When a client walks into our store and asks where our engagement rings are I tend to hesitate. I know what he or she is asking, but a part of me wants to shout “Everywhere! All the rings can be engagement rings!” because it’s all about intent, right?
For centuries diamonds have been used to signify a marriage proposal. The trend began in 1477 when Archduke Maximillian of Austria commissioned what is believed to be the first diamond engagement ring recorded in history.
The trend, popular among royalty, became a movement. Then developed into a tradition.
Each era has its own interpretation of engagement ring design. The Victorian era mixed diamonds with other gemstones and enamels and often featured floral details. The Edwardian era popularized filigree settings.
Fast forward to the 20th century, 1947 specifically. De Beers, the most well-known diamond company in the world, launched its “A Diamond is Forever” campaign. Ever heard that before? Of course, you have. This marketing drive incited diamond sales, specifically for engagement rings, drawing parallels from a diamond’s durability and everlasting love. How sweet.
It’s mostly true, though. A diamond is forever. Diamonds in the market today formed 90 to 120 miles below the Earth’s surface at least 20 million years ago (and if you want to get into the nitty gritty of diamond formation and conditions, give me a call. Gem nerd here.). That multi-million-possibly-billion-year-old rock that took a hundred-mile journey is also one of the hardest materials on the planet, not to mention the undeniable sparkle appeal. So, yeah, pretty good option for professing your love for another.
But here’s the thing. This planet is filled with 7.4 billion people (I know, lots of large numbers here) and we are all unique. Some of us would rather wear a simple gold band with no stones than a large diamond. Some of use would rather run off to the mountains and elope than have a 300+ guest count wedding. Some of use would rather have a salad for dinner than tacos (you know who you are, and I don’t understand you). Why should we make our choice the same as the next person in the name of “tradition”?
And that is why I’m excited to share some unconventional, alternative engagement ring ideas.
Side note: I am keeping it to jewelry because, well, I’m a jeweler. I’m not including some of the new body-modification trends like engagement ring finger piercings or tattoos, but they are still a valid option!
Rough, Rustic, and Refined
This category of diamonds is all the bohemian rage. You get the benefits of a diamond engagement ring (tradition, durability) but with a totally unique look. The appeal of all these alternative diamonds comes from their natural state and organic shape.
Rough diamonds are exactly how they sound. When diamonds are mined from the belly of the Earth, they are not the faceted, glimmering stunners we see on that ring finger. Most gem-quality diamonds go through a long cutting and finishing process before finding their way to a piece of jewelry. There a several stops along the process where a cutter or designer might decide to divert from the traditional method.
Rough diamonds can take many forms. The most common and preferred shape of a rough diamond is an octahedron, which looks like two pyramids connected at the base. The shape’s geometric structure makes it easy to set in jewelry and offers a dimensional design element.
Polki diamonds are one of the oldest forms of cut diamonds. This cutting style originates from India, long before the Western word began cutting round faceted shapes. These diamonds are cut from the original rough and are most desirable when transparent or translucent to allow light into the stone. They are often set in a bezel style to protect the thin edges.
Rose cut diamonds are a more refined way to capitalize on this trend. Named for the flower which they are said to resemble, rose cuts feature a flat base and a faceted dome-shaped top providing exceptional brilliance. This antique cutting style first appeared in the early 16th and was popular until the 19th century. Today rose cuts are featured in all styles of diamond jewelry in unique shapes and varying sizes.
Give Me Color
The substitution of a colored gemstone for the traditional diamond is not new - just ask Kate Middleton. In 1795 Napoleon Bonaparte proposed to Josephine with a sapphire and diamond ring (which sold for nearly $1 million at auction in 2013). When John F. Kennedy proposed to his future bride, Jackie, he did so with an emerald and diamond ring designed by the famous Van Cleef & Arpels design house.
The colorful trend continues to transform with every new generation of betrothed. While the “big three” – ruby, emerald, and sapphire – are still the most desired gems, many other options are options are on the rise.
Morganite has become wildly popular in the last ten years. It’s warm peach-to-pale-pink color makes it a perfect gemstone for a rose gold setting (which has also been trending in bridal jewelry). Morganite is a variety of the beryl species which also includes emerald and aquamarine. The gemstone’s hardness (resistance to scratching) ranks 7.5-8 on the Moh’s scale, creating a good option for everyday wear.
The chrysoberyl species alexandrite is rare and much sought after. This gemstone is identified by it’s phenomenal color changing characteristic. Often called “emerald by day, ruby by night”, the gem exhibits bluish green color in daylight to purplish red under incandescent light. Alexandrite is very good for daily wear, ranking 8.5 in the Moh’s hardness scale.
The rarity and rising demand of alexandrite has driven the prices high, often more expensive per-carat than diamond. Synthetic (lab-created) alexandrite is an option for clients wanting the unique look of a color-changing gem that is more economical.
Another variety of beryl, aquamarine translates to “water of the sea,” and is sea-green to sky-blue in color. Some clients prefer the light blue hues while other look for the strong, more saturated color. Aquamarine is also known for its exceptional clarity and can pop in any metal color.
Fancy Colored Diamonds
Colored diamonds are kind of in a category of their own, but still divert from the conventional in the same way as colored gemstones. Colored diamonds have become increasingly popular with celebrities, specifically in pale pinks and yellows. Colored diamonds, referred to as fancy-colored diamonds, include the most common yellow, brown, and gray diamonds that fall outside of the normal D-to-Z color range and diamonds that show color other than these like blue and pink.
One way to separate yourself from the masses is to ditch the center stone idea all together. Marilyn Monroe wore a platinum eternity band set with thirty-five baguette-cut diamonds gifted to her from Joe DiMaggio on their wedding day.
Elegant and understated, a single diamond band is a stunning alternative to the traditional engagement ring. And just because you’re opting for more, usually smaller, stones does not mean the ring needs to be wimpy. One of our favorite recent custom rings was this platinum eternity band set with thirteen emerald- cut diamonds weighing 4.06 carat total weight. That’s a ring.
Maybe one band doesn’t cut it for you. Try adding three to five different bands to create a unique look. Stacking rings are a big deal right now and have so much versatility! Mix-and-match stone shapes and metal colors. It’s fun and flexible.
These are just a few of the endless possible options for representing your love and commitment. Some folks don’t even wear rings – and that’s great too. However, if you are looking for a ring that is as extraordinary as your love story, get in touch.