The 1920s and 1930s were an extravagant era for jewellery and engagement rings in Europe and America, with the 1920s being one of the most romanticised time periods. Well known for its clean and bold designs, it is easy to see why so many choose Art Deco inspired jewellery today as a declaration of love.
What is Art Deco?
The term Art Deco represents a particular style of visual arts in architecture and product design. The term first came to light in France in 1910, just before World War I, however, flourished in Europe and the US during the roaring 1920s and 1930s. Art Deco has influenced many creations, from the exteriors and interiors of large structures to smaller detailed objects seen in fashion and jewellery.
When describing the style, Art Deco combines modern shapes and expert craftsmanship with rich materials or colours. During the 1920s and 30s, it represented ultimate luxury, symbolising glamour and the empowerment of social and technological progress. Although this was lost during World War II, Art Deco made a booming return in the late 1960s and still provides inspiration today for decorative art, fashion and jewellery design. Ultimately, it still exudes the luxurious attention to detail that it did 100 years ago.
An example of key 1920s designers for Art Deco jewellery includes René Lalique and Cartier. Both being inspired to reduce the traditional dominance of diamonds at the time by introducing colourful gemstones and using elaborate settings. The strong and flexibility of platinum were favoured over traditional gold, enabling the use of clustered stones.
The changing design of jewellery
The Art Deco movement evolved jewellery design, including the designs of engagement and wedding rings. All became more elaborate and varied in style featuring sleek geometric forms and the increased use of man-made materials.
Rapidly changing fashions in clothing also presented new ways of wearing jewellery. Sleeveless dresses of the 1920s increased the wearing of bracelets, and shorter hair meant extravagant earrings could be seen easily. Life at the time was about change and spending money, including purchasing expensive engagement rings. Flappers and suffragettes had little interest in tiaras or the staples of Victorian England, rather, they wanted exuberant rings, long necklaces and long earrings.
Art Deco engagement rings
The attentive detail of Art Deco engagement rings still captivates us today. Many modern-day brides favour simple geometric lines and the unique style of each vintage engagement ring. An average 1920s Art Deco engagement ring featured diamonds or diamonds with gemstones set within intricate platinum settings. As Platinum was the metal of the moment, ring settings became bolder, cleaner lined and sharper-edged.
The characteristics of Art Deco engagement rings:
Platinum: symbolised the prosperity of the industrial era. Although a relatively new metal at the time, it became incredibly popular due to its flexibility, strength and resistance to tarnishing.
Diamonds: were still the popular choice during the era of Art Deco. Many antique 1920s rings are seen to have a large colourless diamond flanked with smaller accent diamonds.
White gold: was a more affordable alternative to the platinum craze, yet still retained the Art Deco style. White gold and yellow gold were increasingly used during the great depression years of the 1930s.
Unique cuts: of diamonds such as the old European, transitional cut, Asscher cut and antique cushion cut. Many rings had Calibre cut stones that were custom cut to fit into the ring design.
Elaborate settings: for gemstones with the most popular Art Deco setting being prong, cluster or box. Pavé setting for diamonds also evolved during this time period.
Many celebrities have also embraced a 1920s style for their own vintage engagement rings. Influencers, including Barbra Streisand, Olivia Wilde, Scarlett Johansson, and Behati Prinsloo, have chosen a vintage engagement ring for its timeless elegance.
Art Deco vintage wedding rings
Just like 1920s vintage engagement rings, platinum wedding rings were a popular choice during the Art Deco period. Slim Art Deco wedding bands appeared that featured round or square cut diamonds. Alternating colours and shaped gemstones on one band were also being offered by jewellers. For example, square rubies would alternate with round clear diamonds on a platinum band.
Although these new and luxurious style bands were on offer, traditional gold wedding bands still continued to be popular – with vintage wedding rings still being sought after today.
Is it better to design new or buy vintage?
This is often down to preference. It may be more practical to purchase new, as there are often jewellers who sell great designs inspired by the Art Deco period. You can ensure the origins of the diamonds and can easily adjust the design or sizing of the engagement ring or wedding band.
The London Victorian Ring Co are a prime example of making original engagement ring designs from the Art Deco era. These can be seen on their website or by visiting their premises in London. They ensure the best of both; a new ring with a vintage design, as you will be buying original designs from the Art Deco era. The London Victorian Ring Co hold the jewellery patterns that were made from the beginning of the 20th century and continues to make them today!
On the other hand, antique Art Deco rings are unique and timeless, but there are a few things worth considering when purchasing a vintage engagement ring or vintage wedding ring. For example, the prongs of an older ring may be worn and need to be repaired. Furthermore, careful hand cleaning is often needed to maintain its sparkle. As diamonds were cut differently in the Art Deco period, there may be less emphasis on diamond colour, so some antique engagement rings may not live up to the sparkle seen in today’s modern diamonds.