Born in the 1920s: swanky cocktail rings

Star sapphire cocktail ring. Lang Antiques.

Star sapphire cocktail ring. Lang Antiques.

Cocktail rings came to life in the 1920s and were spectacular pieces with sizable center stones accented with pavé diamonds. These days, we tend to consider any "statement" ring -- regardless of its style -- a cocktail ring. Looking through fashion and jewelry magazines you will notice that women wear cocktail rings on any finger, including their thumbs (which really makes a statement).  Some women will choose not to wear them on the left ring finger, as that finger is usually considered reserved for engagement and wedding rings.  However, in the name of fashion, both unmarried and married women have been known to wear their cocktail rings on this sacred finger as well.

So let's get it out in the open right away... It's unfortunate, but, yes, some people do find the cocktail ring to be rather gaudy -- and we respect that opinion! But we do suggest that this is whole point of cocktail rings!

The bigger. The gaudier. The sparklier. The better!

The historical cocktail ring

Check out her cocktail rings.  Notice she is wearing one on the sacred wedding finger!

Check out her cocktail rings.  Notice she is wearing one on the sacred wedding finger!

As we noted in the introduction, the history of the cocktail ring begins in the 1920s, the era of American prohibition.  This was THE age of the clandestine cocktail party.  Breaking free from constraints, "new women" went out at night to secret clubs, juke joints, and wild parties.  They danced to jazz and sipped illegal alcoholic drinks like the Gin Ricky and the Tom Collins.  And of course they wore their short hair, their slinky dresses, and their glamorous oversized gemstone rings.. the quintessential accessory of excess!

The contemporary cocktail ring

When it comes to gemstones, it's more difficult in these modern times to be as frivolous and over-the-top as it was almost a hundred years ago. Larger gemstones are harder and harder to find -- and harder and harder to afford.  But there are many ways to skirt these issues.  There are many semi-precious gems still relatively easy to find in larger sizes including blue topaz, citrine, tourmaline, and quartz. There are also many modern techniques that allow jewelers to create an extravagant look without the traditional over-sized central stone. Many of the methods you see in today's artistic cocktail rings are composed of whimsical shapes set with micropavé colored gems or a combination of enamel and colored gems.

Art Deco and contemporary cocktail rings