The Serpent Crown is an ancient artifact that is mystically tied to the evil Elder God called Set. Those wearing the Serpent Crown are able to link to Set's essence and mind, gaining great magic power. Set could taint the minds of, or otherwise influence, those in the presence of the Serpent Crown and was able to control the minds of its bearers to some extent.
The Serpent Crown was created by a sect of people known as the Serpent Men, followers of Set since ancient prehistory. Nearly 20,000 years ago, the Serpent Men allied with the Lemurians, another ancient culture that warred with the underground Deviants. The Serpent Crown was mystically forged with Set's essence, a link to his very mind, so that whoever would wear it could command vast mystical power. However, the Deviants began to worship Set themselves, and thus the Crown was powerless against them. About this time, the Deviants launched an attack on the second host of the Celestials, resulting in the Great Cataclysm that sunk Lemuria and Atlantis beneath the ocean.
2,000 years ago, the Lemurian priest Naga sought the Serpent Crown, becoming a powerful sorcerer with a prolonged life, ruling over the Lemurians. The race mutated due to their devotion to Set, becoming green and scaly, snake-like in appearance. However, a group of Lemurians known as the Ancients stole the crown, intending to hide it away. It remained buried for years, until a 1920 Antarctic expedition led by Paul Destine happened to uncover it. Destine fell victim to the icy waters, however, finding himself in suspended animation and not awakening until more modern times, where he called himself Destiny.
Destiny would come to cast the Crown aside, believing he no longer needed its power, an act which led to his death. His archenemy, Namor the Sub-Mariner, returned the Crown to Atlantis, not knowing its true nature. Once there, Set managed to influenced various villains in their attempted coups of Atlantis, until it came once again into possession by Naga. Each time, however, its bearers were all defeated by Namor. The Crown was recovered by a Roxxon Oil executive, Hugh Jones, using Krang and the Viper (Madame Hydra) as agents, but the villains ultimately lost the artifact in a sewer after battling Captain America (Steve Rogers) and the police.
In a parallel world, home of the Squadron Supreme, an analogous Serpent Crown found its way to its version of Roxxon Oil, forming a nucleus of a secret cult known as the Serpent Cartel, among which was this Earth's U.S. President. The Avengers eventually happened upon this dimension, thinking it was their own, and became embroiled in the Cartel’s plot of world domination, fighting the Squadron Supreme before uncovering the conspiracy. They brought the Serpent Crown with them when they returned to Earth, disposing of it into the ocean after a battle with the Living Laser.
Hugh Jones recovered both versions of the Serpent Crown, uniting them into one, more powerful object. The Thing (Benjamin Grimm) teamed up with Stingray and the Scarlet Witch to confront Jones, and the Witch battled Set directly via the astral plane. Ultimately, it was the Thing who won over, taking the crown off Jones’ head. He returned it to Project:PEGASUS, but Set’s influence steadily grew. Soon, he dominated the minds of everyone at the Project, including Quasar, its head of security. Set used his influence to have the scientists retrieve various Serpent Crowns from alternate dimensions, 777 in total, and begin combining them into one huge all-powerful version. The Thing returned with Doctor Strange and allies, finally using a Cosmic Cube from the Project to shatter the Crown. Set’s connection with Earth was believed severed for all time.
Even still, Set eventually managed to make contact with the Deviant priest Ghaur, who became determined to summon Set to Earth. He and his ally, Llyra of the Lemurians, were defeated by an assemblage of heroes, and Set himself was destroyed by Thor with the power of the Demogorge.
The Serpent Crown was most recently seen worn by the sorceress Nagala, although its true nature and origins remain unrevealed.