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the history of engagement rings

The history of engagement ring styles

16 NOVEMBER 2020 EDITOR - H. SAMUEL

An engagement ring is more than just a ring that sits on your finger, it’s an important symbol of love and commitment between you and your partner and there’ll be a lot of thought that goes into buying one. We may all dream of the day we get engaged and what we envision our ring to look like, but with so many styles, stones, and colours to think about, it’s not an easy decision!

Engagement rings have changed rapidly throughout the years with certain styles dominating decades, and some making several comebacks. So, as we take you through engagement ring trends through the years, we explore the question, have diamonds always been a girl’s best friend or did other stones shine in the spotlight?

1940 - 1960

Before the 40s, platinum was a popular metal used for engagement rings. But, as platinum sourcing was scarce during World War II, gold became the preferred choice, with yellow gold emerging on the forefront for ring settings and bands.

Through tough times, the most popular engagement rings were more affordable, with synthetic gemstones being a popular choice, or diamonds that had been re-set from older pieces. As money was tight for many during this decade, engagement rings often featured intricate designs such as leaves and flowers to create something big and bold if the stone was small. As we head into the late 40s, diamond engagement rings suddenly became more popular after the De Beers ‘A diamond is forever campaign’ in 1947. This became one of the most recognisable slogans that we still know and love to this day. After this campaign, we saw diamond popularity rocket, with solitaire, cushion cut diamonds being the ultimate preference.

Moving into the 50s, baguette cuts gradually became the go-to shape, with emerald engagement rings also soaring in popularity after John Kennedy proposed to Jacqueline with an emerald engagement ring in 1952. Celebrities had (and still do have) an influence on the popularity of certain engagement ring styles

1960 - 1980

Pear shaped diamonds became increasingly popular in the 60s after the proposal of Frank Sinatra and Mia Farrow, again showing how celebrity engagements influenced people’s decisions when choosing a ring.

During the 60s we also saw the trend of princess cut diamond rings begin, but it wasn’t until the 70s that this trend really took off. This was shortly followed by the craze of cluster-style rings with the main stone surrounded by an array of smaller stones to create a dazzling look. Cluster rings were typical of 1970s fashion, emphasising on the quantity of stones used to create a ring with that extra detail added to it.

Bridal sets also rose in popularity in the 70s. This was the first-time people decided to choose matching wedding sets for both the bride and groom. The groom would propose to his other half with both an engagement and wedding ring and choose one to match for himself too.

As time passed, the size of the ring itself became less important to people, with the uniqueness of it taking over and becoming the ultimate factor. This meant that angular and geometric rings became all the rage.

Jacqueline Kennedy’s second husband proposed with a marquise shaped ring which quickly became a trendsetting piece.

1980 - 2000

When we think of iconic 80s rings, we think of the engagement of Prince Charles and Lady Diana which brought us quite possibly one of the most famous engagement rings of all time. Prince Charles proposed to Lady Diana in 1981 with an oval-shaped sapphire surrounded by 14 solitaire diamonds, and with this came the huge comeback of coloured gemstones.

Although yellow gold was the most common metal in the 80s, white gold and platinum were becoming increasingly popular. 80s engagement rings were all about extravagance, the bigger the better, but in the 90s there was a shift - it was all about styles that were minimal such as a simple round solitaire.

In the 90s we saw even more celebrity influences, with the most prevalent being the engagement between Victoria and David Beckham in 1999. David proposed to Victoria with a marquise diamond ring, which fast became a go-to shape.

2000 - Present

In the 2000s, we saw the trend of diamond halo rings emerge. Simple solitaires had a transformation when pavé bands became stylish in 2005, meaning engagement rings in this decade frequently featured cushion cut diamonds surrounded by a halo of pavé diamonds.

In the ‘00s, the minimalistic approach was still popular, meaning the go-to metals for this decade were white gold and platinum as people opted for cooler tones and premium metal types – this was still the case in the 2010s too.

Just like back in the 70s, there was a rise in bridal sets in the 2010s. There was also another rise in coloured gemstones, mainly influenced by celebrity engagements. Prince William proposed to Kate Middleton with his mother’s sapphire engagement ring in 2010 which played a huge role in this comeback. Celebrities such as J.Lo and Lady Gaga both had pink stones within their engagement rings, and Katy Perry’s featured ruby, so we can see why these were popular choices at the time.

Now you know a little more about the history of engagement ring styles, you can see that we tend to follow patterns and trends, especially with influencing factors such as celebrities. If you’re looking to propose, you might already have some engagement ring ideas floating around, or you might already have your dream ring figured out whether it’s a traditional engagement ring or something more unique. But what we have seen in 2020 and what do we predict for 2021? Find out here and see if our predictions match your thoughts!

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