Cocktail rings, also known as ‘dinner rings’ or cluster rings’, are large, distinct jewelry pieces. Unlike engagement rings or classic wedding bands, cocktail rings are designed to make a statement!
The rings are considered impractical for everyday use, but they’re usually worn after cocktail hour, in the evening.
Cocktail rings used to consist of a primary stone in the center, with smaller stones on the outside. Modern cocktail rings do not have to follow these customs, as anything bold, noticeable, and vibrant can count as a cocktail ring!
You’ll learn more about cocktail rings in this post, including when they first appeared on the scene, some popular ring settings, and how to wear one yourself.
Where Do Cocktail Rings Come From?
The name may suggest otherwise, but cocktail rings first came about during prohibition.
In the 1920s, selling, manufacturing, and transporting alcohol was illegal in the United States. Prohibition intended to produce a pure, sober community, but the result was far different.
People would drink secretly and women would act in ways that were thought of as unspeakable.
Secret liquor shops and bars, called ‘speakeasies’, grew popular during this period. These places turned into fashionable locations, particularly among the rich, as people went for cocktails, dancing, and fun.
Women started to go to bars alone, which had never been seen before in American history.
Fashionable women of the 1920s wore flashy jewelry, including pearl necklaces, lots of bracelets, and of course, bold, flamboyant rings. These pieces were thought to be the first cocktail rings.
The prohibition era was also a time of women’s suffrage, as women used cocktail rings, short hair, and short hemlines to act in protest. Even though alcohol was still legal in Europe, women still rebelled in these areas.
The cocktail ring quickly became a fashion statement that spread across the world.
The rings had a cocktail association as colorful, bright cocktails were marketed to women during this time. These drinks would look bold and flamboyant, made with ingredients that covered up the harshness of alcohol.
The illegal bars would be crowded with people, so women would use their large cocktail rings to get a barman’s attention. They would simply raise their right hand and display their large ring, which gave these jewelry pieces their name.
What Did Cocktail Rings Originally Look Like?
Cocktail rings of the 1920s were originally enormous, made with smaller diamonds on the outside which encircled a bigger diamond in the middle.
These rings could be made with other gemstones as well. Expensive cocktail rings in this era were made out of platinum, along with big emeralds, sapphires, or diamonds.
How Cocktail Rings Developed
After prohibition finished in 1933, cocktail rings became synonymous with wealth. Upper-class women wore the rings in their private dining rooms.
Women still wore diamond cocktail rings, but they were less of a rebellion statement, turning into a status symbol instead.
Cocktail rings remained in fashion until the sixties. As the new age of women’s rights came about, women in this period viewed the rings as too showy and pretentious.
The 1980s then came about, which was a time known for glamor and excess. Diamond cocktail rings matched the big hair and massive shoulder pads that were fashionable in this decade. Big cocktail rings came back into fashion once more.
In the modern era, cocktail rings are still popular around the world, particularly diamond rings. These rings can be made with vibrant-colored diamonds and gemstones, helping them stand out from other minimalistic pieces.
Popular Cocktail Ring Settings
Cocktail rings can have different stone settings. The one that you choose can make a big difference in the way a ring looks.
Here are the names of some popular cocktail ring settings:
A prong setting involves between four and six metal arms holding a gemstone securely. The main gemstone can be seen clearly as its tall form extends from the finger.
A drawback is that prongs can easily catch on things, so the rings need to be inspected for damage regularly.
Bezel setting rings have a main metal band that extends over the main stone to secure it.
Bezel settings are a lot safer as there aren’t any prongs that can come loose. One drawback of this is that the gemstone isn’t that visible from all of its angles.
Cluster settings bunch stones next to each other, making it look like one large stone. Stone cluster settings can create cocktail rings with interesting, unique shapes.
These rings look very glamorous, but if you have one of these, look out for any loose stones and keep cleaning the ring regularly.
Pavé means ‘to pave’ in French. This setting involves ‘paving’ gemstones together. Very small stones are set near each other, held in place by small beads or prongs which are hard to see.
Cocktail Ring Metals
Cocktail rings were originally made from platinum, the most popular metal used to make jewelry in the 1920s. Platinum has a long life span, but it is expensive, which is why modern cocktail rings are made from cheaper metals.
White gold looks like platinum but doesn’t cost as much. The metal is plated with rhodium, which needs to be re-plated after a few years.
Yellow gold looks good on warmer skin tones, but it’s more likely to scratch.
Rose gold is more robust compared to white or yellow gold and is generally more affordable. However, it’s unsuitable for anyone with copper allergies.
How Do You Wear A Cocktail Ring?
Women historically wore cocktail rings on their right hand, as this sets them apart from engagement or wedding rings. In the modern age, however, you can wear cocktail rings on any finger or hand you wish.
These bold rings are designed to be worn at special events, instead of everyday use, and were originally saved for evening wear.
However, even though cocktail rings were reserved for dinner parties, black tie occasions, and cocktail gatherings, there aren’t any rules! You can wear your cocktail ring whenever and however you want!
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