How To Wear: Statement Rings

Oof, it’s Friday, and yet somehow it just feels like Thursday-and-a-half.

This might be because the dog from the house east of me was serenading the moon into the wee hours, or it could be that the western neighbor’s toddler recently discovered the therapeutic benefits of primal screaming and has dedicated his young life to the perfection of same.

Either way, I need some sparklies to cheer me up, so today’s ring feature comes not a moment too soon.

To conclude our foray into Big Jewelry I’ve picked out ten fun pieces of hand candy, just click on the pictures for linkylinks.

I just love a good cocktail ring –a cocktail ring a large bauble worn to look elegant while one gesticulates, glass in hand, at cocktail parties– and cocktail rings love me.

I mean, it’s pretty much my two favorite things –booze and jewelry– combined in  one delicious art form, with the bonus of being easily converted into a weapon in case someone needs to be corrected of wrong-thinking ideas.

There aren’t very many dos and don’ts about how to wear a ring (other than one ring per hand, not counting a wedding band) so I thought I’d just chat a little bit about costume jewelry in general.

There are essentially two schools of thought when it comes to costume jewelry in general and rings in particular: Those folks who want their gems to look like fine jewelry and those who don’t.

I can understand both sides.

Jewelry is a status symbol and while it’s a mark of status to own some serious mined gems, I think it’s infinitely more chic to wear high-end costume jewelry (I’m not talking Claire’s here) either alone or with your fine pieces that almost mocks fine jewelry because you’re secure enough in yourself (and possibly your vaults) to show you don’t care whether “they” believe it’s “real” or not.

Oh, and may I please express my disdain for the phrase “real jewelry”?

As a collector of vintage and antiquarian jewelry, both costume and fine, the line dividing the two is often blurred.

Take, for example, the Napoleonic Cut Steel Tiara, one of the literal crown jewels of Sweden.

Given to Queen Hortense by her mother, Napoleon’s beloved (and then not-so-beloved) Empress Josephine, there are no gems to be found anywhere on the tiara.

It’s made only of brass and steel but are you going to be the one to tell two hundred and fifty years of Swedish royalty it’s not “real jewelry” because there are no diamonds or precious metal?

Nope, me either.

My people have not  fared well historically against the vikings and I’m not enthusiastic about my chances to buck the trend.

Anyhoodle.

I’ve been fortunate in that my father was a very well-regarded jeweler who specialized in magnificent baubles, my grandmother’s collection of gems would make Liz Taylor sit up and take notice (though probably not now) and I have personally had the (mis)fortune to date many many men with more money than sense.

I’m pretty well-stocked for fine jewelry, so I spend my time on novel designs, particularly figural rings.

Funny story:

Yesterday while I was poking through HSN.com for the bracelet recommendations I saw Jean Dousset actually had a line for their simulated diamond line Absolute.

Once upon a time, I received a honking big canary diamond ring from Jean Dousset –well techincally it was BY Jean Dousset and FROM someone I later discovered had more wives than I find personally ideal, i.e., one– so I clicked through and saw a ring that was shockingly similar to mine.

The mind reeled.

Frankly I would’ve rather had the $90 ring and gotten the difference in cash.

Diamonds may be a girl’s best friend but a woman needs liquidity.

Which brings me to the subject of engagement rings: I kind of think they’re dumb.

Well, I don’t really think they’re dumb, but I’ve seen so many people go into debt to buy the biggest diamond their credit rating will allow and THAT’S dumb. I mean, a big fancy ring is nice but I can’t help but think marrying someone who doesn’t buy stuff they can’t afford is much, much nicer.

Okay enough waxing stentorian about costume jewelry, let’s talk guidelines:

Bracelets with Rings:

Fun if you’re going for Overdone On Purpose, otherwise a risky proposition.

If you want to do Overdone on Purpose, try to consider the bracelet and ring as one look. I’ve often wrapped a rope of pearls halfway up my arm and added an enormous pearl and gold cocktail ring to complete the look.

