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1940s Inspired Engagement Rings – What You Need to Know

Couple from 1940s

With vintage designs coming back into vogue, engagement ring designs from the past are being revisited. One period that offers distinctive designs is the 1940s with pieces that are bold, beautiful and stylish even today.

Here’s what you need to know about 1940s engagement rings and how to choose the right ring for you.

Major Events of the 1940s (and how this impacted engagement ring designs)

1940s was a time of great social, political and economic change. It was defined by World War II, advancements in technology and medicine and were a turning point in women participating in the labor-force. After the war, there was an increase in consumerism and a general return of prosperity.

So how did these factors impact the engagement rings of the time?

  1. Platinum, which had been one of the most popular metals for engagement rings during the 1920s and 1930s, was suddenly in limited supply as it was being used for the war effort. This meant that jewelers had to turn to alternatives for white metals. White gold was used but when that too was restricted, palladium became commonly used.  
  2. By the end of the decade, diamonds had become the most popular gemstone for engagement rings thanks to the De Beers ‘A diamond is forever’ marketing campaign which elevated these stones to cult status. Before these campaigns, diamonds had been popular, but weren’t considered the ‘only’ gemstone for engagement rings.
  3. While imitation jewelry production increased during this period, jewelry made of precious metals and gemstones decreased somewhat. However, although wedding bands of the time were quite simple and minimalist, jewelry designs in general were extravagant and dramatic.
  4. Many of the diamonds and gemstones used during this period were recycled from older jewelry as primary sources were difficult to access.
  5. Engagement rings unofficially became a tradition during the 1940s. Before the 1940s, an engagement ring wasn’t an expectation, and in some cases, women didn’t even want them. They preferred more useful things like a new car or a household appliance.

Features of 1940s Engagement Rings

The tumultuous 1940s gave rise to beautiful engagement rings of diverse characteristics. Here are the most distinctive characteristics of 1940s engagement rings.

1- Illusion Settings

Illusion setting 1940w engagement ring

By Our Personal Goldsmith. Check this ring here.

Illusion set engagement ring designs were common during this period, as these made the most of smaller gemstones and diamonds that were easier to come by. In these designs, the metal is carefully patterned to reflect light and the sparkle of the center stone. Some designs feature patterned metal only, with no gemstones. These are very simple but still beautiful and cleverly crafted.

2- Lab-Created Gemstones

Lab created sapphire ring with 1940 setting

By Aurum Jewelers Buffalo. See it here.

As mined gemstones were rare and valuable, lab-created alternatives became popular. This was affordable and looked as good as the real thing, which made it an attractive option. The synthetic gemstone industry was growing with technological advancements making it a viable option for most couples.

3- Unique Designs

unique 1940 engagement ring design

By Abercrombie Gems. See it here.

Although the 1940s are generally thought of as a time of minimalism and restricted materials, there were also grand and unique ring designs that were in vogue. You can see the influences of previous decades such as the geometric styles of the Art Deco era and the floral vibes of the Art Nouveau period, but there’s also trend towards feminine designs and modern motifs.

4- Diamonds

Yellow gold 1940s engagement ring

By Maejean Vintage. See it here.

Diamonds became the most popular gemstone around the 1940s and this trend has continued to the present day. They featured in most engagement ring designs, although the sizes and types varied depending on availability.

Some popular diamond cuts used during this time were the round brilliant, emerald, pear and cushion. Older cuts, like the rose cut and the old mine cut, were also used but modern cuts were becoming more popular.

5- White Metals

1940s inspired diamond ring

By Belmar Jewelers. See it here.

Because the use of platinum was restricted, jewelers turned to white gold and then palladium as alternatives. However, the restrictions on the usage of platinum and gold ended in 1944, and these metals could be used again for jewelry, replacing palladium. White metals had been in vogue since the 1920s and continued to be used in modern ring designs. Many designs of the 1940s feature white metals.

6- Wedding Ring Sets

1940s rings with yellow gold

By Maejean Vintage. See it here.

Starting in the 1940s and continuing into the 50s, bridal sets became a popular option for brides. These typically featured an engagement ring with a diamond and a matching wedding ring, made of precious metals.

Should I a Choose 1940s Engagement Ring?

If you’re someone who loves vintage designs and the nostalgia of yesteryear, a ring from the 1940s might be right up your alley.

However, because the options from that time are quite diverse, picking the right one for you is important. Whether you’re into minimalist or dramatic designs, you’ll find many options from the 1940s.

Also consider whether you want an antique or a vintage-inspired ring. If you’re looking for genuine antiques, take your search to estate or antique sites that have expertise in dealing with these items. Etsy is also an excellent platform to find unique, hard to find pieces.

Vintage 1940s engagement ring in yellow gold

Vintage inspired ring collection. See more here.

If you’re after a vintage-inspired design, most engagement ring retailers offer a vintage collection. You can pick out the style you look or go by era as you prefer.

And lastly, if you’re wondering if a vintage engagement ring will go out of style, note that these designs have lasted the test of time, cycled in and out of fashion and will continue to do so.

Most designs from the 1940s have that unmistakeable vintage look, which is part of its allure. And it’s safe to say, that regardless of fashion trends, this classic, alluring look will always be in style.

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