Sustainable luxury, centuries of craftsmanship

Sam Mee, The Antique Ring Boutique founder

A triumph of modernity

"The Victorian pressure to mourn was left behind as the Art Deco age dawned. Platinum was used generously, lending a more serious – almost industrial – appearance to the jewellery. What I admire about this era is its embrace of symmetry and the harmony of gemstones like onyx, jade and others. Every piece celebrates the triumph of technology.

"Art Deco ring designs exude sleekness with a stark emphasis on structure and shapes. We also saw the advent of eminent jewellery houses such as Cartier. It almost became less about the piece and more about the name behind it.

"The unique blend of contrasting gemstones, inspired by things like the Egyptian pyramids and the discovery of Tutankhamun’s tomb, became iconic. Some of my favourites are the large aquamarines, which are now seeing a resurgence in popularity. When sourcing from this era, I look for pieces that are symbolic of the Art Deco spirit. Be it an unequivocal diamond piece or other jewels, the condition must be impeccable.

"Art Deco rings remain popular as they’re both good-looking and sturdy. A popular customer request is the emblematic emerald target ring. They really have found a special role as modern engagement rings. The quintessential kite-shaped diamond, especially the significant emerald cut diamond, stands out as the signature Art Deco piece that enthusiasts constantly look for."

Art Deco-era rings: how to buy and what to look for

Art Deco style, with its geometric elegance and opulent craftsmanship, is a nod to the 'Roaring Twenties' jazz era. Derived from the French term 'arts décoratifs,' Art Deco symbolises a rich blend of abstract design and striking patterns.

The era’s resulting Art Deco rings, highly sought-after and cherished, epitomise the burgeoning optimism of the period. Most pieces of Art Deco jewellery bring pronounced geometric forms, sparkling gemstones and bold colours. A stylish addition to any collection, buying an Art Deco ring involves an appreciation for this iconic period's influential style.

What is the Art Deco era?

The Art Deco era, spanning the 1920s to 1930s, was an era of optimism and classic style. The term "Art Deco'' comes from the "Exposition des Arts Decoratifs et Industriels Modernes" held in 1925 in Paris. This event was a celebration of the growing taste for decorative arts.

Art Deco’s inception can actually be traced back to 1915, making it the youngest of the antique eras (strictly speaking, vintage rings are 50-100 years old and antique rings 100+, so the 1920s straddle that border). Marking a departure from the nature-infused motifs of its predecessors, Art Deco embraced minimalistic designs of geometric shapes punctuated by bold, colourful gemstones.

It’s impossible to reflect upon this era without mentioning the House of Cartier. Established in Paris in 1847 by Louis Cartier, this esteemed house designed top-class jewellery with a lasting legacy. Amidst the Art Deco surge, Cartier unveiled some of the period's most iconic designs, like the Tank watch and the vibrant 'Tutti Frutti' jewellery line.

What styles were used in Art Deco rings?

Prominent in Art Deco ring designs were strong geometric designs, echoing the era's vibrant modern art - triangles, squares, and circles. Pieces featured central stones surrounded by straight-line shapes and smaller gems. Platinum was an extremely popular metal, used for its stunning looks mixed with malleability and durability, with white gold providing a cheaper alternative during the early 1930s Depression years.

Rule of three Art Deco rings
Art Deco rings following the rule of three 

For jewellers, Art Deco rings weren't just decorative but increasingly personal – often featuring hallmarks and the crafter’s name, much like an artist's signature.

Events like the 1922 discovery of King Tutankhamun's tomb influenced jewellers, with rings showcasing Egyptian symbols and motifs. Above all, the increasing precision of metalwork and jewel cutting allowed makers to arrange stones in unique and startling ways.

The use of the pavé setting was widespread in Art Deco rings. This technique uses smaller gemstones, often diamonds, dotted along the ring’s band. Often, this setting is used to accentuate a main stone while minimising the metal on show underneath.

Art Deco vs Art Nouveau

To appreciate the evolution of Art Deco, it’s best to mention its precursor, Art Nouveau. Though the two periods are often confused, they produced very different styles.

Art Deco design vs Art Nouveau

In the late 19th Century, Art Nouveau saw artists championing nature. The movement's designs, with flowing lines and soft hues, produced ornate and delicate pieces.

The aftermath of World War I ushered in an era of newfound optimism focussing on modernity and future possibilities. In contrast to Art Nouveau's motifs and muted tones, Art Deco dazzled with defined patterns, bold shapes and magnificent colour.

Art Deco’s influence carried into the following Retro era. From the late 1930s and into World War Two, Retro jewellery took the bold shapes of Art Deco and created strong, colourful statement pieces. 

Why is the Art Deco era popular now?

Amid the stylish backdrop of the 'roaring twenties', Art Deco jewellery celebrated post-war optimism. Likewise, it reflected the era's surge in women's independence and greater freedom in fashion, with shorter hemlines and fewer restrictive corsets.

We can see the lasting effects of the Art Deco period in the modern world. From visual arts to architectural marvels like the Empire State Building, the Art Deco style has cast a spell across many different parts of modern life. Today's fascination with Art Deco jewellery, especially rings, reflects its enduring influence.

What cuts were used in Art Deco rings?

