The Rise of the Cocktail Ring in a Decade of Decadence & Delight

Let’s raise our glass to Cocktail Rings, a century of glam! 

Made popular in the 1920s, the Cocktail Ring has made its indelible mark in fashion, beloved through the decades by haute hostesses, glam girls and celebs alike - and nobody serves it up quite like we do at Julie Lamb NY! My Bespoke cocktail rings and One of a Kind statement pieces are my favorites to design because when we speak Bespoke ’Everything is possible’! Before we get into all the facets, let’s frame the conversation in a little Herstory - that’s right - the women who popularized these bold, attention grabbing styles were out to have a good time breaking all the rules! They did it in style, they did it at night, they did it with a strong cocktail in one hand and an elegant cigarette holder in the other. These glamour girls of the Jazz Age were flappers…

The Influencers and ‘It Girls’ of the 1920’s 

So many forces came into play during the Roaring 20s, feminism & women's suffrage, the temperance movement leading to Prohibition, gangsters, and rapid industrialization. Flappers were a subculture of young women flouting convention, looking to claim their independence - they were a cultural force to be reckoned with, and an early symbolization of Girl Power. Stylish and fashionable flapper dress code included above-the-calf dresses (oh my!) bedazzled with sequins & seed beads, topped off with a cute cap over short bobbed haircuts accented with feathers, or draped in rhinestones. Accessorized with opera length pearls sometimes worn knotted, linear Art Deco style drop earrings that peeked out from cropped do’s and bold gem laden rings, cocktail rings, completed these glitzy looks. The flapper was the party girl of this period, she reveled in breaking social norms (and the law!) dancing all night to jazz and tossing back gin at local speakeasies during Prohibition. Remember, these spaces had been exclusively reserved for men up till this point (a respectable woman wouldn't be out drinking in public!) but girls just want to have FUNdamental rights… Women began to stake their claim in society by having fun, drinking, smoking, and enjoying nightlife just as men did. This was a daring statement of independence at the time. The flapper truly embraced the spirit of the Roaring Twenties!

flapper wearing cocktail rings and jewelry

Setting the scene: Speakeasies

The 1920s were a time of change and upheaval in America (hmmm… sounds familiar). The burgeoning Feminist Movement had women ready to be heard, and brought on the Suffrage Movement, the fight for a woman’s right to vote. In the meantime, the Temperance Movement rooted in Protestant churches, began with urging moderation of alcohol consumption before they started to demand the government ban drinking altogether- this cause was at the root of Prohibition. From 1920 to 1933 Prohibition was in effect, rendering the sale, production, importation, and transportation of alcohol illegal. This led to a time of rebellion and the creation of speakeasies, the original underground clubs! Cloaked in secrecy, with hidden entrances often requiring patrons to provide a password to enter, speakeasies had it all - live music, dancing, and even gambling. The sound of clinking cocktail glasses only added to the atmosphere. Men and women partied and danced the Charleston amid the swirling smoke to the sound of lively jazz music. Behind the bar these early mixologists were challenged with moonshine - the high proof, illicit liquor (often produced in the dark of night, under the moonlight) could be rough tasting, so bartenders began experimenting with mixers to disguise the potent flavor of these homemade brews. What better way to get your barkeep’s attention than shining a giant bauble? With the invention of the cocktail, the cocktail ring was born! Traditionally worn on the right hand, as the left was reserved for engagement and wedding rings, the cocktail ring was the original ‘Right Hand Ring’. Cocktail rings were a statement of the wearers' independence, uniqueness, and willingness to buck the old expectations for females at that time. A sultry flapper would sidle up to the bar, clutching her empty coupe glass in need of a refill donning an exquisite, extravagant cocktail ring to catch a busy bartender's eye. 

The Anatomy of a Cocktail Ring 

  • COLOR: Huge colored center stone - think aquamarine, ruby, sapphire, or amethyst, as well as opaque materials like onyx, coral, turquoise &  jade. All were popular choices and looked beautiful set in shiny platinum often with pavé accents.
  • DIAMONDS: Iced out- all diamond cocktail rings were also worn where sparkling diamonds are pavéd all over the design and 1 to 3 diamonds were set as centers. Sometimes a precious border of ruby, emerald or sapphire would accent, these colors popping brightly against cool white metal.
  • CUT: the Asscher cut was developed in 1902 by Joseph Asscher. It’s a square emerald cut (octagonal, with shorter corners) that became popular during the Art Deco movement. It happens to be my favorite stone shape and the reason why so many of my Bespoke & Bridal styles take on an Art Deco feel.
  • WHITE METALS: Silvery metals were more popular in the 20’s and white gold was first invented as a platinum substitute. 
  • STYLE: Styling tended to be architectural with Art Deco influenced detailing or openwork lace filigree. Long north - south shapes reaching up to the knuckle gave jewelers a vast canvas for their handywork.

Architectural Influence

art deco jewelry

The Art Deco style of the 1920s became an integral part of design & architecture. Manhattan skyscrapers began to soar - the Chrysler Building, Empire State Building, Rockefeller Center, and many others - iconic in every way, they have stood the test of time and still define NYC. See our ‘Built for Love’ Bridal collection. It was inspired by these landmark beauties! The Deco style extended itself into furniture and fashion including ring design, permeating every aspect of that time period and leaving its glamorous legacy for us to admire in buildings and vintage reproductions.

art deco ring

Today's Bespoke Cocktail Rings

bespoke rings by julie lamb

There is no doubt that I would be a flapper if we turned back time 100 years, or maybe even one of the few female speakeasy owners! The glitz and red lips appeal, as well as the notorious nightlife and rule breaking! Lucky for me, the closest thing to Prohibition is the bar/restaurant named for it on the Upper West Side, and cocktails are flowing LEGALLY, phew! As an independent designer in NYC, I exercise and encourage freedom of expression. My bespoke cocktail rings are the very essence of self-expression. Working closely with you, often to commemorate a milestone or reset a gem that was passed down, we discuss options for the dream ring that suits who you are now. If you are open to playing with color we can explore some of the lesser-known semi-precious which can be quite beautiful in an interesting cut and/or top clarity. All shades of tourmaline, bi-color stones, Parti sapphire, Imperial Topaz- you name it, choose your hue and I’ll get to sourcing. Or stop by for a midtown appointment and we can look through my stash together. I’ve even had a client show me a jar of rose petal jelly to match - and I did it, serving up a lush warm pink tourmaline. I often pair these colorful entrees with a side of diamonds, whether as a line of pavè to accentuate the curves of the metal or as a partner to the color. Champagne, chocolate, or blonde diamonds always make for an unexpected balance. Whatever you choose, the Bespoke experience is special and personal. The precious metal, a meaningful engraving, the hidden details incorporated are just for you to enjoy. Next time you’re clinking glasses, trying to get the bartender’s attention or dressed to impress, don't forget that cocktail ring! Let everyone admire the right hand of a very independent woman!

View more of my bespoke jewelry here.

Want to design something bespoke? Send me an email!