Rings have been worn since ancient times in many different variations. Those sought by antique jewelry fans range from revivals of old styles updated for contemporary wear to others that are completely unique and innovative. Here are three intriguing styles originating Ireland, Italy and America that have enduring appeal.
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These rings originated in Ireland around 1700. They are named for the village of Claddagh, which is located near Galway. The motif is a variation of the fede, or faith, ring that dates back to ancient times. Within the motif, the hands are symbolic of friendship while the crown expresses loyalty and the heart, of course, signifies love. These were, and still are, worn by both men and women. They may have originated as men’s jewelry, however, because early Claddagh rings are usually larger and heavier than jewelry meant for a lady would have been at the time. Many older examples were made of low grade gold such as 9-karat, common in Irish jewelry, or sterling silver. More modern rings in this style may have a cut gem representing the heart, and they are often more intricate than those made in the 1700s through the 1800s.
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Literally translating to “little gardens,” giardinetti rings consist of beautifully designed flower arrangements made of colorful gemstones. These bouquets are usually held in vases or baskets made of varying metals within the motif. They were first worn by Italians in the late 1600s and were very sought after as adornment all through the 1700s. Later, in the Art Deco era of the 1920s and ‘30s, they experienced a renaissance as brooches or pins.
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The term Tiffany in relation to rings actually references a type of setting designed to hold a single stone known as a solitaire. Four to six prongs hold the gemstone around the top, so that it sits on the band. The main advantage to this type of setting is that it allows light in around the sides as well as the top of the stone, thus intensifying the brilliance. This style originated in 1886, primarily in platinum, when it was introduced by the iconic American jeweler Tiffany & Co. Prior to that time, gems had been deeply set into bands for the most part. While pretty, they didn’t offer the sparkle a Tiffany setting affords. Although the shape of the prongs has slimmed down some since then, most solitaire engagement rings today still employ Tiffany settings whether in yellow gold, white gold, or the traditional platinum.