Emerging in the 1920s, Art Deco's embrace of modernism extended to ring designs. This era was defined by new gem-cutting techniques, with jewellers crafting some impeccable cuts. Art Deco period jewels often have pristine lines, lots of sparkle and graceful shapes. Among the popular cuts were:

  • Emerald Cut: One of the vintage diamond shapes, the Emerald cut has clean, linear lines and became synonymous with the 1920s. Art Deco diamond rings’ long step-cut facets illuminate the stone's centre, creating a deep sparkling effect.
  • Asscher Cut: Resembling the Emerald but more square-shaped, typically layered with 50 or 58 facets, the Asscher cut brings depth with a high crown. It gives pieces a unique, vintage charm with a similarly captivating shimmer effect. It was the first diamond cut to be patented.
  • Marquise Cut: Curved with pointed ends, Marquise diamonds are named after the Marquise de Pompadour and are said to be modelled on her lips at the request of Louis XV. Often, this cut style gives stones the illusion of being bigger and bolder than others could.
  • Baguette Cut: Often used as side stones, Baguette cut diamonds’ small, rectangular step-cut shapes were used to outline bolder stones. This technique was used to add a dash of Art Deco boldness to many pieces.

While Art Deco used new cuts facilitated by modern machinery, it also embraced the old. Traditional diamond cuts, designed to gleam under candlelight, are sometimes seen in Art Deco pieces, carrying old-world charm into the 20th century.

How were Art Deco rings made?

Art Deco rings of the era showcased bold, geometric motifs. They blended sharp lines to craft intricate designs. Unconventional materials like spinel, onyx, and camo were embraced and used more widely than in preceding eras. Central to these creations was a prominent stone, often a diamond, flanked by a constellation of smaller diamonds or gemstones.

Filigree and milgraining were both intricate techniques used in the Art Deco era. The former involved crafting delicate, lace-like patterns using fine threads of precious metals to add depth and texture. Milgraining brought a detailed touch by decorating the metal edges with smaller stones, highlighting ring borders.

What jewels were common?

Art Deco rings used a mix of diamonds and vividly coloured gemstones. Synthetic stones – non-organic stones made using other chemicals in a laboratory setting – also became popular, with these gemstones being cheaper but often rivalling the brilliance of their natural alternatives.

Engagement rings in the Art Deco era typically used diamonds together with jewels like sapphires, rubies and emeralds. The era also saw a surge in the popularity of other gemstones like aquamarine, pearls, coral and turquoise, celebrating both tradition and innovation in jewellery design.

What metals were common?

Platinum rings reigned supreme in the Art Deco era. It was (and still is) cherished for its strength and malleability that allowed jewellers to create intricate and lasting designs.

While Art Deco was a time of prosperity, it also saw its downturns. As the Depression era tightened in the 1930s, the more economical white and yellow gold emerged as alternatives to platinum for Art Deco jewellery. Rose gold rings, made using a blend of gold with other alloys, can sometimes be found outlining the era’s stunning gemstone combinations.

What was the Art Deco era like?

The Art Deco period was a vibrant time. It is often symbolised by the jazz era, coupled with the sophisticated fashion that influenced its jewellery designs and styles.

Art Deco carved its reputation through the innovative use of simple shapes like triangles
and squares. The ‘rule of three’ – with gemstones set in combinations of three to create dynamic pieces – was prominent during the time.

When combined, these elementary designs morphed into captivating patterns with dynamic forms and deep colours. Art Deco engagement rings, often featuring stunning jewels organised in striking arrangements, encapsulate this iconic style

Frequently Asked Questions

What is an Art Deco-style ring?

Born from the roaring 1920s and classy 1930s, the Art Deco-style ring has its roots in the illustrious "Exposition des Arts Decoratifs et Industriels Modernes" of 1925 in Paris. While the era was most iconic between the 1920s and 1930s, the movement's influence can be seen in rings crafted up until the mid-1930s.

How can you tell if a ring is Art Deco?

An Art Deco ring combines geometric patterns and vivid designs. It is often adorned with vibrant gemstones like diamonds, sapphires, rubies and emeralds. Characterised by triangles, squares, and circles, these rings are a testament to the era's fascination with abstract designs and dazzling gemstones.

When were Art Deco rings popular?

Emerging in the roaring 1920s, the Art Deco era reminds us of jazz, stunning soirees and Gatsby-esque pomp and ceremony. The era's jewellery, known for its bold and captivating designs, remains an enduring symbol of elegance. As such, its popularity remains even today.

What is the difference between Edwardian and Art Deco jewellery?

Edwardian rings bring an air of grace. They feature softer lines and delicate motifs, while Art Deco contrasts starkly, inspired by modernity and the machine age. Art Deco pieces often have bold geometries, sharp angles and brilliant diamond cuts. The symmetry in Art Deco is deliberate and pronounced, unlike the freer forms of the Edwardian epoch — no doubt helped by the superior cutting and metalwork techniques available to Art Deco jewellers.

What Colours are Art Deco?

The Art Deco palette is bold and demands attention. Especially when paired with gleaming platinum or white gold, these gemstone colours evoke opulence. Reds from rubies, blues from sapphires and greens from emeralds were all used to complement the dazzling brilliance of Art Deco diamonds.

What shapes did Art Deco artists use?

The Art Deco aesthetic is epitomised by its frequent use of linear and geometric forms. Its distinct visuals come alive with triangular patterns and iconic zigzag designs. In jewellery, these lines were combined to create bold borders in which their gems could sparkle.

What metals were used for rings in the Art Deco period?

Art Deco jewellers primarily favoured platinum, with advancements in technology allowing it to be finely worked.

Platinum allowed for attractive yet non-tarnishing and robust settings, all of which were appealing for jewellers of the time.

However, white gold also emerged as a cherished choice, while also providing a less costly alternative during the era’s more challenging years.

What are the key features and characteristics of Art Deco rings?

Art Deco rings are synonymous with meticulous craftsmanship. Each ring from this era was crafted to exacting standards, with gemstones of quality and brilliance. Defined shapes and intense colours were combined to create pieces that were unmistakable in their roots.

Antique Art Deco rings remain as resilient today as ever. Each piece tells a story of a century-old era of sophistication and optimism — bringing timeless style to any occasion.