How Iconic Jewelry Pieces Got Their Names

Smiling woman wearing tennis bracelets.

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What’s in a name? For jewelry, a simple name can encapsulate the piece’s history, its design or even its position in popular culture. 

Jewelry pieces with unique names include engagement rings, tennis bracelets, signet rings, promise rings, Cuban chains and paperclip chains. We’re sharing the details of the origins of these famous jewelry monikers. 

Unique Ring Names

Six chunky rings with gemstones and diamonds.

As one of the most iconic pieces of jewelry, there are many different names for rings. Some of the most popular styles also have unique names and histories showcasing their importance. Some of the most popular unique rings include engagement rings, promise rings, signet rings and cocktail rings. Each name has its own meaning and history. 

Engagement Ring Name Origin

An engagement ring represents so much more than the wearer’s style, it showcases a lasting promise of love. The name for this jewelry comes from the relationship stage it encompasses.

Rings that are given between a couple to signify their engagement to be married are called engagement rings. They can also be called betrothal rings, but engagement is the most common name for these kinds of rings. 

The name engagement ring stems from a long history of symbolic jewelry that signified commitment between partners over the centuries. In the 9th century, Pope Nicholas I solidified the idea of an engagement ring by declaring that a gold ring could represent an intent to marry. From there, designs eventually evolved into the engagement ring styles we know today. 

Promise Ring Name Origin

Though promise rings don’t necessarily mean a couple is about to get married, they do still have a name that reflects their symbolism of a relationship’s status. These rings represent a promise between two partners, showing their commitment to one another. Their name comes from the promise they represent

Signet Ring Name Origin

Rings in which a flat face serves as the jewelry’s focal point are called signet rings. They’re often highly polished, but some designs can also include gemstones or diamonds

Vintage and antique versions of these rings featured carved gemstones with unique designs that allowed the ring’s stamp or seal to serve as a signature on documents. This is where the signet ring gets its name, as it used to be used in lieu of a signature.

Cocktail Ring Name Origin

Gemstone-focused cocktail rings get their name from their 1920s popularity. These rings were commonly worn in speakeasies during prohibition, garnering the name that associated them with fashionable cocktails of the time. People would wear vibrant rings when they visited speakeasies, and these kinds of rings were soon called cocktail rings. 

Unique Necklace Names

Six necklaces including a herringbone chain, paperclip necklaces and Cuban chains in gold.

There are also many necklace styles with unique names that showcase their history and their design. Necklaces with unique names include Cuban chains, paperclip chains and herringbone necklaces. Some names highlight a necklace’s history while others describe its design. 

Cuban Chain Name Origin

Cuban chain necklace in yellow gold. 

Thick gold necklaces with interlocking links are often called Cuban chains. The exact origin of this necklace style’s name isn’t confirmed, but many people believe it is linked to the increased popularity of Cuban chains in places like Miami during the 1970s. With their higher gold content, these chains have been investment pieces in Miami’s Cuban communities and other spaces worldwide. They have ties to early hip-hop styles as well.

Paperclip Chain Name Origin

One of the most popular styles of chain necklaces, paperclip chains get their name from how they look. The elongated links of these necklaces resemble the shape of a paperclip, which is why this chain design has its special name. 

Herringbone Chain Name Origin

With intricately connected links in a tight pattern, herringbone chains are another necklace style that draws its name from its appearance. The angled chain pattern of herringbone necklaces echos the bone pattern of a herring, giving this jewelry its name. 

Unique Bracelet Names

There are also iconic bracelets with their own names that harken to their shape, style and history. Pieces such as tennis bracelets and bangles have unique names that carry special significance.

Tennis Bracelet Name Origin

Five tennis bracelets in varying carat weights. 

One of the most classic pieces of jewelry, a tennis bracelet has a unique name that’s stuck since it was given to this jewelry. In 1987, tennis player Chris Evert referred to her jewelry in this iconic repeating diamond shape as a tennis bracelet after it had fallen off during her match. She stopped the game to find her jewelry and began calling her diamond bracelet a tennis bracelet. The name for this jewelry stuck, and it’s been called a tennis bracelet ever since. 

Bangle Bracelet Name Origin

Round rigid bracelets known as bangle bracelets date back centuries. Their name is linked to Hindi and Ancient Greek, with names such as “brachile” which translates to “of the arm” to showcase where this jewelry is worn. In Hindi, this jewelry goes by the name “baṅglī” which means rigid bracelet. Over the centuries, these names changed to the word bangle, which is the name used for these bracelets today. 

Questions and Answers About Jewelry with Unique Names

There isn’t one exact way jewelry is named. Instead, jewelry styles have gotten their names over time from translations, history and even pop culture moments. Some pieces are named for their designs, while others have names from famous people or places. 

The signet ring’s name is traced back to this jewelry’s original use. Signet rings used to be used as stamps or seals on documents to serve as a signature. 

Promise rings got their name for their symbolism in a relationship. Because these rings represent a promise between two people, they have a name that represents their symbolism. 

Tennis bracelets owe their name to Chris Evert. In 1987, she paused her tennis match to find her diamond bracelet that had fallen off. She started referring to the jewelry as her tennis bracelet, and the name stuck

Paperclip chains were named for their elongated rectangular links, which resemble paperclips.

The name for bangle bracelets comes from Hindi and Ancient Greek languages, with words that describe this jewelry’s shape and location on the body. 

Cuban chains have a name that’s associated with 1970s hiphop style and often with the Cuban communities of Miami. 

Finding the Perfect Jewelry

No matter the name of your jewelry, it’s all about finding pieces that match your style. Even jewelry pieces with more common names can bring brilliance to your jewelry wardrobe. Ready to find the perfect jewelry for your collection? Visit one of our local jewelry stores or schedule your virtual appointment to browse our selections online. 

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