Parties, Pearls and Prohibition: The History of the Cocktail Ring.
As you gaze down at your sparkling cocktail ring adorning a finger of your right hand and admire its beauty, it’s unlikely that you’ve ever really considered how the piece came into being or tried to discover the dark yet delectable secrets the cocktail ring holds dear.
A relatively new addition to the jewellery world, the term ‘cocktail ring’ was coined only in the last one hundred years and is closely associated with the era of American prohibition back in the 1920s, when the manufacture and sale of alcohol was strictly prohibited. With rules meant to be broken, illegal cocktail parties would be held in secret, undercover locations. Women of the era, enjoying the clandestine nature of such events, would take full opportunity to glam up and embellish their flamboyant outfits with equally grandiose cocktail rings. The rings became synonymous with the glamour of the woman who would ‘dare to wear’. Indeed, the larger and more ostentatious the ring, the more on trend the woman was deemed to be.
Once the prohibition was lifted, the cocktail ring remained a fashion accessory and allowed gemstone jewellery to stay popular to the present day. The cocktail ring was sometimes referred to as the ‘right hand ring’ and its history is closely connected to the rise in women’s rights. As equality for women in the workplace was encouraged, so women made a point of displaying their own independence and personality. The cocktail ring would usually be purchased by the woman herself and would be chosen to reflect her own style and character rather than the engagement ring which is traditionally selected and purchased by the woman’s husband to be. The cocktail ring was designed to be eye catching and to make a statement about the woman’s personality. And indeed, the woman would have more than one piece so that she could change what she wanted to say about herself on any given occasion.
Feeling passionate and fiery, she would choose the Andrew Geoghegan Celestial Fire; sultry yet sophisticated she would select the Satellite whilst on those days when nothing less than elegant and chic would do, she would pick out the Enchanted.
In the forties and fifties, the cocktail rings were the chosen accessories for formal social occasions, such as dinner parties, and they became less associated with a woman’s propensity to attend illicit parties. Celebrities increased their popularity by wearing cocktail rings to high profile events such as the Oscars and thus their desirability for the everyday woman increased massively.
So as you peruse Andrew Geoghegan’s collection of cocktail rings, take a moment to ponder their rich heritage: the undercover parties which saw women’s right hands sparkling in the face of authority, as they lifted that illegal cocktail to their lips; the rise of the independent woman who wanted to wear a beautiful ring now rather than having to wait for the perfect man to come along and buy her one; and the desire to be like those 1940s starlets and have a little bit of luxury adorning your right hand.