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The History of the Illusion Ring Setting

Feb. 19 2014
The illusion engagement ring setting is one of the most visually unique types of settings available. Learn more about its history here.

Saturday night is my favourite night of the week.

We always enjoy some nice wine and usually cook together, listen to our old favourite music and chat about all kinds of things, from putting the world to rights to Bridget’s new love interest, and from Lemon Tree’s morning routine to the unidentifiable fruit we got in our Abel and Cole veg box this week.

I just love that relaxed time with L and, even though it is usually me who does the cooking and L draped over the kitchen surface watching, I treasure these times.

Last Saturday it was my delicious fish curry (Rick Stein’s Indian Odyssey did not escape us in this house) and the scene was set for our usual Saturday night quality time. L was nibbling at the carrots I had carefully ‘julienned’, and although she knows this winds me up, she smiled sneakily and carried on.

As we had not had much chat together this week about our engagement ring quest, I decided to regale her with my latest findings.

The Illusion Setting: Flattering to the Stone

We all know that an engagement ring setting is something that should not be overlooked when choosing a ring, but I wondered if L had even considered the illusion setting. This particularly uncommon and quite unique style of setting was, to me, the most flattering to the stone itself. L stopped munching the carrots and was suddenly all ears.

I went on to explain to her that this setting was created with the sole purpose of making any given diamond seem bigger and shinier and, for this reason, the illusion engagement ring setting is extremely popular among couples looking for rings that are sophisticated and unique enough to stand out.

L looked impressed and asked me if I knew any more about this particular engagement ring setting. She should know me better than that. Of course I knew more, and so I began to elaborate.

The Illusion Setting’s History

What most couples opting for this type of engagement ring setting will not know is that its history actually goes back several centuries. This type of setting was widely used in ancient times but then, as with different gemstone fads, it went out of style before being made popular once more in the mid-19th century.

Thanks to the Parisian jeweller named Oscar Massin, the illusion engagement ring setting enjoyed a massive revival.

Born in 1829, Massin is most renowned in the jewellery world for his contributions to the Art Nouveau movement of the late 1890s. The innovations he brought to the engagement ring setting world were also remarkable.

Paris by Rodrigo Galindez , used under a Creative Commons License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/legalcode)

The revival of the illusion ring setting was initiated in Paris

Aside from repurposing the illusion setting and giving it a second life, this French jeweller was also responsible for perfecting techniques such as the tremblant and the pampille, which currently serve as the basis for high-end jewellery from well-known designers such as Cartier and Tiffany’s.

I could see that L was more than impressed. She admitted to never having heard of Massin but told me that she already wanted to know more.

An Own Line of Jewellery

Massin’s work was so groundbreaking and advanced that it awarded him a prize at the Universal Exhibition in Paris. His exquisite diamond-lacework tiara also prompted a job offer from Tiffany’s, which he declined in order to focus on his own, personal line of jewellery.

Despite this refusal, however, his pieces continued to be exhibited regularly at the high-end New York retail store, and rumours suggested that Massin might have even sold one or two pieces to the company.

L wanted to know what happened to the legacy of Massin and why she had not heard of him. I explained that in recent years, Massin has fallen into relative obscurity in the public mind. Jewellery professionals and enthusiasts alike know, however, that the French jeweller was the name behind some of the boldest styles of engagement ring settings on the market today.

His legacy continues with every engagement ring created with an Illusion setting.

L was so excited at the prospect of the illusion engagement ring setting that Sunday was spent visiting one of our designers on a mission to find out more. Oh, and the curry was delicious on Saturday night too, although no leftovers for Lemon Tree.

Designers who love to experiment with settings

Beth GilmourLondon
Andrew LeggettSussex
Andrew EnglishLondon
Mairi BurrowBelfast
Christopher AndersonStamford