The History of Art Deco Rings - A Story of Innovation & Women Empowerment

Art Deco is an iconic style of design dating back to the early 1900s that lasted approximately thirty years, starting in France and quickly spreading throughout Europe and the United States. The movement encompassed many areas of design, including furniture, art, architecture, and much more, but was especially important in jewelry design. Happening post WWI, women, in particular, were interested in the modern and innovative methods of the Art Deco movement and wore Art Deco jewelry as a part of their liberation from the conservative Edwardian era they were coming out of. A style known for its combining art and the harshness of the industry! Using geometry and bold gemstone combinations in its artistic expression in design! Art Deco has remained an iconic and popular style that is often used and recreated today! 

"Karla" Art Deco Style Engagement Ring With Lab-Created Sapphire

Our "Karla" Art Deco style engagement ring with a lab-created blue sapphire and diamond accents.

The Beginning of a New Era

Just before the beginning of the Art Deco movement of the 1910s, fashion and expectations of women were much more restrictive. These were the Edwardian and Victorian periods - times of corsets, sleeves, formality, pastel colors, dainty and feminine designs, and Art Nouveau styles. However, World War I led to many of these formalities being loosened. While men were away at war, women started working factory jobs, as nurses and doctors, and in other traditionally male-dominated occupations. As a result, women could cut their hair short and dress more comfortably. Great innovation and change were on the horizon. Women started gaining more independence, and during the heart of the Art Deco movement in 1920, the 19th amendment of the U.S. Constitution gave women the right to vote. Flapper culture, jazz music, open use of alcohol and cigarettes by women, and sexual freedom were also rising. Women celebrated their newfound independence by boasting bold Art Deco pieces that highly contrasted the accessories they had been wearing in years past. 

 "Elenor" Art Deco Style Onyx Engagement Ring

Our "Elenor" Art Deco style engagement ring with an emerald cut black onyx center stone & diamond accents.

Key Influences & Inspiration for Art Deco Jewelry

Bold, large, flashy, dramatic - all words that describe jewelry of the Art Deco period. Colored gemstones and pearls became popular choices and were frequently combined with diamonds, platinum, white gold, and occasionally yellow gold to create a stark contrast. Onyx, sapphires, rubies, and emeralds adorned jewelry in new and exciting ways. Gone were the days of the feminine pastels and muted colors of the Edwardians, and jewelry was made to shun these repressive times and instead reflect the excitement and opulence of the "roaring 20's." Even men's rings featured enamel, stones, & unique designs carved into signet rings. The ring below is one of our masculine Art Deco designs featuring black onyx and a diamond accent on a bold geometric band. 

In 1922, the Egyptian pharaoh King Tut's tomb was excavated. The beautiful motifs and artwork on the tomb and other items present in the burial were an exciting discovery and very important inspiration behind Art Deco design. Enameling made of turquoise, onyx, jade, lapis lazuli, and more embellished jewelry pieces in motifs like the ones on King Tut's tomb. Elements from African, Native American, and Asian artwork and designs also had a lot of influence on Art Deco - think of the geometric and symmetrical arrangements of ancient temples of Mesoamerica compared to designs of the Art Deco era, for example. Shown below is our "Cleopatra" design - an Art Deco style engagement ring featuring a garnet center stone & diamond accents. 

"Cleopatra" Art Deco Engagement Ring

Another key influence on Art Deco design was "Cubism," an abstract art style most well-known and recognized in the work of Pablo Picasso. This style, popular in the first decade of the 1900s, was a direct precursor to the Art Deco movement. Cubism focused heavily on using geometric forms to create abstract art that better fit the industrialized modern world. Both Cubism and Art Deco originated in France and have many overlapping elements.

An Important Time for Innovation in Jewelry

Innovation was a key component of the Art Deco movement. The processes used to create synthetic corundum, such as sapphires and rubies, was a very new technology during the early 1900s, and these cheaper lab-grown stones were prevalent in jewelry during this time. Kite cuts, baguettes, emerald cuts, trapezoids, step cuts, and other unique gemstone cuts were developed in order to create mosaic-like pieces and a more modern look. Even the way round diamonds were cut and faceted changed! Instead of the modern brilliant cuts we see today, stones had a small flat spot on the bottom, which can be seen as a small circle in the center of the diamond in the photo below. Of course, during the early 1900s, this diamond cut was considered modern, but today it is known as an Old European Cut. The diamond below comes from the Staghead Mine and Misfit Diamonds Collaboration Collection of unique diamonds available to be used in our custom ring designs. 

 Antique Old European Cut Diamond

Two new jewelry settings were also developed during this time - the "pavé setting" and the "invisible setting." These new settings allowed clusters of stones to sit close together and create gorgeous sparkling mosaics of gems. A style that combined gemstones of many different colors into one mosaic-style piece was often referred to as a "fruit salad" piece. These stones were frequently set in white gold and sometimes yellow gold, but the new rage of this time was platinum jewelry. Widespread use of platinum in jewelry was still reasonably new during this time, and its bright color and strength quickly made it a popular option. The world's largest platinum deposit was also discovered around this time, making it a fairly widely available metal. However, when the Great Depression started around 1930, gold made a resurgence as a more affordable option compared to the high cost of platinum. Later in 1940, platinum in jewelry was temporarily outlawed in the United States during World War II when it was declared a strategic mineral.

Koa Wood & Diamond Wedding Ring

This white gold wedding band features invisible set diamond accents. Notice there are no visible metal prongs - hence, the name "invisible" setting. This setting method was developed during the early 1900s during the Art Deco movement.

 "Queen of the Throne" Art Deco Style Engagement Ring

Our "Queen of the Throne" design engagement ring shown above features many pavé diamond accents along the sides. This setting technique is frequently seen in antique and modern Art Deco jewelry pieces.

In addition to the innovations mentioned above, this was the first time in history that jewelry began to be mass-produced, and costume jewelry made its way into fashion. Famous French designer Coco Chanel began offering costume jewelry pieces in her collections and successfully made costume jewelry a fun, modern option. Women began wearing jewelry in many forms - headpieces, long dangle earrings, brooches, necklaces, watches, rings, bracelets, and more. The invention of lab-grown stones, cheap rhinestones, the cultivation of pearls, the increasing availability of plastics, and new manufacturing processes helped make affordable jewelry available and widespread. Items that seemed luxurious and extravagant such as jewelry were not an option during the earlier war time when supplies and money were scarce, so the new-found affordability and availability of costume jewelry during the Art Deco period was an exciting opportunity for women to enhance their fashion and look in ways not possible before. For the first time, it was acceptable to mix fine jewelry with costume jewelry. 

Finding the Perfect Art Deco Ring

From the architecture of the Empire State Building to the story of The Great Gatsby, Art Deco has left its mark and is one of the most recognizable design styles created in recent history. Its iconic design elements are still used today, and our work is no exception! From bold symmetrical designs, antique diamond cuts, and a plethora of colorful gemstone options, we can create beautiful custom rings that pay homage to the excellent design era of Art Deco. Whether you are a history fanatic, The Great Gatsby lover, or are just looking for a unique ring, Art Deco is a classic and timeless way to go! Add a modern touch by using a salt & pepper diamond center stone, or keep it classic with an Old European cut diamond from the Staghead Mine! Browse our collections of customizable rings here or design your ring!

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