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There are two types of brides: Those who stick to wedding traditions and those who rebel against them. It’s easy to buy an engagement ring for the former; she wants a classic solitaire diamond in a white gold setting. The latter group is a challenge because there are so many trends in the engagement ring market these days and there’s no way to tell which ones your sweetheart will embrace—or reject. After talking with jewelers, designers, marketers and consumers at the JCK Show in Las Vegas this past June, we’ve rounded up eight of the top ring trends that should be on your radar in 2019.
1) The Buzzword Is “Customizability”
Everywhere we went, we heard the same thing: People want customized rings. They want to stand out in a crowd. When it comes to options, there are custom stones, metals, setting styles, and cuts — plus engraving and filigrees (delicate, intricate, ornamental work). Each of these warrants its own discussion. And each can potentially save you money.
2) Colored Stones Stand Out
While diamonds are still the no-brainer option — more than 80% of women get diamond engagement rings in the US, according to Vogue — a growing niche doesn’t want or expect to get a diamond. So what do the women in this group want? 20 percent want a colored stone, 10 percent like the idea of a diamond look-alike, and 6 percent don’t even need a center stone (from a Brilliant Earth survey cited in Real Simple). The trend is backed up by a JCK survey.
Tip: If she likes a diamond’s looks but not its price tag, consider moissanite or white sapphire. If her preferred color is red, reach for a ruby. Prefers pink or purple? Aim for an amethyst. And if she hungers for peach or salmon, make it morganite. See also our guide to fancy colored diamonds.
3) The Two Most Versatile Ring Settings
Diamonds are only half the equation. Different settings — the structure in which your pricey stone resides — achieve different goals. Below are nine common types of settings:
- Three stone
- Side stones
Of these, the vintage and three-stone setting have been trending in recent years. With the former, consumers can flank the diamond with more diamonds (for maximum sparkle) or add colored stones to make a statement. Symbolically, the trio of gems can represent past, present and future. (Or, alternatively, “my fiancé s rich.”)
Vintage rings continue to sell for a number of reasons: They are likely to be unique; they’re morally “safer” since you’re essentially recycling (and not supporting an eco-damaging or morally suspect source); and they’ve been fashionable ever since Prince William gave to his now-wife, Kate Middleton, a vintage ring when he proposed. Specifically, he ponied up a 12-carat oval sapphire ring that previously belonged to his mother, Princess Diana, and is surrounded by fourteen solitaire diamonds in an 18K white gold setting.
4) The Shape of the Moment Is Pear
Below, we’ve listed 12 classic diamond shapes. According to WP Diamond’s “Sparkle Rundown,” they rank in popularity as follows in the US.
Most Popular Diamond Shapes in the United States
- Round, 56.77 percent
- Princess, 21.06 percent
- Marquise, 5.43 percent
- Cushion, 4.88 percent
- Emerald, 3.11 percent
- Oval, 2.67 percent
- Pear, 2.27 percent
- Radiant, 2.08 percent
- Heart, .82 percent
- Baguette, .80 percent
- Asscher, .08 percent
- Trillion, .02 percent
According to almost everyone at the JCK Show in Las Vegas in June, pear is now the shape of the moment after a decades-long lull. It hasn’t been this popular since the 1990s. Why the shift? An article in “Apartment Therapy” suggests that pear-shaped rings became instantly gouche when Carrie Bradshaw deemed the shape vomit-worthy in a 2001 episode of “Sex & the City.” The ring suffered throughout the aughts until it slowly came back; Cardi B, Paris Hilton and Sophie Turner all sported the shape in recent years. And Pete Davidson gave Ariana Grande a $93,000 pear-shaped ring in 2018 (the romance fizzled, the ring was returned).
So why pear? The shape is asymmetrical, which offers a stark contrast to the more common round shape. It is said to elongate the finger. It works well with stacking. It looks bigger than a round stone and is often less expensive, too. The downside? The tip is fragile.
Tip: Most women wear them pointing toward the fingernail.
