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Ring True

Cocktail rings for statements and causes

By PAMELA DITTMER MCKUEN
    If you can afford just one new ornament this holiday season, pick a cocktail ring. Buy one and make it your signature accessory. Your hand will bedazzle, whether you’re holding a champagne flute or a computer mouse..   ....    ”

    “A cocktail ring is a statement piece for the hand,” says Karen Giberson, president of the Accessories Council in New York. “It’s an eye-catching ring that in some way, perhaps because of the gem or creative metalwork, is an artistic statement.”
    Cocktail rings, sometimes called dinner rings, were popularized during the halcyon days post-World War II. Worn for special occasions, they traditionally bore a large semi-precious center stone circled by small diamonds, set in karat gold. That design remains a top seller, but there are many more choices today.
    In the fine jewelry category, diamonds are a perennial, and colored stones are in demand, reports Jerry Ehrenwald, president and chief executive officer of the International Gemological Institute in New York. Green and blue shades are popular, as are lesser-known gems such as the violet-pink kunzite and verdant Tsavorite (a stone discovered near Tsavo National Park in Kenya). So are colored diamonds, and colored diamonds paired with black and white diamonds.
    “Colored gemstones usually cost less money than diamonds, so a woman can have a beautiful piece of fine jewelry at a reduced cost,” Ehrenwald says.
    Some diamonds and gemstones undergo treatments such as irradiation to produce color—which is okay as long as the seller discloses the treatment, according to Ehrenwald. And the price should be considerably less than a naturally colored stone.
    Cocktail rings don’t have to be expensive to make an impression. Costume jewelry can be wildly fun, beautiful and affordable. Plastic and crystal are perfectly acceptable. Motifs are hot, especially those found in nature, like leaves, snakes and bugs. Variations of Samantha Jones’ flower ring linger. You remember the auction scene from “Sex and the City: The Movie,” where Sam lusts for a diamond flower ring, but is unknowingly outbid by boyfriend Smith, who later gives her the ring.
    A favorite piece from Giberson’s jewelry box is a large flower ring carved from wood. “Many designers are focusing on rings as an important part of their collections instead of being an afterthought,” she says. “It’s exciting to see all the creativity that is going on.”
    That creativity doesn’t have to cost a bundle: American Eagle has a silvery rosette ring for $15.50. Ann Taylor’s striking pave dome ring is $45. Banana Republic places new twists on vintage designs for under $50. A cocktail ring can be a gift from yourself or from someone sweet, but it also can be your gift to the planet. Some designers and purveyors are making philanthropic gestures with their wares. 
    One is Ruff&Cut, ruffandcut.com, a New York-based jeweler advocating socially responsible luxury. The pieces are crafted with conflict-free diamonds and recycled metals, and the company supports initiatives that strengthen mining communities in Africa. The Boulder Cluster Ring by designer Todd Reed is an assemblage of more than 8 carats of faceted and rough diamonds    
       bezel-set in 18kt gold ($42,200).
    Jewelry designer Kimberlin Brown, kimberlinbrownjewelry.com, donates a portion of her sales to the “Too Precious to Wear” campaign by SeaWeb, a nonprofit that campaigns for coral conservation and healthy oceans. The cocktail ring in her Sea Anemone collection resembles the tentacles of an underwater creature, with precious stones channel-set into each tip (priced from $3,800). A jumbo Tahitian pearl or other center stone can be placed among the tentacles for an additional charge.
    “Growing up in Greenwich, Conn., my deep love for the water is my inspiration for the collection, which led me to the coral conservation project,” says Brown, who has a degree in sculpture from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and now operates from New York.
    Another Kimberlin Brown wow is from the Midnight Forest Collection: a blackened sterling silver sunflower ring set with diamonds and sapphires. It’s a cast from an actual small sunflower and oxidized for an antique look ($640).
    “The fashion of the cocktail dress has changed, and the ring has taken on some changes as well,” Brown says.
    Brown explains: The cocktail function of the 1950s and 1960s was a formal affair, and the traditional attire was tailored and uniform. Today, women have multitudinous choices. Vibrant colors and patterns and all silhouettes are apropos. But one thing stays the same: A cocktail ring still says, “Let the party begin!”

Published: December 09, 2009
Issue: Winter 2009 - Annual Philanthropy Guide