Imagine yourself in the 1920s at a cocktail party, like the ones thrown by the fictional character Jay Gatsby. You’re wearing an elegant gown and that fabulous ring on your finger is getting a lot of attention! Your fellow party-goers are left stunned and dazzled, you are the talk of the party, just like Daisy Buchanan would have been. That is exactly why cocktail and dinner rings were worn, for their style and to attract attention. But the question is which would you choose for what event, and when did these ring styles arrive?
The Cocktail Ring
The original cocktail ring was oversized and had a diamond at the center, which was often surrounded by smaller diamonds. Also known as the symbol for ‘let’s party’ due to its size and bling! It all started in 1920s America where these rings were impressive and larger than life.
Cocktail rings were introduced at the time of Prohibition, a time where alcohol was banned and people held parties in secret, even underground (the Spreakeasy). A time when change was happening for women, the freedom to vote and outlandish fashion took hold. This was the time for women to be seen and heard! Especially the flapper and her eye-catching jewelry.
An additional ring style that falls under the cocktail ring umbrella is the RIGHT-HAND ring. The Right-hand ring has a significant history as well as being a great marketing idea of diamond manufacturers. Maybe she landed a big promotion, bought her first home or graduated from a master's program. Whatever the reason, more and more women are celebrating their big moments by adorning their right ring fingers — that is, not their wedding ring finger — with a little bling. This isn't an "alternative" to an engagement ring, nor is it meant to put down women who have chosen marriage. According to legend (and some news reports) over the years, women are purchasing right-hand rings for themselves as personal declarations of independence and a celebration of single life. The right-hand ring is simply a celebration of you. As an offshoot of cocktail rings, the right-hand ring — and its symbolism — date back to the 1920s. It was started by the women who drank in the throes of Prohibition (hence the name cocktail ring). For the first time in American history, women were finally free of cumbersome dresses and had entered the workforce and the speakeasies, where they smoked and drank alongside men — the right-hand ring, then, became a symbol of the working woman's earning power. This tradition was further popularized by glamorous actresses of the mid-century, like Elizabeth Taylor and Natalie Wood, and extended beyond the turn of the millennium. In 2003, De Beers, the diamond company known for its "A Diamond is Forever" slogan, launched its "Raise Your Right Hand" campaign, encouraging women (both married and unmarried) to purchase expensive stones as a means to express themselves – not to announce an engagement. It's not all about the sparkly new stuff, though. Vintage right-hand rings — those purchased by our mothers and grandmothers in the '40s, '50s and '60s — have become parts of legacies and lineages. Women gifted their rings to their daughters as they reached their own milestones; the rings became a beacon of passing on the torch of female success. If you are purchasing a new ring, there aren't any rules to the trend. Buy one ring or four, choose pretty pastels or your birth stone and, heck, wear it on any finger (nope, it doesn't have to be your right ring finger!). Go bold with a jewel-encrusted, gold piece; minimal with a stacking ring; or classic with a white solitaire. When in the market for a right-hand ring, you're in "treat yourself" territory. While these rings have come to represent individuality and single womanhood, the ring's meaning may change depending on who purchases it. If a husband gives his wife a right-hand ring, it symbolizes a renewal of wedding vows or anniversaries. They may also serve as promise rings for dedicated partners or those taking a vow of chastity. Right-hand rings can also be gifted to mothers upon the birth of a child (think push present) — for an older mom, a ring engraved with the names of her kids becomes a precious keepsake (think Mother’s Day gift). At the core, these rings serve as a reminder — to yourself and to the people around you — that you've done something impressive and that you are, as a woman, impressive and empowered. Sounds like we should all have a few of these beauties in our collections.
The Arrival of the ‘Dinner Party’
The 1930s saw the end of Prohibition. Cocktail parties legitimized into dinner parties. This coincided with a change in ring styles as well, hence the arrival of the ‘dinner ring’. Dinner rings were still large and glamourous although diamonds, which were previously center stage in the cocktail ring, were now side accents in the dinner ring. It was the colorful gemstones of garnet, aquamarine and emerald that took center stage now. This was a time when parties evolved into more classy affairs …these rings were the ultimate accessory.
