Whenever a high-profile wedding is on the horizon, the public imagination turns to famous engagement rings of the past. When Prince William gave Kate Middletonhis mother’s sapphire ring, the iconic style became the most sought-after fashion of the moment. This comes as no surprise, as these rings have been a popular choice for those who want colourful vintage rings. Elizabeth Taylor had quite a few of them, but one of the most beautiful was the cabochon sapphire she received from her second husband.
This particular stone was extremely popular a century ago. In 1918, fashions were in flux. Edwardian styles were still popular, and art deco was just emerging. Society changed dramatically in the 1920s, and so did fashions. Wedding fashion is slow to change, but the contrast between Edwardian weddings and art deco weddings are profound. Both styles embraced the rich, vibrant blue of sapphires. That’s why you can find so much vintage jewellery that features them today.
The change from Edwardian designs to art deco was startling. If you are shopping for vintage engagement rings, or have your mind set specifically on a sapphire, it helps to know the basics about each of these distinct and enduring styles.
King Edward VII only reigned for nine years, from 1901 to 1910, but the style named for his reign endured longer. The style actually predates King Edward by some years, but it achieved peak popularity during his reign, so it is known by his name. Edwardian styles were a reaction to the ornate detail of the previous Victorian era. In jewellery, this meant graceful curves and elegantly flowing lines. Vintage rings from the Edwardian era usually feature round or oval gemstones and cushion cut gems were popular. Rings of the time often featured diamonds as well sapphires.
Art deco, in contrast, is marked by sharp angles and bold patterns. The popular images of the Roaring Twenties – the cut of the flappers’ dresses and their sleek bobbed haircuts – reflect the dramatic lines of art deco design. The era is named for the French name of the 1925 Paris World Fair – l’Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratif et Industriels Modernes. Rings from this era feature striking motifs. Emerald, ruby and sapphire were popular choices because their vibrant colour fit the dramatic look of the time. These gemstones were usually paired with diamonds for the visual contrast.
DESPITE THE CONTRASTS BETWEEN THESE TWO TYPES OF RINGS, THEY DO HAVE SOME SIMILARITIES. ENORMOUS CARE WENT INTO THE DESIGNS IN BOTH PERIODS.
The same gemstones remained popular, and you can find stunning sapphire rings from both eras. Vintage engagement rings are more than bling – the details set them apart from many modern renditions. They are so much more than a huge stone in a minimalist setting. Both of these eras rejected the level of detail in Victorian design and chose to rebel and transform those details into art. The graceful curves of the Edwardian style and the dramatic geometry of an art deco have one thing in common – the artistry. These rings were not made quickly nor carelessly. They were created by skilled people who took enormous pride in making something beautiful.