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What is a Cocktail Ring?

Tricia Christensen
Updated May 21, 2024
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A cocktail ring is a large, dramatic ring often worn at cocktail parties. During the Prohibition in the US women often wore these rings at illegal cocktail parties, where they flaunted the fact that the wearer was drinking illegally, and was doing it with style. Nowadays cocktail rings can be worn to many different types of occasions or even as part of a casual outfit. There's no one set style for a cocktail ring, but many have a large, centered imitation jewel.

Though cocktail rings first came into fashion in the 1930s, they grew in popularity throughout the 1940s and 1950s, as cocktail parties continued to be popular events. Although cocktail parties are less common now, many people still wear a cocktail ring with huge diamonds or other large precious or semi-precious gems for formal dressy occasions, and especially for events like premieres of films, Broadway theater productions, or award shows like the Oscars or Emmys.

While the trend in earlier rings was to use precious stones, particularly diamonds, most cocktail rings today are made with faux stones. The difficulty and expense of obtaining large precious stones often makes using real stones prohibitively expensive. Costume jewelry stores stock reproductions of rings worn by fashionistas, and a good costume cocktail ring is perfectly acceptable for anything but the fanciest events.

Since costume jewelry is usually much cheaper than other jewelry, a fake cocktail ring is also less likely to be stolen. If lost, it can be replaced fairly inexpensively. Some reproductions are so well done that only a practiced eye can spot a fake stone. The least expensive will probably be easily spotted as a fake. Some of the more expensive reproductions, ranging in price from $200 to $500 US Dollars (USD), use real gold, rather than gold fill. Cocktail rings with real jewels may be as expensive as $10,000 to over $100,000 USD depending upon the stones chosen, their size and quality. Stones worn at red carpet events by well-known stars can cost millions of dollars.

Even in the heyday of cocktail rings, not everybody could afford to purchase huge diamonds. Other stones like amethysts, garnets, peridot, and blue topaz became popular substitutions since they were of far less expense. Today this trend continues, with many rings having a large central stone of a less expensive gem. The larger the stone, the more easily one can spot flaws. It may be possible however to order a setting, and then purchase a loose stone of the quality and size desired.

If purchasing a loose stone for a cocktail ring, the buyer should consider a stone of at least three carats, and preferably five or more carats. The general rule is that the bigger the stone, the better. Cocktail rings are supposed to catch and dazzle the eye, and should come across as opulent and overdone.

Cocktail rings can be worn on any but the ring finger of the left hand, which signals that the wearer is married or engaged. The right hand ring finger is often chosen, though the ring may also be worn on the index finger. Those looking for a ring might consider shopping estate sales and auctions to find vintage cocktail rings. Anything from the art deco period, even with rhinestones, is considered highly desirable. Some jewelers offer online auctions as well, but buyers should be certain that the claims about the ring are genuine prior to participating in an online auction.

BeautyAnswered is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Tricia Christensen
By Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a BeautyAnswered contributor, Tricia Christensen is based in Northern California and brings a wealth of knowledge and passion to her writing. Her wide-ranging interests include reading, writing, medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion, all of which she incorporates into her informative articles. Tricia is currently working on her first novel.
Discussion Comments
By pleats — On Sep 28, 2010

I love those large dome cocktail rings -- as far as I'm concerned, there's nothing bigger and better than a huge champagne cocktail ring -- not only is it big, but it's sparkly too!

By EarlyForest — On Sep 28, 2010

My friend has a big brown and silver cocktail ring that she wears out on dates whenever she wants to intimidate a guy -- it looks very realistic, like a real topaz or something, so a lot of times guys get a little nervous about it if they're insecure about their finances. It's actually very revealing!

By naturesgurl3 — On Sep 28, 2010

I think that cocktail rings can be so much fun -- whenever my friends and I go out we all try to find these huge cocktail diamond rings, just for fun.

Like the article said, the best thing about cocktail rings is their ostentatiousness -- if it's not big, cheap looking cocktail ring, then it basically doesn't count.

My personal favorites are the ones that are so obnoxiously large that you actually have to watch out that you don't hit people with it -- none of the classy antique cocktail rings for me, when I go out, I want to have fun, not worry about my jewelry!

By anon86647 — On May 26, 2010

that's simply revealing! A good article full of information and facts. keep the good work going.

Sam, Sr Copywriter

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a BeautyAnswered contributor, Tricia...
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