Brooches as Rings:

Sometimes I inherit brooches that have broken pins not worth repairing and/or are too small to wear in the traditional brooch style or elsewhere on my person, so I’ll glue them on to a ring blank.
Viola, fabulous cocktail ring.

You can do the same thing with broken old earrings.

Look in the mirror, are you Joe Pesci?

If yes, how shocked were you when Marisa Tomei won the Oscar? If no, take off the pinky ring.

Look in the mirror again, are you Anthony Bourdain?

If no, take off the thumb ring. If yes, take off the thumb ring anyway, it looks stupid on you too and you’re too old for that nonsense. If you’re not Lou Reed by now you’re never going to be. Sorry.

Buy Quality.

Finally, remember there is costume jewelry and then there is costume jewelry.

Don’t buy the wrong kind.

You want to look for prong-set stones, attention to detail and everything else you’d want in a piece of fine jewelry. In fact, in most of the pieces I buy today, the process of making the ring is the same, only the materials are different. You’ll also pay accordingly.

I’ve kept all but one of these rings under $100, a nice cocktail ring can easily set you back a few hundred dollars but the difference in quality will be visible.

Remember, style icons from Coco Chanel to Jackie Kennedy wore costume jewelry as part of their signature looks and looked amazing doing it. You can bet they didn’t get their stuff from Claire’s.

Okay lambkins that’s all I’ve got for jewelry for a while, if you have specific questions I didn’t answer, let me know, otherwise, I hope you enjoyed it!

16 Responses to “How To Wear: Statement Rings”

  1. JoaniB September 30, 2011 at 2:42 pm #

    Der Mann may not know it yet, but if he proposes with a super-flashy, diamond-studded, opulescent ring, I will smack him with my handbag. Before or after saying yes is up to my mood at the time.
    I’m not a big jewellery person in the first place, and the idea of wearing something that costs more than a vacation makes my stomach roil.

  2. jen209 September 30, 2011 at 2:44 pm #

    What say you on wearing these types of rings (or ones slightly more toned down than these, but still big and in some cases flashy) in non-cocktail settings? For instance, to add interest to an otherwise fairly plain look at work?

  3. Miss Plumcake September 30, 2011 at 2:49 pm #

    @Jen209: I’m a huge fan and do it all the time. So should you!

  4. jen209 September 30, 2011 at 2:53 pm #

    Good, because I do too, and I probably wasn’t going to stop even if you said it was tacky.

  5. Laura V September 30, 2011 at 5:12 pm #

    This reminds me. I am in love with Noir Jewelry…but no where close to me has any, so I’m reluctant to buy. Anyone have anything by them? What’s the quality like? I’m particularly entranced by the Gotham City ring….

  6. Miss Plumcake September 30, 2011 at 5:45 pm #

    @Laura V: I’m in love with a lot of their stuff too. It looks, and is priced, like it’s really quite decent quality. If I don’t get the little pink elephant ring I might actually die.

  7. KESW September 30, 2011 at 6:49 pm #

    With you on the engagement rings.. Mr W. bought me a little sapphire that’s just enough. Although I must admit I still ogle some of the big shiners the women around me sport. Well, before I wonder just how long it took their husband to pay it off. :)
    Maybe when I am older I will have a big shiny.. “real” or otherwise.

  8. Leah October 1, 2011 at 12:59 am #

    Another vote for the affordable engagement ring! He surprised me with the ring & it’s simple & lovely. He later mentioned buying me a larger one later, I said no thank you. I myself would rather spend that money on something for both of us I actually don’t even wear my modest one, I have a plain band that suits me & doesn’t catch on things… =D I have asked for an anniversary ring, but it is diamond free, just has our date on the ring. Also, now we are more monetarily settled, but I still don’t want a super spendy ring. I have a new truck, that’s MY type of sparkly! =)

    http://www.john-christian.com/Roman_Numeral_Ring_Medium_Two_p/1rnu25.htm

  9. Grace October 1, 2011 at 1:15 am #

    Vis-a-vis “engagement” rings. My father offered to buy my mother a large sapphire engagement ring. She declined, and they spent the money on three months traveling around the world together before they settled down and started having kids. I think they made the right choice. (Plus my sisters and I don’t have to fight over who gets the ring.)

