Rings: six facts and much more you didn't know

 Solitaire Diamond Engagement Ring

Solitaire Diamond Engagement Ring


1. 1887, Tiffany revolutionized ring design...

By the end of the 19th century platinum was coming into general use and gradually replaced silver as the preferred white metal into which diamonds were set, giving greater durability to rings as the world marched into the 20th century. In 1887 Tiffany introduced a revolutionary ring design in which the diamond was lifted away from the mount allowing the light to shine into the stone from all sides enabling it to be reflected back out again from the facets to reveal the fabulous brilliant cut to its full potential. The classic Tiffany setting is still in production today as the amazing elegance and simplicity of the design has proved itself to be timeless.

The first years of the 20th century saw a continuance of the order of things from the previous century but although the very wealthy were still enjoying the trappings of their affluence, great change was afoot. An emerging middle class now had more money to spend and was looking to escape the over ornamentation of the Victorian era and this gave rise to the artist jeweller and movements such as the Art Nouveau style which attempted to escape the processes of the industrial revolution. Less expensive metals such as silver, copper and pewter were used to hand make jewellery, including rings, that would appeal to a wider and often younger clientele and which strongly reflected nature with its curving whiplash designs.

2. Due to World War I, the ring became more important as a love symbol...

The ring has reflected many events and influences over the centuries and has become an important and meaningful possession across the social classes with absolute disregard of its intrinsic value. With the outbreak of the first world war rings became an even more important symbol of love and commitment as young men proposed to and quickly married their sweethearts, the ring being the only private possession that he could carry with him as he went off to war. Radical changes swept across Europe and people no longer flaunted their wealth as they had previously but by the end of the war, weary from the effects of austerity, the general population required some light relief and frivolity in their lives and again rings in particular reflected this sentiment. Large, often inexpensive imitation stones became socially acceptable and were worn by beautiful and exotic film stars whose style was emulated by men and women enjoying a more liberated lifestyle.

3. Mass production leads to the college or fraternity ring...

Between the wars the Art Deco style became significant for the design of rings with bold geometric shapes and strong colour dominating the trend. Important new technical processes were developed for the manufacture of all types of jewellery, including rings, which allowed multiple pieces to be cast at the same time, with the lost wax casting technique now using a thick liquid investment to encase the wax models. This allowed for the rapid and mass production of the ever-popular signet ring which had previously been stamped out from a sheet of metal using a large, heavy press tool. The signet style of ring was gradually transformed into the college ring or the fraternity ring that was specially designed for individual colleges, high schools, business and sports clubs and international organisations such as the Freemasons. Literally millions of these rings were produced right up to the present day. Specifically engraved with names and insignia relating to the organisation allowed instant recognition between members, rather like the old school tie in Britain. The production of rings during this period again reflected the prevailing economic crisis and although the upper end of the market produced items that included fabulous and easily portable items of considerable wealth, the gap widened between the costume jewellery favoured by the less wealthy. Several important innovations occurred at this time, one being the development of the invisible setting of stones in 1933 by Van Cleef and Arpels of Paris which allowed gemstones to be massed together giving a blaze of pure color with the stones being held in place by invisible wires at the back.

Vintage Platinum, Diamond and Amethyst Ring

 Vintage Platinum, Diamond and Amethyst Cocktail Ring


4. Post World War II, silver came into its own...

Immediately after the second world war with gold being severely rationed and platinum still being used for instruments, silver came into its own for the manufacture of rings which together with the accepted freedom to wear rings how and when one liked led many artistic jewellers to produce pieces that were very different and innovative. Ring design was, as always, affected by the current fashion developments such as the New Look launched by Christian Dior in 1947 that encouraged eye catching, ostentatious rings to be worn with the feminine clothes that were so craved after the end of the wartime austerity. Gemstones were now more readily available and the cocktail ring was born, set with large semi-precious stones with intense natural colors.

By the 1960s hand made jewellery from mainly industrially under developed countries around the world flooded western markets and although often primitively made they made a huge impact on people’s perception of rings, creating much interest in the production of “ethnic” jewellery. The production of rings escalated to new heights in the 1960s and 1970s and as the gap between high end designer jewellery and artist craft jewellery widened even further some of the older, well established jewellery houses began to operate a two-tier marketing system for their special clients, with less expensive mass-produced items being sold through other outlets.

5. 1970’s, a ring is still regarded as a token of affection and even a commitment...

The traditional etiquette for wearing rings had virtually disappeared by the 1970s. Ladies from all social classes would wear many different and outrageous designs at one time and even men were beginning to experiment with styles other than wedding and signet rings. Nevertheless it was still regarded as a token of affection and even a commitment to give a ring as a gift between a man and a woman, and this has remained an unwritten rule to this day. Rings are considered to be a very personal form of adornment that reflects the character and personality of the wearer and can send a very strong message.

Vintage Emerald and Diamond Ring

Vintage Emerald and Diamond Ring

6. Today, a ring can be designed and created without being touched by human hands...

Modern technology has contributed much to the manufacture of rings in the 21st century with new metals such as titanium, laboratory grown gemstones including diamonds, acrylics and plastics and even designs inspired by science fiction that will undoubtedly become science reality in the near future. Rings today are worn by so many compared to the few that could historically enjoy such luxury. The status that they convey is much more subtle than the design itself, or even the designer and has become more important than the actual value.

Today, a ring can be designed and created without being touched by human hands. A far cry from the primitive experiments with the materials available to early civilizations that were flexible enough to be tied around a finger and be admired by the wearer.