Less flashy and more mainstream, Dinner Rings were nevertheless still glamorous. While a “dinner ring” could refer to any number of non-engagement rings of this time, the most common style was the “north to south” style where the ring stretched along the length of the finger, rather than around it. Richly-colored stones (such as emeralds or aquamarines) were also used, surrounded by a halo of diamonds. Dinner rings would eventually fall out of style by the late 1930s, but would resurface during the late 1940s and 1950s, extending well into the new millennium.
Cocktail and dinner rings were popular in the 1920s and 1930s, but that doesn’t mean they have gone out of style. Whether you want the flashiness of a cocktail ring or the mainstream look of a dinner ring, visit www.jewelrygallery.us for a great selection of vintage rings for you to choose from.
How to Wear your Cocktail or Dinner Ring
Traditionally these rings are to be worn on the ring finger or index finger of the right hand. But today you can wear them on any finger you favor, apart from the classic wedding ring finger of course. In relation to color and size…well… that is up to you. These rings are known as statement pieces and they are all about being noticed, so the more advantageous the better! However, what we can tell you is the main stone is usually 3 carat or above, and if surrounded by smaller stones, they shouldn’t distract from the main stone.
Many factors effect the availability of large gemstones. Whenever such supplies are low, we often see rings that have smaller stones set together in elaborate ways (floral or even animal inspired). But most of all these rings are a symbol of your personality, so be sure to let yours shine through. [inset BUY NOW button and corresponding rings]
These rings hit their height of popularity in the 1940s/50s and although they went out of fashion in the 60s/70s they made a massive come back in the 80s (of course) and have carried through to the current day. It’s fun to see them appear on the red carpet at Oscar, Emmy and Golden Globe award shows on the hands of our favorite celebrities.
Here at the Jewelry Gallery, our consignment inventory is eclectic and diverse with many vintage options. Whatever you are looking for, whether it be a pink sapphire to match your cosmopolitan or an emerald and diamond to match your mojito, the Jewelry Gallery has something for you. And when your husband or partner asks why you need it, you just reply with ‘to match my favorite cocktail of course’.
Caring for your Ring
After you have decided on the party ring of your choice, we do recommend some care instructions. As with any investment, you will need to take care of your fabulous ring. We recommend getting the claws or prongs surrounding the stones checked annually and have it professionally cleaned every 6 months. Come in to see us at the Jewelry Gallery anytime to have your ring professionally cleaned; when that special occasion comes up, we’ll have it sparkling in no time. Lastly, to protect it, keep your ring away from any chemicals. Chlorine Bleach, for example, will cause gold to leach out of your rings over time resulting in a tarnished appearance. While gold does not tarnish, it is mixed with other metals for durability; it’s these alloys that are disintegrated by bleach, resulting in a tarnished and weakened piece of jewelry. As far as your colored gemstones are concerned, many natural gemstones are treated or enhanced from the time they are extracted from the earth by one or more traditionally accepted jewelry industry practices. These treatments and enhancements can affect how you should clean and care for your colored gemstone jewelry. The Jewelry Gallery staff are happy to give you more specific information on caring for your specific gemstones that you are unsure about. Generally speaking, here are some guidelines:
- After wearing, wipe your precious gemstone jewelry thoroughly with a clean, soft, slightly damp cloth. This will enhance the gemstone’s luster and ensure that your jewelry is clean before storage.
- Store gemstone pieces individually in soft pouches. (We provide these to you with every purchase).
- Do not expose your precious gemstone pieces to salt water or harsh chemicals, such as chlorine or detergents. These chemicals may slowly erode the finish and polish of gemstones.
- Hair spray, perfume and perspiration may cause jewelry to become dull. Apply all cosmetics, perfumes and colognes before putting on colored gemstone jewelry. Make sure to wipe your gemstones after wear to remove any chemicals, oils or perspiration.
- Do not subject gemstone jewelry to sudden temperature changes, this may cause cracks.
- If you have an active lifestyle, take extra precautions with some types of gemstone jewelry. Emeralds, for example, are brittle and should not be worn when doing household chores or any other activity where the stone could be hit or damaged. Rings set with emeralds are more vulnerable than pendants and earrings set with emeralds.
- Be extra careful with ultrasonic cleaners. Some gemstones are fragile and can be damaged by ultrasonic cleaners.
Remember ladies if you are attending a special occasion, introduce your cocktail/dinner ring to the other guests. In fact, we believe they should be worn EVERY day, so… whatever the occasion, wear them with pride, and a very big smile!
Look out for Part 2 (Cluster Rings and Other ‘Big as Texas’ Flash)