5) Stackable Rings Offer Versatility
Instead of getting only one really nice ring, your bride can wear two or more rings that fit together nicely (sometimes made with that purpose in mind, sometimes not). Once upon a time, you didn’t want to mix and match colors, materials and stones. Now, with white gold as a base, more color equals more fun. This has been a trend for years, and it’s not going away — for a few reasons: It works across all budgets and allows for endless browsing and shopping even after you’re engaged and married.
“Stacking appeals to buyers across a wide range of price points and offers consumers an incentive for regular browsing to add mix-and-match pieces to their existing collections,” noted Reed Exhibitions senior vice president Yancy Weinrich in a state-of-the-industry presentation on June 1 at JCK Las Vegas.
One way to add meaning to the stack/layer is to buy two stackable rings: one is the engagement ring while the other is further confirmation of your love/union—perhaps a post-wedding bridal gift or for an anniversary. Do people really do this? Well, it’s hard to find data demonstrating how popular this arrangement really is.
Stacking also makes rings look larger; a 1-carat stone framed with smaller stones on a thin band looks substantial even if there is no whopper of a gem in the mix. Stacked rings can also run across several fingers
Tip: Try to keep the gems from lining up vertically. Wear too many rings at one time, however, and you’ll look like you’re sporting brass knuckles.
6) Go Ahead and Mix Your Metals
With the rise of stacking comes the mixing of metals: gold (white, yellow and rose), platinum, titanium, palladium, silver, bronze, brass, and the catch-all of “recycled metals” (which almost always means a blend of metals). White gold is the most popular engagement ring setting metal (61% of respondents selected it according to a study by The Knot).
“Mixed metals are de rigueur in an everyday stack, and now that trend has made its way to engagement rings, too,” noted designer Ashley Zhang in a Brides article. “When you use a white metal like platinum for the diamond setting, it makes the stone really pop and also accentuates the yellow gold [in other rings] even more,” says Zhang.
7) 3-D Printed Rings Are a Thing
Chances are, when you hear about 3-D printing, you imagine plastic machine parts or controversial printouts — like guns or food. In the upscale market of engagement rings, you can create your own 3-D Frankenstein ring in two ways: 1) work with a jewelry store designer who can walk you through the options and explain the pros and cons of every decision you make, or 2) do it yourself using websites dedicated to custom ring fabrication.
Jill Z. Suddendorf, lead designer at Kim International (known for their Romance lines of rings), notes that jewelry companies — including mom-and-pop shops — started to offer more customization when 3-D printers finally came down in price years ago. She works directly with customers. “Customers might say ‘I like this halo of this ring, the shank of this ring and the profile of this ring,'” she notes.
If you dare to design a ring on your own — with just a dedicated website — you will be able to control the general shape of your ring (width, height, and beveled edges), the embossing/engraving, the materials (metals) and the size. You can read an explanation of how this works at Shapeways.
Tip: Work with a photo of rings you like, possibly from Pinterest or Instagram. Nearly one million followers flock to this StyleMePretty Pinterest account, which has posted more than 4,000 pins. For a focus on classic, indie, boho-chic and vintage styles, check out this WeddinhgChicks Pinterest page. On Instagram, you’ll want to swing by Gem Gossip, The Clear Cut or Trumpet & Horn for inspiration.
8) Conflict-Free, Eco-Friendly Diamonds
You don’t want to support any company that violates environmental standards or human rights, do you? You’re not alone: Many diamond vendors actively market their ethically-sourced engagement rings, whether it’s a local boutique or behemoths like Blue Nile and James Allen.
Lab-grown diamonds are preferred to mined diamonds from an ecological perspective, although some amount of energy (heat and pressure) has to be expended to create these things (science says less than ⅓ of the energy compared to mined diamonds, on average).
One other ethical diamond option: used and vintage diamonds (and rings) can save you 20-40% compared to mined diamonds. Skip Ebay and Etsy, and visit trustworthy sites like Doyle and Doyle, Bell and Bird, Kentshire, Simon Teakle or Beladora instead. Vintage engagement rings, in fact, should appeal to brides of all stripes—traditionalists, rebels, and all those in-the-middle types who want something unique and classic.