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A Brief History of Cocktail Rings

Cocktail rings are a fascinating piece of jewellery with a rich and colourful history. Known for their bold and eye-catching designs, they’re typically larger and more ornate than traditional rings, making them perfect accessories for cocktail parties and other dazzling events.

Legend states that they were worn by women in the 1920s Prohibition era in the United States, as a secret signal to the wait staff to serve them an illegal beverage. Another theory is that the flappers were defiantly opting for the most eye-catching piece of jewellery to draw even more attention to the fact they were “living by the law of a good time.” It became a form of empowerment at a time when women were gaining more autonomy and rights – a symbol of insubordination and rebellion. Icon of the time, Zelda Fitzgerald, could be seen sporting her Art Deco design at the underground speakeasies, in an act of breezy insolence. These rings featured bold and colourful gemstones, often set in elaborate designs and accompanied by smaller diamonds or other precious stones.

The Art Deco movement, which continued through the 1930s, heavily influenced cocktail ring designs. Geometric shapes, bold colours, and a sense of luxury characterised the style, and cocktail rings embodied these attributes with their unique and intricate patterns.


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Having had a renaissance of sorts in the 1950s due to the popularisation of Hollywood glamour and the rise of the “celebrity”, the style has been favoured by many to add personality and sparkle to their ensembles. Movie stars like Elizabeth Taylor and Audrey Hepburn were often seen wearing these statement pieces in films and on the red carpet. These rings were often set with large, eye-catching gemstones, such as diamonds, emeralds, sapphires, and rubies.

The roaring ‘60s brought a shift in cocktail ring styles. The abundant counterculture movement and the rise of bohemian fashion led to more eclectic and diverse designs. Rings featuring bold, unconventional materials, such as turquoise, coral, and onyx, became popular.

Dripping with opulence and excess, the 1980s brought ostentatious luxury and oversized shapes to the forefront. The shoulder pads were large, but the diamonds were larger. The sparkle was blinding and “too much” was not in the vocabulary of the time. Think Joan Collins as Alexis Colby, the cast of Dallas and the royals who were making headlines.

Nowadays, a staple on a red carpet, Christmas party, or fabulous formal event – cocktail rings often feature a mix of contemporary and vintage elements. They’re a symbol of style and self-expression, reflecting the changing fashions and societal attitudes of each era. Today’s cocktail rings come in a wide range of styles, from classic and elegant to eccentric and avant-garde, catering to a diverse and fashion-conscious audience. Whether worn as a single statement piece or stacked like a Tudor, the beauty of this style is that it offers a way of expressing your own individuality while matching your personal aesthetic.

Many people love to bestow a cocktail ring as an anniversary or birthday gift – it can be customised with a meaningful birthstone and the recipient’s metal of choice. It’s also the perfect way of expressing your dazzling personality and showcasing your sparkling conversation skills.

Why not book a consultation with one of our jewellery specialists and delve into how to best choose the piece that best represents and celebrates you?

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