1890s Wedding Rings?

I'm writing a novel in which a character inherits his great-grandparents' wedding ring(s).

They were married in the New Mexico Territory in 1891. The husband was wealthy and could afford the latest-and-greatest style of ring. My questions are:

(1) Was it normal at that time for only the wife to wear a wedding ring? (I've read accounts of weddings from that period, and that seems to be the usual practice.)

(2) I initially described the woman's ring as a narrow platinum band with engraved designs. But from the research I've done, I think that style didn't become popular until 30 years later. Would it have been available in 1891? If not, what would have been more likely?

- Paula, New Mexico

Hi Paula,

To answer the first part of your question – the accounts you have read from weddings in the 1890s hold true. The tradition of wearing a men’s wedding band did not really begin until World War II.

The second part of your question is somewhat challenging to pin down – as 1890 was a big year, historically speaking, for wedding rings. This time is the start of the Late Victorian Age – and the emergence of the highly artistic era of Art Nouveau. However, since your characters lived in the New Mexico Territory even a wealthy husband who could afford the latest-and-greatest styles would probably not have access to the new Art Nouveau jewelry pieces as early as 1891.

Platinum jewelry pieces were only reserved for royalty – and it was not until the Edwardian period (1901-1910) when platinum rings or wedding bands became available. However, gemstones on the ring may have been set with platinum prongs or settings. Wedding rings which a well-to-do couple in the New Mexico Territory would have access to in 1891 would include rings from the late Mid-Victorian period or the very early Late Victorian Period.

Rings during the early 1890s were most often made out of 18K yellow gold or 18K rose gold bands. The bands were rarely engraved, but in many rings during this time the bands had a very curvaceous sinuous style. Gemstones which would have been used for the rings include: diamonds, opals, crystals, emeralds, pearls and rubies. The gemstones, including diamonds, would feature old world cuts – like the old mine brilliant cut or the rose cut.

Diamonds were often paired in circular designs with rubies or pearls and motifs of the day included snakes (as in the Victorian snake ring), Egyptian designs, flower like explosions of diamonds and gemstones, petal shapes and star-like gemstone patterns. Rings made with these characteristics were readily available in 1890, plus they were produced through the 1890s – so by 1891 your characters would have access to them, and they still would have been the very latest in wedding ring styles.

I hope this information helps – and good luck with your novel!

Suzanne Gardner
Everything Wedding Rings

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