Our illustrated guide to different styles & types of rings
Rings are more than a means of decoration, they are also symbols of important life aspects. They can also indicate the social position and status of a person. Rings can reflect the era in which they were made. Eventually, rings can appear as mirrors of our taste and personality. Finger jewelry has many different forms and designs and from this article, you will learn about many of them and understand at the end which type and style of ring fits you the most.
Rings by function
The most recognizable function of a ring is to display espousal and marital commitment. Originally it was worn only by women, nowadays in Western cultures, it’s common for both spouses to wear wedding bands. For Europe and the USA, a traditional wedding band is a plain gold or a diamond-encrusted band, though nowadays a jewelry industry and fashion offer many other designs.
Wedding rings look quite different in different cultures. From the left to the right: traditional Russian wedding bands, Indian marriage rings.
Such a ring is given to and worn by a woman meaning that she is engaged and will marry soon. A solitaire diamond engagement ring with prongs is the most well-known and beloved option in the USA but other countries around the world don’t use diamond rings to signify the engagement at all. Besides, nowadays there are lots of non-conventional engagement rings that couples can choose instead of diamonds.
From the experience of NinaVova, the beloved alternatives to diamond engagement rings (from the left to the right in the photos) are a tourmaline ring, an emerald ring, an alexandrite, or an opal one.
A bridal set features two rings that usually match in color and style: an engagement ring and a wedding band. It’s traditionally worn by the bride.
The idea of the set is that rings are designed to be worn together before and after the marriage. When married, the wedding ring should go first so it is closer to the heart, followed by the engagement ring.
A ring worn to remind a person of a promise — it can be any seriously taken promise, even between friends. Not only wedding vows/ promises counted, but there were also religious vows, and a promise ring represented such a vow. In the Middle Ages, promise rings could be the symbol of a strong love relationship but didn’t promise a marriage like an engagement ring.
Nowadays, a promise ring symbolizing hope for the relationship’s future development can be of any kind and worn on any finger. On the photo: custom-designed promise rings from NinaVova
Mother’s ring or Birthstone ring
Today, rings with birthstones are used both for personalized jewelry and for a reminder of each person in the family.
In the past, it was a ring worn by a mother displaying the birthstone of each of her children and sometimes included her birthstone too. Birthstones are gems that are associated with a birth month of a person.
A fashion ring is just a type of fashion jewelry whose purpose is to add to the unique style of a wearer or to make a fashion statement. People wear fashion rings mostly for styling purposes. The design of such rings is the fastest-changing over the times.
Nowadays, cocktail rings are larger than normal fashion rings and showcase an oversized gem as a centerpiece, plus an eye-catchy motif or colored metal.
Cocktail rings (or sometimes called statement rings) can be considered as a kind of fashion ring that became popular during the roaring 1920s. This period of tremendous change demanded from women a special dress code — decadent and glamorous. According to the jewelry, it meant the bolder the better. So, cocktail rings were made to be noticed.
Religious rings bear any religious image or symbols: they are worn for religious reasons which can vary vastly. Christian rings designed with symbols of Christianity (crosses, angels, fish, ship, etc.) symbolize devotion to God and religion. Ecclesiastical rings were worn by bishops as well as other Christain clerics signifying their status and special duties. In non-Western cultures, people wear such rings (as, for example, an Aqeq ring) as the commemoration of important religious events or highly respected religious figures.
Class/ Graduation/ Professional ring
Students of high school or college in the United States may wear class rings that represent their school and graduation year. Many Canadian-trained engineers wear iron graduation rings. They are presented to engineering graduates in a private ceremony known as the Ritual of the Calling of an Engineer. Modern custom-designed corporate rings feature an organization’s color, recipient’s name, memorable dates, and even corporate logos. All these types of corporate rings are the reminder of the obligations associated with the studying/profession and memorable keepsakes.
Rings by historical style
In the left photo: genuine antique ring from the 18th century, Metropolitan Museum. In the right photo: a modern “antique style” ring
If we speak about antique jewelry, we mean that a piece has to be made at least 100 years ago. Actually, any jewelry made around 1920 or before is technically antique. According to this, we can roughly estimate that Georgian, Victorian, Edwardian, and Art Nouveau jewelry is antique. Nonetheless, antique has not to be confused with “antique style” which can be just an imitation of an old jewelry piece. Down we will talk more about different ring styles and it’s important to distinguish between genuine antique and antique style rings.
