Sunday, 3 July 2011

Will you marry me - Engagement Ring Design Trends

By: Himja Parekh

Matrimony means new beginnings. A new life, a new family, new commitments, and a new best friend- the engagement ring!

The engagement ring today has traveled a long way and is a far cry from the simple iron band introduced by the Romans in the 4th century. An engagement ring usually conjures the image of a single stone at the centre, usually a sparkling diamond set on a simple band. Did you know the first ever diamond engagement ring (Diamonds were considered to have magical powers requiting love, purity and fidelity) was given by Archduke Maximillian of Austria to Mary of Burgundy in 1477?

Let's take a walk down the memory lane. The first ever engagement ring may have been made from leather, plants, or other degradable material that suggested the union between the couple as well as their land. Romans used iron rings to symbolize a strong and eternal love, whilst the Greeks and Egyptians are credited with wearing the ring on the fourth finger of the left hand, where vein of love (vena amoris) connects to the heart.

in the 9th century, Pope Nicolas I endorsed the idea of engagement rings by making gold ring mandatory to suggest the groom's wealth and capability. Later, in 1215, Pope Innocent III widened the metal options to include silver and iron. The gimmal or bond ring originated during the Elizabethan period. It is a set of three interlocking rings to be worn by the groom to be, his betrothed and a witness, which were united on the wedding day. Gradually metal rings became more ornate with gemstones but diamonds remained too rare and exclusive to be available and affordable to all but the super wealthy and Royalty.
In the 18th century diamonds were discovered in Brazil leading to cluster engagement rings among the wealthy. In the late 19th century diamonds were discovered abundantly in Africa and things were never the same again. Marilyn Monroe and Hollywood immortalized the diamond engagement ring in the song- 'Diamonds are a girl's best friend' and DeBeers with their slogan- 'A diamond is forever' ensured that when you think of an engagement ring, you think of a diamond!
Engagement rings today don't conform to the norms anymore. From dyed-in-the-wool traditionalism to contemporary minimalism, the choices are vast and self expression and individual styles suggest many trends that exist today and will continue tomorrow. Let's examine a few of them.

Glamorous influences- The round brilliant cut remains the most popular shape but Hollywood and the fashion industry have made fancy shapes such as emerald, marquise, princess, heart and Asscher popular. Celebrity fancy-shaped engagement ring wearers include Ellen Pompeo (emerald), Katherine Heigl (pear), Eva Longoria Parker (emerald) and Victoria Beckham (marquise). Antique or vintage or vintage-inspired rings are popular with the glam set and are perfect for romantic and dreamy expressions. Stones that reflect an antique aesthetic include the cushion, round, pillow and Asscher cuts though these classic shapes and their larger facets radiate more fire under less light. Crafted in cool tones of platinum, palladium and white gold these rings go down well with the hopelessly romantic and find takers in Kate Walsh, Christina Aguilera and Jennifer Love Hewitt.
Colored diamonds are very expensive and rare and complement those who like to make a statement. Pink diamonds and red diamonds are the most expensive followed by canary yellow diamonds. A three diamond ring with a center yellow diamond and white diamond side stones has a special look some brides favor. Heidi Klum, Rebecca Romijn and Brooke Mueller sport yellow diamond rings. 

Metal Play

With new metals such as palladium, tungsten, steel and titanium joining the existing palette of white gold, yellow gold, rose gold and platinum, the color play has widened. Texturing is popular with options of personal engraving, filigree, micro pave and mil grain on the shank as well as fancy prongs. Stacked, twisted and swirl Rings in a variety of colored metals, or alternatively different stones in each band provide interesting variations.

Color Play

Coloured diamonds are popular but unaffordable for most. Many brides favor a tourmaline and yellow sapphire to substitute the pink and yellow diamond respectively. The more adventurous ones may opt for stones that may be their birth stone.

Kiss From a Rose

Rose cut diamonds were popular in the 16th to 18th century, influenced by the return of vintage and estate jewelry are now popular once again. Crafted in heirloom styles with intricate metal work, they promise the glamour of yore. The subtle sparkle of the cut is a marked contrast to the contemporary cuts which offer dazzling fire and brilliance.



An evolution of the Tiffany setting, options like delicate bows or fancy shaped stones mounted to highlight the centre stone are popular. This may also include diamonds surrounding the stones on sides to create more fire or give an illusion of a larger centre stone. Tension set diamonds or floating diamonds where the diamond appears magically suspended in the setting work as well. 

image courtesy: Rumour Jewellery

Another contemporary trend is scatter set diamonds. Scatter settings are minimalist contemporary engagement ring designs that feature multiple stones in unconnected arrangements where the stones are literally scattered across the band instead of having one focal point. Scatter set options are flush, bezel, half bezel and invisible. Lastly another practical setting for the working woman like the scatter setting is channel setting where the gemstones or diamonds are arranged in a linear pattern and set into the band of the ring. Engagement channel settings are becoming increasingly popular with gemstones as it prevents chipping or damage.

Three stone rings and eternity bands- These styles refer to popular anniversary rings that have morphed into popular engagement rings. The three stone ring symbolized a couple's past, present and future. Options include side stones with similar or lesser cartage than the centre stone, contrasting shapes such as princess cuts flanking a pear cut etc. as well as gemstones with a diamond centre stone.

Diamonds in channel and bezel settings in white gold travel around the ring signifying a love that has no beginning and no end. Aptly called the eternity ring, this one is perfect for those why don't shy away from forgoing the solitaire.

To the men, if you intend to go down on your knees and ask the question, do some research and keep her personality in mind before you buy your engagement ring. 

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