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What Cocktail Rings Are, Where They Came From, and Where They're Heading Next

Cocktail rings are rings worn on the outside of a cocktail dress. They aren't just diamond dinner rings anymore. They can come in a variety of metals/gemstones, like a cocktail ring in gold or sapphire cocktail rings. The shape is commonly circular, but can also be triangular or square. And now, there are even more unusual cocktail rings. The cocktail ring setting is often a diamond and gemstone at the center with smaller gems around it, although sometimes cocktail jewelry simply features one large gem in the design.

A women's cocktail ring is a term that can lead to some confusion over exactly what that is. Let's cover some of cocktail rings basics up front and a little more in-depth.

Which Hand to Wear a Cocktail Ring?

Cocktail ring design is a typically large, flamboyant and pronounced piece of jewellery worn on the middle finger or fourth finger of the right hand. Though these days, a cocktail ring style could even be mistaken for an engagement ring!

What Is A Cocktail Rings Meaning? Well, Let's Look at What ISN'T a Cocktail Ring...

Cocktail rings are mostly worn as bling - as statement rings, they're not typically rings associated with personal significance, like: 

Promise Rings: These are usually more minimalist, not something like a diamond cocktail ring or a cocktail ring design featuring coloured sapphires. Promise rings are worn on the middle finger of your right hand and feature an inscription such as ‘true love waits'  - this signifies a personal vow the wearer might have made to herself. These rings aren't meant for special occasions the way cocktail rings are.

Signet Rings: These are worn on the middle finger of your right hand and feature a family crest or coat of arms.

Both of the above types of rings could have characteristics reminiscent of cocktail rings, such as if they feature large stones. But they differ from cocktail rings because they're not pure bling.

History of Cocktail Rings

We've discussed what cocktail rings are, what cocktail rings aren't and what they typically represent. Let's dive into where they came from. The history of cocktail rings dates back centuries!

The discovery of gold and other precious gemstones in Egypt inspired elaborate jewellery design.

6,000 years ago, Egyptians made their first gold jewellery pieces. You can see the collections today whilst visiting The Egyptian Museum in Cairo. Much, much later, Elizabeth Taylor would go on to help popularize large statement pieces of this sort in Europe and the Americas by starring in Cleopatra. But these stunning Egyptian designs below were the real thing. And unlike later associations, with only the rich owning big jewellery, these Egyptian styles were favoured not just by the elite—but by commoners as well. Jewellery and fashion wouldn't be what it is (interesting!) if trends didn't keep cycling back. Now, today, you can even get 100% real diamonds in large, designer statement pieces at very accessible prices.

Fast forwarding in time a bit now - if your association with cocktail rings is that they’re large statement jewellery only worn by the elite or royalty, you’re probably thinking of the Middle Ages in Europe.

King Henry VIII was known for wearing a fistful of ruby cocktail rings and other ornate jewellery.

The term “cocktail rings” of course wasn’t used then, that would come later, but King Henry’s big bling would certainly prove to be influential in the future. When he ruled England (for nearly 40 years in the 1500’s), rubies were actually considered much more precious than diamonds. In a certain sense, that trend would re-surface later - as in now, in the present day, when couples, women and men are choosing more of a variety of gemstones rather than just diamonds. People choose cocktail sapphire inspired rings even for engagement rings now, more than ever before. But let's not get ahead of ourselves...

And don't give the crown of chief-cocktail-rings-future-influencer solely to Ancient Egyptian tradition, or even King Henry, just yet.

Queen Victoria Knew A Thing or Two About a Bold Statement Ring

Not to be out done, a lady really made her mark some 300 years after Henry’s reign. Queen Victoria was known as the “Grandmother of Europe” for her offspring marrying into many royal families. She was also less vain and headstrong as Henry, with an enduring reputation of having reconnected the throne with the public and performing many civic duties. And as far as being an early cocktail rings influencer? She wore an infamous emerald serpent ring, always wrapped around her finger; a cool, reptilian contrast to her outstanding character.