Vintage rings unlike antique were made between 50 and 100 years ago. Maybe also 20 to 30 years old, during the 1990s or earlier. So, your grandmother’s engagement ring from the 1940s would be considered a vintage engagement ring.
The left photos: genuine vintage gold rings from 1911, Rijksmuseum. The right photos: modern variations of rings made by NinaVova
Medieval rings refer us to Medieval times, dating from circa 5th to 15th century AD. Since genuine Medieval rings are unlikely to be available for an average buyer, we mean under them rings that display Medieval style features such as enameling, plating, gilding, soldering, inlay, and casting. All these techniques were used in the Medieval age to add decoration to metal. Nowadays, there are many variations of a Medieval style which can be reflected in a custom-designed ring.
One of Medieval and Renaissance eras’ reminders is a gimmel ring. Gimmal comes from the Latin word, gemellus, meaning twin. Also, Elizabethans called them joint rings: 2-3 bands were used first as betrothal rings when each of the couple wore one part of the ring. A third ring was held by a witness before the marriage ceremony. At the wedding, the rings were reconnected to form one ring. Nowadays, such design is embodied in stackable and puzzle rings about which we will talk down.
A genuine Medieval Claddagh ring dated approx. between 1704 and 1850.
It’s a post-Medieval traditional Irish ring that consists of a pair of hands clutching a crowned heart. This memorable design according to the old legend was created in a small village Claddagh in Galway by an Irish goldsmith. It symbolizes friendship, loyalty, and love. A modern variation of a Claddagh ring is popular because it can be easily worn by both a single or in-a-relationship person.
The word posie derives from the French “poésie” or poem because such rings have short sayings of poems or religious texts engraved from inside or outside of the surface. Such rings became popular from the latter half of the Middle Ages and have remained beloved until now because engraving is one of the beloved techniques of ring customization. It can make a ring completely different from others and very personal to a wearer.
Victorian and Edwardian style rings
Victorian rings were made during the reign of Queen Victoria between 1837-1901. The Edwardian era followed the Victorian era until 1915. The Victorian Era is often divided into parts, each of them features its own characteristics. That’s why genuine Victorian rings may differ greatly from each other in design — with different motifs, gems, metals, and fabrication techniques. However, the most recognizable of them are flowers, hearts, and acrostic messages. Edwardian engagement rings are distinct through their delicate and ultra finely detailed settings, as well as oval shapes. Any of these techniques you can use in your custom-designed Victorian or Edwardian style engagement ring.
In the photos: modern variations of Victorian style rings
Art Deco vs. Art Nouveau rings
Art Deco (also style modern) was a style movement of the 1920s and was very popular in western Europe and the United States during the 1930s. In art jewelry, Art Deco style can be recognized by geometric shapes (triangles, rectangles, octagons, etc.) in comparison to classical oval and round shapes of previous eras and abstract designs.
Don’t mix Art Deco with Art Nouveau style: they were established in different époques with different motives. Art Nouveau was prominent between 1890 and 1914, during the Edwardian era. Art Nouveau rings you will recognize by flowing designs with elaborated floral and curved patterns.
Rings by construction & overall design
Signet rings can easily refer to social status rings as historically they served as symbols of welfare worn by people of influence. Signet ring construction is very recognizable: in the past, they were made from a heavy piece of metal, stone, or even pottery with engraved family crest (crest rings), symbols (emblematic rings), or initial letters (initial rings) on the surface. Some of them were used to imprint a wax seal (seal rings). Today, signet rings are a trendy accessory to create a unique personality statement.
Stackable engagement ring and wedding bands from NinaVova
Stackable or stacking ring design is a jewelry trend where multiple slim matching rings are worn on one finger. If you remember from written above, the earliest stackable rings were the 16th and 17th centuries’ gimmel rings. They provided the inspiration for later gold stackable rings. Nowadays as in the past, stackable rings are popular in bridal jewelry when a woman adds anniversary rings to her engagement ring and wedding band.
A variation of a stackable ring is a puzzle ring that is also made up of multiple bands. But historically, the idea of a puzzlу ring was different from a usual “wearing-many-rings-on-one-finger”. The bands of a puzzle ring were connected in such a way that it was tricky to put it together if it was disassembled before. So, it was a puzzle: if a wearer will remove it, he can not easily reassemble it. Nowadays, however, a puzzle ring can be removed from a finger easily without the bands falling apart. Such a ring can be created from multiple bands forming a perfectly looking unique custom designed engagement ring.
