Gone are the days when women wait for somebody else to “put a ring on it.” Ladies, single or not, are splurging on themselves and buying all types of gems, including diamonds – to wear on their right hand.
As more and more women spend their own money on luxuries like jewellery, the newest version of right-hand rings is an important jewellery trend. Certainly, wearing a bright, dramatic cocktail or dinner ring has always been a way to express individual style and make a major fashion statement. The contemporary notion of a right-hand ring is a continuation of the idea of embracing one’s independence, celebrating major life moments and maybe even challenging societal norms.
What about the left hand
In the West, the left hand has traditionally been reserved for the wearing of rings that celebrate and indicate official commemorative events like an engagement, a wedding or an anniversary. We can give credit to the ancient Romans who believed that a vein of love directly connected the heart to the third finger on the left hand. A right hand jewel can be less fraught with any intentional meaning – they don’t necessarily always have to carry their own significance but can be customized to suit every individual and situation.
Roots of the contemporary right-hand ring
An extremely successful DeBeers advertising campaign in the early 2000s was aimed at encouraging any woman, no matter her matrimonial status, to invest in diamond jewellery, on her own terms and at her own discretion. The ad promoted non-engagement, non-solitaire style designs, set with a multitude of small and tiny diamonds, and was summed up with this tagline: “Your left hand rocks the cradle. Your right hand rules the world.” Whether as a personal purchase or received as a gift, this inspired concept shows no signs of abating.
A right-hand ring can celebrate the birth of a child, the gem laden gift known as a “baby bauble”; an eternity band can denote a special anniversary or graduation. They can also be heirlooms, with no romantic connotation. passed down through generations. However, more commonly, they are rings that women have gifted to themselves: to mark a promotion, a milestone birthday, or even a change in matrimonial status such as a divorce. Stacked bands are a very popular look, set with either contrasting gems in white, yellow and pink gold or an allover monotone aesthetic in platinum.
Right hand jewels can still mean wedding bells
The right-hand ring is a way for women to truly express themselves, not simply advertise their marital status, however, this practice can change depending on where you are in the world.
In Canada and the United States, engagement and wedding rings are traditionally worn on the left hand. Yet, it’s actually has been customary to wear those tokens of love on the right hand in many European countries, including Greece, Germany, Spain and Poland. German tradition has the engagement ring move from the left hand to the right after the wedding, while in Brazil and Turkey, the opposite is true. In some regions in China, woman wear their wedding band on the right hand. In the past, in a different attitudinal climate, some in the LGBTQ community, opted to wear wedding bands on the right hand to indicate a relationship.
Perhaps the best part about a right-hand ring is that there are no hard and fast rules about why or when to wear one: celebrate love for a partner (or yourself), honour an occasion, start a conversation with a statement piece. In fact, you don’t even need a reason to rock a right-hand ring, but there are certainly many great ones.
Selection of rings from upcoming auction.
Diamonds may be a girl’s best friend, but what about rubies and sapphires? Coloured gemstones have long been favoured by royals and celebrities and only continue to increase in popularity. They can often be more affordable and a conversation-worthy alternative to diamond engagement rings.
How the demand for diamonds began
We know “diamonds are forever”, essentially unmatched when it comes to day-to-day durability, which is one reason why they are typically the stone of choice for engagement rings. The other reason we use diamonds to say “I do”? Clever marketing.
The historic players supplying the Western diamond market: India from the 1400s, during the 1700s major sources were found in Brazil and then huge deposits were found in 1800s South Africa. Due to their relative rarity and therefore extremely high cost, diamonds were initially only worn, in any form, by Royalty and the wealthiest of the wealthy. It wasn’t until the early 1950s when they solidified their spot at the top of the gemstone chain:De Beers Consolidated Mines, Ltd. began positioning diamond engagement rings as a symbol of love and commitment – rather than just a symbol of wealth and luxury – in a brilliant ad campaign begun in 1947 that evolved from a reaction to the extreme slump in sales after the Great Depression and post-war malaise.
Suddenly diamonds became coveted for the emotional connection they evoked, and this resulted in creating a demand unaffected by status or the economy that has held strong for decades.
The charm of coloured gems
There is an ever-growing interest in alternative gems. Some buyers are simply enticed by the bold statement-making appeal of a colourful gem or are perhaps drawn to the traditional meaning behind a particular stone. Certain coloured gemstones can even be more valuable and rarer than diamonds.
The big three that often come to mind when we think of precious coloured gemstones are rubies, sapphires and emeralds.
One of the most valuable and popular gemstones, the ruby is considered the “King of Gems” and its beauty was touted in both the Bible and ancient Sanskrit texts. With its intense red hue (caused by the trace element chromium) the ruby is associated with passion, desire, power and nobility. Composed of the mineral corundum, it also has one of the highest ranking scores on the Mohs scale measuring hardness, toughness and stability, making it nearly as durable as a diamond. As practical as it is precious!