But how about some American influence? After all, it’s from the States that we got the term “cocktail ring,” which we’ll get to in a bit.

FDR Gets In On The Cocktail Rings Action

FDR was president of the United States from 1933 to 1945, so he was actually taking his ruby statement jewellery cues from the cocktail rings craze of the 20’s. While he was very revered in the states, he was also important to the UK. FDR was instrumental in forging the Special Relationship between the US and UK for his leadership during WWII. And on the fashion front? He made some waves there, too, with his his notable pinky ring. The ring was made of gold with a bloodstone centre and was engraved with the Roosevelt Family crest and the date “1853.”

So, it’s with that trip to the US to meet FDR, we examine 1920’s America.

Cocktail rings emerged during the Prohibition era in the 1920s as a way for women to show off their wealth and status.

Since alcohol was illegal at the time, these parties were often the only opportunity for people to let loose and enjoy themselves. These illegal parties held at speakeasy's were called “cocktail parties,” and it’s from that title that cocktail rings got their name.

As a result, cocktail rings became more extravagant during the 40s and 50s as a way to show off at these events. This modern ruby cocktail ring released recently from Lark & Berry is a nice throwback to the types of rings you might have come across at speakeasy's.

Prohibition Gave Birth to the Modern Cocktail Ring

After prohibition ended, society began to relax a bit more and partygoers started embracing opulence again. This led to cocktail rings becoming more extravagant than ever before. Rings often featured large diamonds or gemstones and were meant to be seen from across the room at cocktail parties.

The 80s is typically associated with spandex, big hair, and neon colors. It was also a time when cocktail rings were at their most popular. Bling rings were often worn with flashy outfits and made a bold statement. In 1981, Princess Diana famously married Prince Philip, and for the occasion, she actually chose her wedding ring from a catalogue - a cocktail ring statement piece featuring a blue sapphire.

Diana knew a cocktail ring style was an unconventional wedding ring choice, but what she didn't know is how influential a choice it would prove to be. It helped to keep cocktail rings in the limelight and even inspired brides to this day to make unconventional wedding ring choices.

Unconventional Cocktail Ring Statement Pieces are Trending Strong as Ever Today

Cocktail rings have remained popular since the 80s and are still often seen today. Though they may not be as flashy as they once were, these big rings still make a statement and are sure to turn heads. Megan Fox and Machine Gun Kelly, upon getting engaged, famously chose a dual statement ring featuring each of the couple's birthstones - certainly a far cry from the typical white solitaire diamond ring. Here it is, credit of Machine Gun Kelly's Instagram:

Blake Lively married Ryan Reynolds in 2012, and didn't go with a classic diamond wedding ring

She instead decided on a statement cocktail ring featuring an oval-shaped flawless light-pink diamond weighing 7 carats, set in rose gold with pavé-set diamonds along the band. Gaudy wedding rings are in! Here's Lively even more recently from a red carpet event. One gaze at her ring-bling shows she still favours chunky statement wear:

Cocktail rings are a trend that show no sign of slowing.

As we mentioned, they're not just for statement evening wear any longer. Now, couples are even favouring coloured gemstones like sapphires as cocktail engagement ring options, or like Megan Fox, dual gemstones.

Trends are changing now, fast as ever. The most common wedding ring is still a diamond ring, but cocktail ring men such as FDR showed in the past what is even more true now - that a cocktail ring setting, cocktail ring design - anything you choose, can be as different as you want it to be these days. Whether it's men or women wearing cocktail rings, and whether for only bling and statement or for their wedding, coloured gemstones are becoming an even more popular choice, and rings of personal significance are a huge now too.

Intrigued by the idea of going with a non-conventional cocktail ring for your wedding but need help? We suggest sitting down with a Bespoke designer, who can design a ring based on your inspirations and ideas and even meet your budget.

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