A trinity ring is a kind of a stackable one. But its design does not allow to separate three interlocking rings from each other. This famous variation of a stack ring was born by Cartier in 1924. Cartier’s “Trinity” ring was made up of three intertwined bands of yellow gold, white gold, and rose gold.
The idea of a spinner ring is spinning: so, an outer band of a ring spins on the inner band which encircles the finger. The outer band is usually decorated and eye-catchy while the inner ring is thicker and stable on the finger. Originally, such rings came from ancient Tibetan meditation traditions because it was believed that the spinning of such a ring has a calming effect on the mind. That’s why they are sometimes called worry rings. Modern examples of a spinner ring are motion or kinetic rings. Such rings became popular in the 1960s and 1970s: they have circles (or other shapes) that spin on top of your finger when you move it. It looks like a roulette wheel or carousel — fancy and mesmerizing to look at.
In the photo, it’s a modern example of a spinner ring “waterplay”
Ring by gemstone cuts
Rings can also be distinguished from each other by the cut which their gemstones have. Depending on a stone cut, you can choose a cushion ring or a marquise ring, etc.
Down, we’ll talk about the 10 most common stone cuts or shapes. However, there are many more of them in the gem cutting but hereby, we’ll just give a short overview: to help you visually distinguish between stone cuts without going into small details.
Near all stone cuts resemble simple geometrical shapes:
Each of these cuts has its own advantages to show a certain gemstone in its best light. So, the stone in your ring will have one of the cuts displayed in the image below:
Rings by setting types
Ring settings refer to how gemstones are set, or mounted, into a metal band. Depending on it, we call a ring a solitaire or a halo one, etc.
Here we will talk about the 5 most beloved styles of engagement rings according to their setting.
Otherwise called a prong ring, such a ring demonstrates its center stone with a maximum of sparkle. The gemstone is held in its place with help of little claws (prongs). They may be from 3 to 6 depending on the size and shape of a stone. A solitaire diamond ring remains a popular engagement ring over the decades.
A halo ring, as one made by NinaViva from the above photo, features a big centerpiece stone hugged by a circle, or halo, of smaller accented gemstones. It can come in a range of styles, there are single halo rings, two (or more) halos, or any creative halo designs.
In the photo, it’s a modern example of a spinner ring “waterplay”
Three stone ring
A three-stone ring, as you can guess, consists of three stones one of them is a bright centerpiece and two others are accented side stones. This setting allows a jeweler to put together different gemstones in creative unusual combinations as you can see from the picture above. This beautiful three-stone engagement ring designed by NinaVova has two trillion cut moissanites and a bright green emerald.
In a bezel ring, a center stone is held by a metal rim around. This rim covers partly or completely sides of the gem, so it is the safest setting type. It keeps the gemstone secure but has less visual effect in comparison to a prong setting. We like this setting design to make modern minimalistic rings.
A pavé band looks like a road paved with tiny gemstones, usually transparent and very sparkling. Often, a pavé engagement ring features not only a pavé technique but combines other settings like for example in NinaVova’s engagement ring on the photo.
Rings by fitting
The band of a ring (or in terms of jewelry a shank) is a part of the ring that wraps around the finger. When we speak about thick or thin rings, about comfortable wearing, we mean a style of a ring regarding the shape and design of its band.
A comfort-fit ring means in general a ring that is comfortable to wear because his inside profile is rounded. Depending on whether its interior side is less or more rounded, we speak about light comfort fit or heavy comfort fit rings.
Standard fit ring
This type of fitting is not “uncomfortable”, nonetheless, the interior side is in this case flat and not rounded. This fit has been used in the jewelry industry for centuries and can be just slightly less comfortable to wear when compared to Comfort Fit.
As you see, there are lots of styles and types of rings. To know what looks best on you or your partner, think about what you need from your engagement ring. Do you want your ring to impress or to appear delicate and classic? Do you like vintage or contemporary design? Is your lifestyle active or rather sedentary? Answering these questions, think which style appeals most to you and what will look best on your finger. Any design you like we can embody in our custom-designed engagement rings.