however, Gil-galad receives only Vilya, while Círdan receives Narya
from the beginning. In the Third Age Círdan gave the ring to Gandalf for