    As for the big ring (for cocktail wear or otherwise), I’m a fan. For consistency in my styling, I tend to only wear sterling silver, but I’ve got an assorment of big rings, some all in silver, others with large stones. I recentlly added a massive amethyst druzy ring that’s about two inches long. It gets lots of attention and comments, and it makes me happy to wear it, even if it’s only with jeans and a tee shirt.

  10. shawna October 1, 2011 at 9:30 am #

    Do you have any recommendations on where to find rings in a size 10? I find that most mainstream stores only carry up through size 9!

  11. The gold digger October 1, 2011 at 12:13 pm #

    My short, stubby fingers are not enhanced by rings, plus I am cursed with a practical streak a mile wide. Hence, I asked not for an engagement ring but an Engagement Trash Can, which is what I got, along with a lovely trip to Paris two years later.

    And our house is almost paid for.

    http://diaryofagolddigger.blogspot.com/2010/03/in-which-i-get-engagement-trash-can.html

  12. TeleriB October 1, 2011 at 12:25 pm #

    When you’re wearing a figural ring like that elephant head, do you wear it so that the elephant is right-side up when *you* look at it, or the other way around?

  13. Laura V October 1, 2011 at 3:22 pm #

    Hmmm…the Noir stuff just looks SO NICE. I might take the plunge! I like to wear cocktail rings on my index or middle finger; anyone else?

    TeleriB, when I wear figural rings, I wear them so that they are right-side-up to me. That way, if I’m holding, oh, a cocktail or wine glass, it’s also right-side-up to the viewer — but I’m not all “HERE SHAKE HANDS WITH MY ELEPHANT” when I meet someone.

  14. Klee October 1, 2011 at 8:19 pm #

    I was never a ring person, tried but they never took. But I just inherited my great-grandmothers honkingly huge aquamarine (bracketed by 3little diamonds on each side). I knew she was awesome, but now I know HOW fully awesome. She bought it for herself when her business suceeded (her husband died some years before, leaving her with 4 young children). The ring fits my middle finger perfectly, loose on my ring finger. I’m debating resizing it or leaving it as is. I kinda like the idea of wearing it on my middle finger. What thinks you?

  15. Tora October 3, 2011 at 11:31 am #

    Dear Plumcake,

    Very helpful, as always, and delightful to look at (as same). Any particular suggestions for those of us with very short fingers? long fingers? thin fingers? fat fingers? Is there any Rule of Thumb (see what I did there?) for proportions? I don’t want my rings to look lost on my hand, but I don’t want to look as if I’m wearing a lightbulb. Or do I? The ever burning question: How much is too much??

    Respectfully,

    Tora

    p.s. – Love the steel cut tiara. Per the site, I think Josephine was Hortense’ niece. Memo to me: start training my 11 year old niece now in Proper Gifts For Your Beloved Aunt.

  16. daisyj October 3, 2011 at 1:53 pm #

    My engagement ring is a very modest ruby that was my grandmother’s. I was planning to have the stones reset, but when I tried it on and found that it fit, it seemed silly to spend a bunch of money to take a perfectly good ring and change it just for the sake of changing it. My main problem with the standard engagement ring deal (I mean, aside from the whole evil-price-fixing-monopoly-don’t-even-get-me-started that is the diamond industry) is that the “two months salary” rule turns it into kind of an unpleasant metric. Like, “I landed a guy who makes this much money.” “Yeah? Well I landed a guy who makes this much money.” And that’s not pretty.