100 Years of Cocktail Rings:
1920s to 2020s

Rewind to the 1920s: an era of Prohibition, speakeasies, flappers, Louis Armstrong, experimental Art Deco, and the birth of the cocktail ring.

From their inception, cocktail rings were more than mere adornments. They were emblems of rebellion and glamour, donned while sipping Sidecars at clandestine parties. Bold, colourful, and crafted to command attention.

A century later, through decades of evolving style, and an interlude of early 2000s minimalism, it seems we’re right back to where it all began.

“Compared to two decades ago, there’s a noticeable shift towards bold, avant-garde designs – a fusion of metals, colours, striking gemstones, and intricate enameling,” notes award-winning jeweller, Matthew Ely.

An act of rebellion or resurgence of creativity, perhaps?

“The cocktail ring serves as a canvas to showcase your individuality through jewellery,” says Matthew.

“It may commemorate an achievement, memorialise an event, or simply exude fabulousness.”

Resonating with the enduring charm of the 1920s, Art Deco motifs continue to captivate a century later.

“Those bold geometric shapes, vibrant colours, and intricate finishings are evident in many contemporary cocktail ring designs. I’m currently crafting a range of these in the workshop – bespoke pieces for clients, and a few one-of-a-kind designs for our Woollahra boutique. Each one is unique, so watch this space.”

What’s on the horizon?

“Bold yellow gold is immensely popular right now,” says Matthew. “It serves as a striking backdrop for emeralds, rubies or diamonds.”

“A single aquamarine or morganite set in white gold, possibly accented with a diamond halo, remains a classic choice. It strikes that perfect balance between delicate femininity and bold allure.”

Though much has changed over the past century, when it comes to cocktail rings, it seems the old adage “what goes around comes around” still holds true.

What is a cocktail ring?

Cocktail rings are characterised by their large, eye-catching design, often featuring an oversized gemstone or elaborate decorative setting.

A cocktail ring is typically significantly larger than a regular ring, designed to attract attention with its intricate metalwork and prominent display of a precious or semi-precious gemstone. These rings are meant to complement formal or semi-formal attire and are traditionally worn at social events, parties, or special occasions. Of course, you can also wear them every day of the week.

When did cocktail rings become popular?

Cocktail rings first gained prominence in the 1920s during the Prohibition era, often worn by women at clandestine cocktail parties and social gatherings as bold statement pieces.

During this time, the sale, manufacture, and transportation of alcoholic beverages was banned, but this only fuelled the popularity of these secretive, glamorous events.

“Cocktail rings really emerged as symbols of luxurious rebellion and defiance against social norms,” says Matthew Ely.

The fascination with cocktail rings never waned but saw a significant resurgence in the 1950s and 60s when cocktail parties once again became a staple of social life. Designers began experimenting with various materials and settings, creating even more diverse and unique cocktail rings.

“That trend continues today, with many clients opting for custom-designed rings to mark special occasions, or even for everyday wear. It’s all about showcasing identity and individuality, still with a touch of rebellion," says Matthew.

Rewind to the 1920s: an era of Prohibition, speakeasies, experimental Art Deco, and the birth of the cocktail ring. A century later, through decades of evolving style, it seems we’re right back to where it all began.