As cocktail culture explodes cocktail rings take jewellery precedent.
By Juliet Hutton-Squire & Maia Adams
Cocktail culture is all the rage and ladies want a statement ring that will let their fingers do the talking while they are sipping drinks. Juliet Hutton-Squire & Maia Adams of Adorn Insight talk us through how this trend has evolved from a simple stone ring to modern fine jewellery mini artworks.
Cocktails usually carry with them connotations of celebration – a time for partying, for glamour, for enjoyment. And cocktail rings are no less celebratory.
Despite the fact that we Brits have battled through a recession, if current trends are anything to go by glamour has continued to play an important part as a bastion of more salubrious times gone by. Holidays abroad might have turned into staycations, nights on the town into entertaining at home, but the appetite for a bit of pizzazz has remained as keen as a girl’s thirst for, well, cocktails.
While the trend for cocktail rings might be tailgating this particular dip in economic fortunes, it actually originated from another – the end of the Second World War, when at-home cocktail parties replaced pricey nights on the town. Designed as conversation starters, cocktail rings came to the fore in the 1930s, clung right on through a 1940s heyday and lasted well into the 1960s.
Aptly enough, this era is experiencing something of a renaissance in modern pop culture, most notably in the explosion of Mad Men onto TV screens. As the inspiration behind many a fashion collection, fancy dress party, drinking game and even a few advertising campaigns this trend is all about looking fabulous, drinking hard liquor and dressing like you mean it.
Cocktail culture itself is enjoying a rise in popularity and mixology – as the art of cocktail making is known in professional circles – has become a sport. And when elegant drinking becomes the focus of a night, and attention is drawn to the hands, cocktail rings become an essential element of the party uniform.
In the face of this changing social scene, savvy drinks companies have upped the ante, promoting products as an essential lifestyle choice and, in the process, spawning innovative marketing that ranges from quirky bottle designs – such as Absolut Vodka’s goth bottle – and cool collaborations – think Absolut and Gorillaz illustrator Jamie Hewlett – to exotic flavours such as Smirnoff’s fluffed marshmallow-flavoured tipple.
This exoticism is another key influencing factor in the rise of cocktails which, whilst intertwined with parties and good times, are also intrinsically linked to poolside lounging. As a hot spring fashion trend with a vintage vibe this is a pastime amply explored in an exhibition recently showcased at California’s Palm Spring Art Museum dedicated to images of poolside scenes from 1942 to 1982, including snaps of stars including Marilyn Monroe taken by revered photographers such as David Hockney and Slim Aarons.
Pulling together this desire for exoticism, both in the ideals of idealistic poolside living, daring drinks and the in-your-face glamour of home entertaining of the mid century, there are several ways this mood can be applied to cocktail rings in the fine jewellery sphere – and it is important to separate this fine jewellery trend from the oversized cheap and cheerful cocktail rings on the high street – from literal fruit references to more subtle exotic floral references and juicy, sweet colour schemes.
This good-enough-to-eat application can be expounded in one of two ways: representation of the fruit often found hanging off the side of a cocktail glass, or the use of fruity colours.
De Grisogono has taken the first approach creating the unabashedly fruity Orange cocktail ring designed to look like a flat slice of orange with four cabochon orange sapphires cut into segment shapes. The peel is created by a sweet crust of 193 smaller orange sapphires and further flourishes are provided by a scattering of white diamonds to create an overall design that is bold and edgy, but luxe.
Other designers have been less literal in their interpretations. Solange Azagury-Partidge has chosen to work with an array of juicy colours in her 18ct blackened white gold Opal Fruit ring set with a central opal – which itself is a perfect stone to deliver a flush of cocktail colours – surrounded by two rings of diamonds in rainbow colours.
Showstoppers is the more traditional application for cocktail rings, with the design hinged on a central dramatic stone. This type of cocktail ring design relates back directly to the designs popular in the 1940s and 1950s, but is often pushed forward in modern designs with the addition of more elaboration around that central stone.
Designers such as Fabergé, with its Kaleidoscope ring, have still selected a central stone but have worked hard to make the shank interesting too. In the case of this ring it has a large 17.86 green chrysoberyl as the central stone but the shank has been encrusted in geometric sections with different coloured gemstones such as sapphires, spinels, aquamarines, demantoid garnets and tsavorites.
Dietrich has also taken this approach, setting a feature pearl against a shank that is already truly dramatic due to the use of black lacquer and in-set light pink sapphires around the pearl, which is projected high out of the design. Such elaboration on the rest of the ring, as shown by Dietrich, is key to the progression of this trend for cocktail rings, moving it forward and keeping it fresh.
The use of floral motifs in cocktail rings has been mastered by Victoire de Castellane, creative director for jewellery at Dior. The sculptured quality of her designs using semi-precious stones have given us new ways in which we can work with the motif in this design category.
The Bal Romantique ring from Dior’s Le Bal des Roses collection is a case in point. Rather than using precious stones to build up the shape of a leaf or petal, De Castellane has actually carved lavender chalcedony in a specific way to fit her purpose, carving out petals rather than building them.
Such a technique keeps semi-precious stones relevant in rings but uses them in a new way which again gives us an element of progression in this trend. It is also a bold design move and represents the transition of this wider floral trend in jewellery, which we referred to in more depth in the March issue of Professional Jeweller, from dainty, pretty petals to exaggerated, surreal flora.
If cocktail rings are all about being flashy, Big Bling more than delivers, but rather than the sparkle of a single central stone this application brings pavé to the fore.
The key here is to use pavé in an ostentatious way and make it the central focus of the design rather than a complementary element. Not only does this allow for more sparkle, it also gives multi-stone rings a commercial edge over single-stone rings as prices will be more affordable.
Colour is also important here and the pavé should not be restricted to white diamonds but instead can be any manner of precious or semi-precious stone that will give a ring a solid burst of fruity, vibrant colours that will grab and hold the attention of onlookers, as demonstrated by Boucheron’s Tentation Macaron white gold rings set with either amethysts, tsavorites or pink sapphires and rubies.
Just as colour is an excellent translation of the exotic element of this trend, so is the use of animals, which have long been an important trend in jewellery, from cutesy motifs to more grotesque beasts.
Boucheron has applied animals to cocktails rings effortlessly with its Cabinet of Curiosities collection that features gem-encrusted rings depicting all manner of beasts, including zebras, camels, monkeys and lions to give a real sense of adventure and of the exotic.
It has been a long time since we have accepted a single stone atop a ring as a cocktail ring, and each of these applications demonstrates how modern interpretations of the trend – whether showy or chic – are always more complex than a simple stone ring.
It is no secret that we all need a bit of romance, adventure and light relief from this double-dip atmosphere, and for retailers the rise of fine cocktails rings brings with it a new sales opportunity in young ladies who want to have fun with their fashion and more mature shoppers who understand the value of investing in a standout cocktail ring.
This article was taken from the June 2012 issue of Professional Jeweller magazine. To read a digital version of this issue click here.