The Glitter and the Gold: Wedding & Engagement Rings: 1915-1923

1910 engagement ringA

Platinum and diamond engagement ring, 1910 http://www.bonhams.com/auctions/22642/lot/129

Miss Rosebud: Why is it they put a diamond in the engagement ring and none in the wedding ring?

Old Cynic:  Because all the glitter ends with the marriage.

The Jewelers’ Circular 28 November 1894: p. 27

Buying Wedding Rings.

A shy young man went into a Broadway jeweler’s store, so says a local reporter, and looked at gentlemen’s rings, fingering them and asking questions about them, and yet appearing to take only a forced interest in them. The jeweler’s clerk whispered to a bystander, “By-and-by he will come around to the wedding or engagement rings. That is what he has come after.” Sure enough the young man presently pointed to a tray of flat gold band rings. “What are they for?” he inquired. The clerk said that they were merely fancy rings, worn by ladies and gentlemen, and that some folks bought them for wedding rings. The shy young man tried two or three on his little finger, and, finding one that would not quite go over his knuckle, said, “Give me this one. How much is it?”

“It’s five dollars,” said the clerk, “but if you want a wedding ring I would advise you not to buy it. Every now and then we sell them to people who insist upon having them, but as soon as they find out the fashion they come back and have them melted up and rolled up into this old-fashioned round form. The only wedding ring is the round ring, plain and simple.”

“Gimme a round one, then; same size as this.”

He got one and went away. The clerk laughed, and said he could tell when a young man wanted a wedding or engagement ring every time; though sometimes they ask to be shown clocks, bracelets, or anything rather than what they come for. Very many come right to the point, though they stammer and falter about it quite painfully. Others again ask frankly and boldly to see what they want. “There never has been a change in the fashion of wedding rings,” said the clerk; “the plain round gold ring has always been the only correct thing. Men sometimes choose other kinds, but women never make that mistake.”

“Do women choose their own wedding rings?”

“Oh, very often. Frequently they come in alone, fit a ring to the right finger and leave it for the prospective bridegroom to pay for. Sometimes they pay for it and take it away, and of course the young man reimburses them. Quite often, too, the brides come in with their mothers. Very serious and grave the mothers are, and show neither timidity nor sentiment. They ask for wedding rings, they look them over, buy one, and go away. Irish and German girls often bring their lovers as well as their mothers. There is not a funnier sight in the world than to see a clumsy fellow hanging behind and looking unutterably foolish while his sweetheart and her mother discuss the purchase. They pay no attention to him until they come to the final selection. Then they tell him how much is to be paid, and he pays it and they all go out. Irishmen are apt to be close buyers. They will scarcely ever buy anything without knocking something off the price, but no Irishman ever haggles over a wedding or engagement ring. It does not matter if the wedding ring he chooses comes as high as nine dollars. He pays the price without a murmur.”

“Many foreigners, particularly Germans, exchange wedding rings. The bride pays for the groom’s ring and vice versa. At the altar they exchange rings. They come in together to buy them.”

“What is the fashion in engagement rings?”

“Oh, there is no fashion in them particularly. Any pretty ring set with small stones does for the purpose. Turquoises and pearls are popular just now, and so are pearls by themselves. Diamonds are the rage with people who can afford them, and from that the precious stones range downward in price to amethysts. Engagement rings cost from $15 to $150; wedding rings from $5 to $15. Very many persons have initials, dates or mottoes engraved in their wedding rings. ‘Mizpah,’ or ‘Thine forever ‘ are favorites, but the commonest custom is to have merely the initials and date—’ J. S. to S. J., Nov. 11, 1883,’—cut in the inner surface of the ring. Nothing is engraved in engagement rings. The manner of wearing them has changed, however. They used to be worn on the index finger of the left hand, you know, but the ladies think that a little too much of an advertisement nowadays, and they wear them on the third finger of the right hand. That finger of the left hand is still the one on which wedding rings are worn.”

The Jewelers’ Circular and Horological Review, Volume 15, 1923: p. 48-49

1897 mizpah ring

Gold Mizpah ring, 1897, Birmingham http://www.bonhams.com/auctions/13727/lot/81/

JUNE BRIDES’ WEDDING RINGS COST ALL THE WAY FROM $4 to $400

Bridegrooms Often Wear Them, Too.

How to Tell a Woman’s Character by the Ring She Selects

The wedding ring clerk wears one, not because it is his business or just because he happens to be married, but because it’s all the style.

Every man ought to, any way, the clerk says. It’s just as much his funeral—beg pardon. It’s just as much his wedding as it is hers.

At any rate, the wedding ring clerk is starting to get down to the store early these days and stay late, for what with doing double business on account of recent masculine leanings toward the little golden circlets, and what with the record season for marriages beginning, this overworked creature scarcely gets time to join his friends at the counter where it is their noon-day custom to gather round.

But it hasn’t made a cynic of him. Far from it. Instead the daily stream of wedding ring purchasers furnishes him with some entertaining bits of philosophy.