Also composed of corundum, sapphires are suitable for everyday wear and come in virtually every colour of the rainbow, except red, when the term ruby comes into play. They are, however, commonly best known for their striking vivid blues. Steeped in fables and lore, the sapphire was a holy stone to the ancient Persians who believed the earth rested atop a sapphire formed by the heavens. The stone stands for virtue, loyalty and wisdom – ideal traits for an engagement ring!
Dating back to the days of Cleopatra, emeralds were thought to bring good fortune and youthfulness to the wearer, a symbol of rebirth with their vibrant green hue. The emerald is the most famous member of the beryl family, and although it’s considered generally not recommended for everyday wear due to the fact that it’s not as hard as many other gems, it’s certainly a very special choice for special occasions.
Don’t forget about fancy colour diamonds
Diamonds are graded on the internationally respected GIA’s scale from D to Z, from colourless to a subtle, but still noticeable, very, very pale yellow. Separate from that scale, diamonds of colour are considered “fancy” and comprise naturally occurring shades of blue, red, yellow, green, orangey, pink, brown, champagne, etc.
Unlike diamonds falling on the D-to-Z chart that become less valuable the more apparent their colour, fancy coloured diamonds actually increase in value based on the depth of hue. Colour saturation is described within a range from faint to light, to intense, to deep and ultimately, to the highly desirable, vivid.
Your choice, your desire
Whether you choose to opt for a more daring coloured gemstone for your engagement ring, or stick with a classic and traditional diamond, there are plenty of options to suit your budget, taste and style – the colourful or subtle choices that will flatter you are absolutely endless!
For many wearers, fine jewellery is intensely personal, a form of self-expression and individual style. Convertible jewellery pieces are a clever way to maximize this element and truly customize your collection.
Whether reconfiguring a piece completely, such as turning a tiara into a necklace, or simply connecting a pair of bracelets end-to-end, transformable jewellery allows you to create a number of different styles: take your look from day to night, from office to out on the town, from chic to glam.
Perhaps the most appealing part of convertible jewellery is the practical aspect. Not only do you get to enjoy wearing the same piece multiple ways, this idea speaks to the minimalism trend – Marie Kondo would have to agree a beautiful piece of fine jewellery that eliminates the need for several other pieces would definitely spark joy. Transformable pieces are also ideal for travelling, since you will only need to pack one or two pieces but will still able to enjoy several different looks.
You also get greater cost per wear value from your jewellery collection – without having to sacrifice and settle for lower quality. You still get fine craftsmanship without breaking the budget. The luxury version of two for the price of one!
What exactly is convertible jewellery?
Convertible jewellery is essentially an item that can shape-shift via an easy and somewhat temporary modification without the need to dash over to your local jewellery professional: it’s something you can do on your own, in the privacy of your own home, no special skillset or professional tools required, thus giving the illusion there’s more than one piece in play, rather than just a single jewellery item.
Transformable designs can be achieved in myriad ways: attaching or removing an elaborate drop pendant from a simpler surmount creates the style known as a Day/Night earring; four matching bracelets attach to form a long necklace, and vice versa, that same long necklace divides to be worn as a shorter version with a single bracelet. One of the most common examples would be a double-clip brooch that separates into a pair of brooches. For a special event, your simple diamond solitaire ring can take centre stage amidst a removable bejewelled “jacket” that slips over the main stone. Classic diamond studs can also benefit from the same type of embellishment. The possibilities are limitless and a true testament to a designer’s skill.
From necessity to luxury
Convertible jewellery first began trending after the stock market crash in 1929 and the early years of the Great Depression. Clever and creative jewellery houses acknowledged the tough times, but also saw an opportunity that allowed them to market to women with tighter purse strings: versatile, economical and very appealing.
Something born out of practicality soon became something coveted in its own right, inspiring remarkable feats of design that have earned prominent houses a place in history with their technical intricacy. The innovations of luxury brands such as Van Cleef & Arpels, Cartier and Chaumet have made a mark that’s left a lasting impression on the world of jewellery design.
Iconic transformable jewellery
Convertible jewellery pieces are still very much haute couture, as revivals of this trend gain notice on Paris runways, with debuts from De Beers, Anna Hu and Piaget in recent years.
Then there are the absolutely iconic transformable pieces, either original to, or inspired by the Art Deco era, having earned their place in fine jewellery history.
Arguably the most notable piece of transformable jewellery is the famous Zip necklace by Van Cleef & Arpels, an idea inspired by the Duchess of Windsor in the 1930s, and the first zipper crafted from precious metal. The design can be worn as a bracelet or a necklace and took years to perfect.
Transformable jewels from the upcoming auction.
