Cocktail Ring Style Tips for a Glamorous Look

Pearl cocktail ring

Cocktail rings, or dinner rings as they are sometimes called, first came into fashion in the 1940s and '50s and have remained popular since, though they emerge more during flamboyant fashion years and recede slightly during more austere ones. In 2006, they made a major return to the red carpet and many stars wore cocktail rings to the Oscars, Emmys, and Golden Globe Awards.

Looks and Materials

They feature a large cluster of stones, sometimes all of the same size, sometimes a center stone surrounded by smaller ones, in a setting that lifts them significantly above the finger. Usually, but not always, the shank (sides) of the ring is decorated with stones or patterns in the metal.

As the name suggests, they were originally designed and marketed as dressier pieces for cocktail parties or fancy dinners, though they soon migrated to day wear as well. The high settings are designed to give an extra sparkle and brilliance, so they usually feature faceted stones. However, especially since the 1990s, some of them use pearls, particularly black pearls or cabochon (smooth faced) stones along with faceted stones, to add more variety and contrast to the ring's design. In addition, some less traditional designs use beads or dangles.

Cocktail rings come in all possible price ranges, from costume jewelry with artificial stones starting around $10 to silver jewelry with semi-precious stones starting around $25, to thousands or even tens of thousands of dollars for gold or platinum ones with diamonds, rubies, sapphires, or emeralds.


Most of the major jewelry houses have produced cocktail rings over the years. Some of the most noteworthy are:


  • Trifari, which made affordable versions even when cocktail rings were still a novelty and whose early designs are very popular
  • Kenneth Jay Lane, another costume jewelry designer, known for large-scale designs
  • Swarovski's collection includes several versions, so you can even coordinate with other fashionable Swarovski-bedecked items like cell phones

Fine Jewelry

  • Harry Winston, particularly rings with huge center stones
  • Cartier, including their signature panther design
  • Fred Leighton, whose designs often include influences from the 19th century, particularly in the metalwork

Tips for Wearing Cocktail Rings

Cocktail rings are a great way to add sophistication to any look. Ones with a big center stone usually have a more formal look to them, while ones that feature a number of small stones are typically more casual.

  • Unless you're going for obvious excess, you probably want to wear just one cocktail ring at a time. Because they draw so much attention to your hand, they can cancel out the effect of other jewelry, unless it is even more bold and sparkling. Think of Elizabeth Taylor with her huge necklaces and earrings. Those are about the only kind of pieces that can stand their own against a cocktail ring.
  • This doesn't mean that you can't wear other jewelry with a dinner ring, just that the ring will usually be the focal piece. Stud earrings or even moderate dangles, or a pendant on a fairly thin chain can help complete your look, particularly if you're wearing the standard little black dress or something else in matte solids.
  • Some jewelers make cocktail watches to go along with cocktail rings, or you can find a complementary cocktail watch. Because these watches are in the same visual line as your hand, they and the ring complement rather than distract from one another. Bracelets are another option, particularly tennis bracelets that include the same color stones.

Taking Care of Dinner Rings

The specific care for your ring depends mostly on the kind of stone, but because these settings have so many stones, you'll want to make sure that they're all tight in the settings. Particularly if it's an expensive ring, you'll probably want to take it to a jeweler, since tightening prongs is fairly inexpensive and does require a skilled touch. Your ring will be safest if you put it on after you put on all your other clothes, because that way you're less likely to catch it on the fabric and either snag your clothing or misshape a delicate setting.

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Cocktail Ring Style Tips for a Glamorous Look