What is Milgrain? Vintage Beauty in Modern Jewelry

Ritani yellow gold engagement ring milgrain band

Milgrain – which can also be spelled ‘millgrain’ – is a jewelry design technique you have probably seen before, but may have never noticed. Derived from the French ‘mille-grain’, which translates to “a thousand grains”, milgrain detailing is a close-set row of metal beads that are typically used as a border.

The History of Milgrain

Milgrain wedding band with diamonds

Milgrain engagement rings first reached popularity in the first half of the 20th century. It is a common detail on rings and wedding bands from the Art Deco era. In the world of jewelry today, milgrain is most commonly associated with this period.

Square milgrain pendant

In reality, milgrain jewelry is much, much older than the Art Deco period. Milgrain earrings are known to have been popular in Asia dating back as far as a few thousand years ago. Before time-saving updates like 3D printing, each individual bead was handmade and then hand-soldered to the edge of a piece of jewelry. This painstaking attention to detail was one of the reasons that this style became so popular; presenting an engagement ring with such intricate, time-consuming details was seen as the ultimate romantic gesture.

Milgrain Jewelry Style

Custom milgrain engagement ring

Today, milgrain produces a vintage look that is reminiscent of (naturally) Art Deco jewelry. Perhaps more importantly, it serves as a delicate frame that draws the eye to important elements of a piece of jewelry, such as the center diamond in an engagement ring, or the unique shape of a pendant necklace. It is also used to highlight the intricacies of engraved jewelry, and to make etchings and engraving more prominent and noticeable.

Milgrain embellishment can also come in varying sizes. Some beads are so large that they become their own style elements, some are large enough to be visible but small enough to only serve as an accent, and some are so small that you have to run your fingers over them to know they are there.

Milgrain hoop earrings

In some modern jewelry pieces, milgrain has become more than just an accent. The milgrain hoop earrings pictured above are a perfect example. Multiple lines of the tiny beads create a subtle texture that sets this pair apart from traditional hoops.

If you are searching for an engagement ring, wedding bands, or other jewelry that is infused with antique style, or if you simply love the look of beaded edging, this style is an excellent choice.

Do you like the look of milgrain jewelry? How about milgrain engagement and wedding rings? Sound off and show us your favorite milgrain pieces in the comments below.