If you think of the high-spirited, high society Roaring Twenties, then fun, fashion and frolic might come to mind. It was the birth of the Art Deco era with its heightened predisposition to notorious and extravagant glamour. Daring designs emerged, most especially in jeweller that continues to be popular today.
Defining Art Deco
The Art Deco era occurred in the midst of a prosperous Post-war economy, Thriving industries, including those dealing in precious jewellery, were actively and enthusiastically supported by the gentry. Times and morés were changing and such strictures, particularly for women, were beginning to relax, leading to a new sense of freedom and the power to express their individuality through their accessories. Those so inclined were able to lavish money, or more likely their husband’s money, on luxuries like fine jewels. Advancements in materials and methods allowed designers to take new risks in design.
The period is mainly considered to span from the 1920s to the 1930s, and was popularized at the hugely important exhibit of designers and manufacturers invited to show the world their latest and greatest innovations in Paris in 1925. The scope of the new look was vast and influenced not just jewellery but everything from fine art, to household items and architecture: picture the silhouettes of New York’s landmark Chrysler and Empire State buildings. Subsequently, the term Art Deco was coined only in the 1960s to categorize the overall style and the name is credited to Art historian Bevis Hillier who derived it from that highly significant 1925 gathering, the Exposition Internationale des Arts Decoratifs et Industriels Moderne.
How to spot Art Deco
Signature design elements include precisely defined angles, regimented linear qualities and a more industrial feel via pleasingly repetitive and symmetrical patterns. Bold shapes and strong grid-like lines and tiered stepped edges are the calling cards of Art Deco. Look for rectangles, triangles, circles and squares. Mitre-shaped terminals are also indicative of popular motifs, whether singly or as part of convertible double-clip brooches.
Look for round old European-cuts which overlap in time and evolve into the scintillating transitional-cut. The elegant squared, Asscher-cuts are obviously evocative of the era and are still surprisingly modern looking. Commonly, smaller accent diamonds are baguette, bullet-cut and shield-shaped.
Platinum and white gold
White metals were in vogue during the Art Deco era, especially platinum, while white gold was considered a popular substitute and a more affordable alternative with a similar look.
Colour in gemstones
Art Deco pieces often get their bright colours from rubies, emeralds and sapphires, sometimes seen in Tutti-Frutti carved leaves or what’s known as calibré-cut, rows of very small multiple gems that are customized to fit narrow specialty channels and uniformly spaced tightly together rather than individually amid visible claw settings. Jade, black onyx, coral, rock crystal and lapis lazuli effectively create harmonious combinations of striking contrast when paired with diamonds.
Drawn to Art Deco?
Art Deco retains its influence with a unique ability to channel vintage elegance while still evoking a contemporary feel. This universal modern appeal widens its desirability among fashion enthusiasts. If you’re craving a genuine statement piece to reflect your personal style, consider the timeless allure of Art Deco jewellery.
Dupuis Fine Jewellery Auctioneers offers several unique and hard-to-find pieces sure to speak to your inner flapper:
As Canada’s premier jewellery auction house, Dupuis Fine Jewellery Auctioneers takes pride in our collection of one-of-a-kind pieces from the world’s most renowned designers.
This month we’re showcasing a selection of exclusive signature pieces from Vancouver-based custom jeweller, Karl Stittgen, noted for his use of edgy, architecturally-inspired motifs juxtaposed with organic sculptural forms found in nature. Even the company logo and maker’s mark is an attractive, suitably symbolic ginkgo leaf. Most easily recognizable is his bold use of repetition, exuberant cluster-effects and hammered or molten textures contrasted with a high polish, sometimes with just a judiciously modest sprinkling of diamonds or the addition of a coloured gem or a few pearls. The most iconic designs feature fine metalwork as the major starring attraction and the gem accents are frequently the understudy.
Karl Stittgen emigrated from Germany in the early 1950s and established himself as a prominent jeweller and watchmaker in West Vancouver. His creations soon gained global recognition and consequently he opened additional Stittgen stores in Calgary, New York and San Francisco. In his golden years, he trained many Master Goldsmiths who carry on his traditions and techniques today.
Karl Stittgen’s profound impact on both local and international jewellery design was honoured in 2009, when he received the Creative Achievement Award of Distinction at the 5th annual British Columbia Creative Achievement Awards for Applied Art and Design.
Though now essentially retired, his legacy continues: Stittgen Fine Jewellery maintains the founder’s signature contemporary style and dedication to exceptional workmanship, further allowing these distinctive designs to be deservedly appreciated by a new generation of collectors. And, as with any truly exceptional fine jewellery brand, the creations stand the test of time.
Stittgen designs are deceptively simple, yet elegant in their audacity.
Here is a sampling of some of the handcrafted Stittgen pieces that will be up for bidding at Dupuis Fine Jewellery Auctioneers: