From antique shapes to placeholder bands, here are six of the latest trends in nuptial jewelry.
1. Vintage cut revival
Some may herald emerald-cut diamonds as this year’s most popular style for engagement rings, outranking other favorites like cushions and rounds, but it is interesting to see just how much designers are experimenting with older cuts. They are reviving vintage shapes like the marquise — a cut that dates back to the 18th century and is a favorite of Chicago jeweler Catherine Sarr at Almasika, who takes inspiration from its elliptical silhouette.
“It is a beautiful shape that I can follow naturally to create new settings, such as the east-west design I’m currently experimenting with,” she says.
Designer Anna Sheffield, known for her unconventional designs and materials, recalls that “when I first started designing with marquise, my vendors were excited to see that I could move these stones, which had been outliers for some time.”
The marquise also appears at Phillips House in Miami, Florida, where CEO Derek Frankel points to “a huge spike in demand for antique-inspired cuts such as long cushion brilliants, modified marquises, shields, kites, step-cut pears and ovals” — all of which the jeweler specifically highlights in its bespoke collection.
“There’s a new spark in triangle and marquise [combinations],” says Megan Kothari, founder of New York-based brand Aaryah, who pairs them in her custom designs, while her ready-to-shop collection features ovals, emeralds, and a striking design featuring two triangles set on either side of a baguette-lined band to create a diamond shape.
Meanwhile, the emerald cut — which gained popularity in the Art Deco-influenced 1920s — emphasizes clean, geometric lines that lend it a remarkable modernity. Its sparkling rectangular stepped cut has a vintage spirit without looking dated. As a result, this classic style has remained an enduring favorite with clients at Harry Winston — although the company’s brilliant, cushion and oval cuts are a hit, too.
The emerald cut is consistently in demand at De Beers, Aaryah, New York-based brands Alison Lou and SHW Jewelry, and Los Angeles-based Octavia Elizabeth, where designer and founder Octavia Zamagias has found that clients “really gravitate toward elongated shapes like emerald cuts and ovals. Emerald cuts are our most requested.”
2. Shaking up the setting
Engagement ring settings have become incredibly inventive over the past few years in the hands of designers like Grace Lee, Anna Sheffield, Octavia Elizabeth, Shahla Karimi, and Eva Fehren. Brides need no longer settle for a traditional claw-set solitaire, unless it is a singularly bold diamond cut — like a kite — that benefits from the simplicity of a plain band. Helixes and serpentine bands of metal feature in Lisa Frankel’s designs at Phillips House, as well as in collections by Almasika and Los Angeles-based Anita Ko, enveloping marquise cuts to protect the sharp points while highlighting their elliptical shape. Anita Ko’s coiled diamond rings terminate at one end in a marquise, heart or pear-shaped diamond.
Grace Lee’s Helix collection features a band that twists around a central diamond. “An elongated pear-shaped diamond is most popular in our helix settings, but we can set any shape,” explains the Los Angeles-based Lee, adding that “setting diamonds horizontally on an east-west plane regardless of the diamond style continues to be another popular style for us.”
Having an off-set central diamond that sits proudly to one side of the ring is a highly modern, appealing look as well. It shows up in designs by Aaryah, Anita Ko, and New York-based jeweler Jade Trau.
Another much-admired option is “a chunky, bezel-set design reminiscent of ’70s jewelry,” says Jenny Klatt, cofounder of New York-based brand Jemma Wynne. This style “has a luxe yet relaxed feel that’s synonymous with our design sensibility and has been popular among our recent brides.” East-west settings, toi et moi rings, and unusually shaped diamonds are other trends she shares. Aaryah’s clients, meanwhile, gravitate toward semi-bezels, atypical three-stone rings, and off-set designs.
Bezel settings appear in several collections, including those of Octavia Elizabeth, Grace Lee, and SHW. Alison Lou’s enamel and pavé-diamond designs use them as well.
“Our clients love the play of proportions in settings and choose a more delicate setting paired with a wider band, like in our Badi ring, or a thick bezel on a slightly more delicate band like in our Vilke ring,” says SHW designer Urte Tylaite.
“I personally love a bezel or enclosed engagement ring setting,” comments Zamagias, though she also likes the “unexpected tilt of a pear shape at an angle, as seen in our Aura engagement ring, or an east-to-west orientation [like in] our Ambition design.”
3. Pile on the carats — and color
“There is a massive demand for bigger stones in the USA,” says London-based jeweler Ruth Tomlinson, who clusters different cuts together to make the gems look larger. They sit nestled in granulated, textured settings of recycled gold in her Paragons bridal line. She uses mostly champagne and off-yellow diamonds — which work on a wider range of skin tones — and antique stones, which she says add their own story to the ring.
At Harry Winston, the most popular diamond sizes for engagement rings still range from 1 to 2 carats. Sheffield, for her part, has seen “a lot more love for 1.25 carats, which is interesting. That means we are making some really beautiful classics slightly scaled up.”
Sheffield has been known to use colored diamonds as well: “I’ve seen a renewed love for black diamonds, but we still have a lot of success with grey and champagne stones.” These, she says, appeal to both romantic brides who like “the imperfect beauty of a grey diamond,” and brides with edgier tastes.
At enamel specialist Alison Lou, “size really varies based on client, but between 2 and 4 carats would definitely be the most requested,” reports founder Alison Chemla. At SHW, the preference is emerald-cut diamonds of 1.50 to 2.50 carats for a bezel ring, or 1- to 1.50-carat round brilliants in pronged double-band settings.
Of course, cuts like the oval — which model Hailey Bieber helped popularize — can make the stone look larger than it is, observes Céline Assimon, CEO of De Beers Jewellers and Forevermark. Like the round brilliant cut, she says, “the oval shape possesses a similar ability to reflect light and maximize brilliance. The elongated shape also creates an illusion of greater carat weight and makes the finger appear long and slender, making it very flattering.”
Overall, the enthusiasm for the pure white of D- to F-color diamonds is not waning, but De Beers says some clients are becoming more adventurous and gravitating toward fancy-colored diamonds — possibly thanks to pop star Jennifer Lopez, who now owns pink and green diamond engagement rings. These can serve as center stones, but can just as easily be accents like a yellow or fancy-pink halo setting.
4. Metal migration
White gold is a perennial favorite for diamond engagement rings, but we’ve recently been seeing more platinum because of its durability, and more yellow gold for its warm color. Harry Winston, for example, only uses platinum, except in a couple of collections that feature rose and yellow gold.
“Platinum is stronger and more durable than gold, so it’s particularly good for engagement and wedding rings, as you are likely to wear these every day,” says Assimon. “But we are seeing more clients looking for yellow gold, and lately rose gold — a color very much on trend, especially in Asia. These tones are very flattering, particularly on warmer skin tones. And if you normally wear yellow gold jewelry, you may want your engagement ring to be in the same metal.”
Phillips House also concentrates on platinum for its colorless (D to F) stones, but some one-of-a-kind rings use two-tone 18-karat gold and platinum settings. Almasika, SHW, Octavia Elizabeth, and New York-based Ashley Zhang prefer yellow gold, as they believe it looks more modern than white gold.
“With our signature finish — a light hammer and high shine — it just gets better with time,” says Zamagias.
5. Promise rings
Increasingly, couples are embarking on buying a ring together — and in some cases, they’ll start with a proposal ring, or “promise ring,” that acts as a placeholder until they can make the final choice. These often consist of a plain, flat, yellow-gold band with one or more small diamonds or less pricey gemstones, or a slender ring with a bezel-set gem.
The promise ring has the look of an engagement ring and continues to be wearable even after the real thing supplants it. SHW’s Les and Erdo rings can also serve as wedding bands, as can Grace Lee’s Diamond Whisper ring, which contains a 1-millimeter diamond. Tiffany & Co. has gone a step further with its Couples’ ring collection, including a platinum Tiffany True design that can double as a promise ring.
However, don’t make the mistake of imagining that a bride-to-be would be happy with just this token. Lee recalls one woman who came in to pick up her completed engagement ring. “She told me how much she loves the Diamond Whisper ring, [but] that she honestly wouldn’t have been okay if that was her ultimate engagement ring.”
6. Fun for the whole family
While the engagement ring rightly commands the center of attention on the wedding day, there is other jewelry to consider. A beautiful pair of diamond and pearl earrings or a simple but modern asymmetric pearl necklace from Danish designer Sophie Bille Brahe are perfect accessories for the wedding dress.
Of course, it’s not just the bride who will need jewelry, but her mother, mother-in-law-to-be, and bridesmaids as well. Ashley Zhang’s Glimmer Pearl pendant earrings are an excellent bet. “They are classic and perfect for a bridal party but easy to wear after the wedding festivities are over,” says Zhang, who specializes in antique designs using recycled and traceable materials.
Designer Martha Seely brings a Scandinavian sensibility to her creations. Her elegant, elongated drop earrings with white sapphires go well with a strapless, V-neck or scoop-neck wedding dress, as do her more dazzling StarDust sapphire and tanzanite earrings if the dress isn’t beaded. For the mother of the bride, says Seely, “I adore the Lyra earrings for both looks and versatility.” Interchangeable hoops suspended from huggies “can be worn in so many different ways for all the parties leading up to the wedding, [as well as] after.”
Harry Winston’s Cluster diamond designs are a classic choice for the bridal party, especially its bracelets and brooches; the Lily Cluster barrette and bangle are perfect for the bride herself. Custom variations of Grace Lee’s Diamond Dot collection are popular gifts to give the mothers and bridesmaids for the big day.
Image: De Beers