The History of the Cocktail Ring

How this bold bauble went from illicit-chic to dress-up staple

While I can confidently say that brandishing a cocktail ring sans libation is not a fashion faux pas, it’s the bauble’s origins that I’m not so sure about. When did the name come to be? What makes a ring a cocktail ring? And why, oh why, can’t I just drink out of it?

Keep reading for a rundown on this glittering jewelry-box staple.

History of the Cocktail Ring

During the 1920s (read: Prohibition), women hit the underground cocktail scene in their flapper finest. An oversized, attention-grabbing ring, gracing the same hand that wielded that contraband brandy, was right in step with the era’s characteristic flamboyance. Illegality + of-the-moment style = the ultimate Prohibition It girl. (LiLo would’ve killed it back then.)

Moving along to the women’s equality movement, the cocktail ring was associated with the classic “independent woman.” It was believed that a big and bold ring – one which was so blatantly not a wedding ring (and worn on the opposite hand, at that) – was a ring a woman would buy for herself, and therefore, a statement of autonomy. (Note:  I will not be offended if any guys out there want to give me one.)

Once the 1950s and 60s came along, the cocktail ring had shifted from “controversial” statement to dress-up go-to, adding the perfect bit of oomph to a dinner-party-at-the-neighbors’ or opera-night ensemble.

And, all non-billionaires rejoice: While the cocktail ring traditionally showcased only precious stones, the majority of today’s chicest styles boast more affordable gem reproductions.

Our Hello, Statement-Maker: Distinct Jewelry & Watches Boutique opens Tuesday, February 5, at 11AM ET.

By Sarah Stanley, Staff Writer

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February 5, 2013