Take a look at jewelry that adorns women’s fingers these days. “Everything old is new again.” From Edwardian and Art Deco knock-offs to refurbished 1920’s bridal sets, women are finding comfort in styles that date back over 100 years. It seems women want to capture a bit of the magic that their great-grandmothers had in a simpler time, in a simpler place. A time when we weren’t counting how many soldiers were dying every day or wondering if Tom Ridge was going to turn our terror threat warning level to Mocha or Chartreuse. The purpose of this article is to give you a very broad look at ladies diamond wedding bands that have been popular over the years. What worked; what failed; was re-invented and what remains timeless.
A Short History
In the late 1800’s more and more women were looking for a wedding band that would compliment their engagement ring (no different than now). One of the first on the scene was the “High Prong Five Diamond Wedding Band,” featured in photographs 1A and 1B.
The idea seemed simple enough; if an engagement ring looked good set up in prongs, then the wedding band will look good with smaller versions of the center stone also set up high in prongs. What no one took into account was that smaller diamonds couldn’t have heavy prongs. So while a four or six prong head could hold an engagement diamond fairly well, small little fish hook prongs could be easily damaged allowing the diamonds in the wedding band to fall out!
While jewelers liked replacing small diamonds that fell out of wedding bands, the women were frustrated each time they had to visit the family jeweler to replace another lost stone. Eventually, it dawned on diamond setters that the diamonds on the wedding band didn’t have to be mounted high. In fact, if they mounted them lower and closer to the band and shortened the length of the prongs, the diamonds would be more secure. See photos 2A and 2B.
While the new “Pinch Set” diamond bands were more durable, they weren’t well received by everyone. Quite a few women found the new wedding bands unattractive and didn’t want to sacrifice beauty for durability (a battle we still fight today).
The solution seemed to pop up in the form of an improvement, not a replacement, of the original High Prong Settings–by adding a support bridge (like a trellis) between the prongs for support. See photos 3A and 3B. Neither beauty nor durability was sacrificed.
The world of ladies wedding bands seemed to be pleased but that would all change when the “bead set” bands hit the market; pictured in photo 4A.
The “bead set” (named after the tiny beads of metal that held in the diamonds) Wedding Bands attempted to do something that hadn’t been done before—set the diamonds in the band with high polished beads of white gold or platinum that couldn’t be distinguished from the diamonds. The effect was that it would end up looking like a very petite, feminine, micro-thin row of diamonds. Something so delicate and tasteful did not steal any thunder from the engagement ring but could still look wonderful as a stand-alone. These were a huge hit and came back on the scene when they were featured in US Magazine in 2002. The “bead set” Micro Diamond Wedding Band was, is and will always be an icon of class and sophistication. The only negative review it ever received was that it was too inexpensive (from socialites) since it doesn’t require large diamonds to be beautiful. They, of course, were easily appeased with wider bead set wedding bands, later called “Pave” Wedding Bands. See photo 5.
Through the late 1940’s post-war era, women were happy with the choices available, but that would all change with Rock and Roll and the 1950’s. During the Cold War, women were striving for ways to be more unique; different. While in the past, they didn’t mind having a standard issue wedding band that was identical to their friends’, they now were looking for more individuality. It was during these times that Channel Set Wedding Bands became the rage. From the heavy-duty donut shaped round diamond bands (see photo 6), to the baguette eternity band (see photo 7) that Marilyn Monroe wore when she married Joe DiMaggio in 1954, women wanted to have what other women didn’t. They wanted their own style (still no different today).
The Channel Set Wedding Band proved to be a big hit. They didn’t have any prongs to catch on clothing and made it almost impossible for the diamond to fall out. One down side to the Channel Set Bands was the heavy metal needed on each side to keep the channel from opening up. This would be fixed decades later with the new Micro-Wall Wedding Bands, in which the platinum was poured into a vacuum and compressed to make a very fine “micro” thin wall that was just as durable as the old donut bands. See photo 8.
Today we see bands that run the gamut from Tiffany’s Etoille ring (photo 9), to individual channels (photo 10), to even common prong rings (photo 11).
But, far and away, the #1 biggest seller is the previously mentioned Micro-Wall Diamond Wedding Band (photo 12). They are available with any size diamonds, half way or all the way around. They can be stacked, worn alone, and are practically indestructible. Since princess cut diamonds are used in the channel instead of rounds, there are no gaps for hand lotion, soap or dirt to get trapped, making them much easier to clean. Their only down side is they must be custom made to order and are the priciest of all the bands ranging from 5K to over 100K. But price aside, they are the most comfortable for the wearer and can be worn alone during Pilates, Yoga or running to the grocery store when you don’t want to wear the solitaire. These bands are a favorite for anybody who is active and doesn’t have time to worry about hurting their ring but still wants a touch of class.
(All photographs were taken by acclaimed photographer and artist Ricky Fernandez)