Shaken or stirred, cocktail rings have never gone out of style.
In order to appreciate the cocktail ring, it is essential to understand its background. Not surprisingly, the cocktail ring got its start in America during Prohibition. The 1920s decade in America was a time of excess. Social, cultural and artistic dynamisms fueled opulent lifestyles despite the Eighteenth Amendment.
Since alcohol was banned, naturally, the desire for drinking alcohol increased, creating the perfect setting for illegal drinking parties, or ‘cocktail parties’! Add to that the fact that attending these parties was breaking the law, the people supplying the alcohol were criminals, (think Al Capone) and women had never really frequented public bars or “speakeasies” as they were known at that time and you have a irresistible combination of factors.
The rebellious, ‘Roaring 20s’ were the perfect climate for rebellion. Enter, the oversized, flamboyant cocktail ring that every woman could wear to draw attention to the fact that she was sipping an illicit alcoholic beverage. The ring became a statement jewel like no other. It was a talking point just like it is today. The trend swept across America and eventually, to Europe.
Platinum emerald and diamond cocktail ring, circa 1920s.
Strong tasting and low quality alcohol led to creative cocktail concoctions, which rendered the drinks more palatable. Some notable cocktails of the era were the Mary Pickford, the Gin Rickey, the Tom Collins, the Whiskey Sour and the Sidecar. Women of the day, of the ‘Jazz Age,’ would sip these sumptuous cocktails at clandestine parties, clad in their most glamorous gear including their oversized gemstone rings. The rings were the ultimate accessory of excess.
Carved emerald and diamond ring by Sifen Chang. Photo courtesy of Sotheby’s.
Traditional values rooted in the Edwardian era were being broken up quickly in the dramatic social and political upheaval that was playing out in every day lives. This was a decade when women not only gained the right to vote but also increasingly started working outside the home. Restrictive clothing such as the corset and long dresses became symbols of the past. The term ‘flapper’ was coined to describe a new breed of women, both in the United States and Europe. These women cut their hair, (think, the ‘bob’) wore make-up, smoked, drank and danced to the latest jazz music.
The Lunar Diamond Ring, featuring a 5.22ct, round brilliant diamond that is mounted in platinum, 18k white gold, 18k rose gold and steel with pavé set diamonds. Photo courtesy of Sotheby’s.
This was a time of new freedoms and anything bold was embraced. The cocktail ring was a way for women to flaunt their independence. Often, the ring had been bought with a woman’s own money. This is a tradition that lives on today as more and more women buy their own jewelry.
The 1950s and 1960s saw the resurgence of the cocktail ring. Women donned one when heading out to yep, you guessed it, a cocktail party or an evening out. It has gone in and out of fashion every since. As a matter of fact, the cocktail rings of the 1960s are experiencing a huge comeback. The styles have changed but the ‘big’ statement ring is here forever.
Van Cleef & Arpels, black onyx and diamond cocktail ring, circa 1960s. Photo courtesy of 1st dibs.
Contemporary Dalben blue chalcedony ring. Photo courtesy of 1st dibs.
Today, they are a must have accessory for every woman. The cocktail or statement ring has become a jewelry box staple.