“You can always tell what kind of a wife a woman is going to make,” is one of the conclusions he has come to as the result of his 12 years of observation, “by the way she selects her wedding ring. If she wants a big and showy one and is proud to death of the new station in life that awaits her, she’s the real womanly woman. Her home is going to be her kingdom with her husband as monarch.

“On the other hand, if she wants a small inconspicuous and, one which she can wear around her neck without it becoming a dead weight, you can be pretty sure she has some notions in back of her head of continuing a career, or of ‘managing’ her husband.  She’ll pull the purse-strings and be the all-around boss.

“Another thing that you notice,” he continued, “when you’ve been in this business for some time, is that the older a man gets the more sentimental he gets and the less he minds showing the whole world how he regards his adored one.

“Only the other day a gray-haired man of about 50 came in with a sweet young thing clinging to his arm. The inscription that he had engraved on the ring was: ‘God knew I was lonely and he sent you to me. I thank Him.’”

“Mizpah,” according to the wedding ring clerk, is the inscription most frequently used. It is taken from the story of Jacob in the Bible and means: “The Lord watch between me and thee.” The initials of the man and woman are also commonly used.

But so often,” said the clerk, “they make the mistake of wanting to say ‘J.S. to M.S.’ The ‘to’ is absolutely wrong for a wedding ring, though it is all right for an engagement ring. The wedding ring should have the initials intertwined or they should be connected with the word ‘and.’ They are both being married and the ring is a sign of union.”

In many cases the queer hieroglyphics, which even the experienced clerk cannot decipher, are used as an inscription, and this usually indicates some cherished secret sentiment.

Wedding rings range in price from $4 to $400. The inexpensive ones are plain gold circlets, made of $18and 22 karat gold. Those in stock are virtually all the very narrow kind. The old-fashioned broad band, which could be seen 10 feet away, has become passé.

A novelty wedding ring which promises to become popular is called the alliance ring. It breaks in the center for the inscription and when it is put together again the cut does not show. In this way it is supposed a secret engraving could be kept more inviolate than most secrets ever are.

Platinum wedding rings range in price from $13.50 to $30. Some of them are carved.

Often the purchasers are amazed at the inexpensiveness of this tie that binds, and even though they want for sweet sentiment’s sake the plain old band, they cannot get it into their heads that a real gold ring can be had for $4.

It is on occasions like these that the clerk brings out the jeweled tray, just to show how much can be spent for a wedding ring.

Platinum bands carved and studded with diamonds cost from $95 to $400, unless the finger is unusually large and then more must be paid for the extra gem added.

The prices for men’s wedding rings, and they are being sold in goodly numbers, is slightly higher than those for women because of the extra metal needed, but the fashion, the plain gold circlet, is the same.

Evening Public Ledger [Philadelphia PA] 26 May 1915: p. 10

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  There was a time when it was not mandated that gentlemen should wear wedding rings. “Benedicts” often wore signet rings on their right hands or omitted the ring altogether. It was a cause for comment  when the bridal couple held a “double-ring” ceremony.  But this changed after the First World War:

Sign of “Bondage” Is Reappearing on Left Hand of Man

They’re coming back! After an era of bare masculine fingers the sturdy fourth appendage of the sturdy left hand is now to be adorned with that long scorned sign of bondage—the wedding ring.

Milwaukee jewelers, questioned on this supposedly dead subject, replied that the last six months showed a long leap upward in the sales of men’s wedding rings.

“And in another six months I’m willing to predict, they’ll all be wearing them,” one jeweler declared.

Use Modern Patterns.

Not the conventional rolled gold band! No, indeed, they’re quite as out of date for men as they are for women. The modern bridegroom is buying the carved variety, engraved to match his bride’s ring in any of the popular patterns of orange blossom, bridal wreath, heart, forget-me-not or rose buds.

One jeweler, who has sold wedding rings to Milwaukee bridegrooms for the better part of a half century, declares that the present rush on wedding rings is a puzzle to him.

“The funny part of it is, you know, that the men want them,” he said. “They seem to want the world to know they’re tied. There was a time when we sold all sorts of special combinations—most frequently a signet ring arrangement, to conceal the wedding band.”

American-Born Responsible.

Asked whether the double ring custom was not peculiar to some nationalities, the reply was that, be such as it may, it is the American-born young man, reared according to American tradition, who are building up the new wedding ring fad.

And it isn’t only young men! The craze for engraved rings has reached even the husbands who have been “in” for ten or twenty years. They bring in their old rings to have them engraved in the newest designs.

Milwaukee[WI] Journal-Sentinel 31 July 1921: p. 18

 

Mrs Daffodil invites you to join her on the curiously named “Face-book,” where you will find a feast of fashion hints, fads and fancies, and historical anecdotes

You may read about a sentimental succubus, a vengeful seamstress’s ghost, Victorian mourning gone horribly wrong, and, of course, Mrs Daffodil’s efficient tidying up after a distasteful decapitation in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s