Engagement ring: the ultimate symbol of love...
One of the most recognized symbols of eternal love is the engagement ring. A promise to adore and cherish a loved one for the rest of your life, the engagement ring comes in many forms.❤️
The average American spends $5,500 on an engagement ring. That’s a huge investment, so it’s important you find the right ring for your needs. Engagement ring settings, metals, and gemstones are just a few of the factors you’ll need to consider when deciding how much to spend.
So how has the engagement ring evolved over time? And what are some popular options for engagement rings? In this article, we’ll discuss:
- The history and evolution of engagement rings
- 20 stunning gemstone engagement ring styles
- Clever options for personalizing your engagement ring
- Basic knowledge you need to buy the right engagement ring
The evolution of engagement rings
So where did the engagement ring begin its journey? Let’s take a look at the evolution of engagement rings.
Engagement rings: A history
Ancient Rome to the Renaissance
Around 200 BCE, women wore engagement rings either as a sign of mutual love or, unfortunately, a symbol of ownership in the business contract that was marriage. At this time, craftsmen used iron, bone, ivory, bronze, and flint to generate these engagement rings.
However, by the second century CE, the tradition of the "gold" engagement ring evolved. Evidence shows that women were expected to wear an engagement ring of iron or an equivalent material while performing duties in the home. But, when in public, women donned rings of gold instead.
By the Middle Ages, the actual giving of the ring became symbolic of the engagement itself. Once accepted, the ring signified the unbreakable contract between man and woman.
In 1477, the diamond engagement ring made its first appearance when Archduke Maximilian of Austria gifted one to Mary of Burgundy upon their betrothal.💎 Higher class individuals were inspired by the expensive yet distinctive ring, and giving diamond rings to future brides became a show of wealth and power.
The Enlightenment to the 1900s
During the early 16th century, engagement ring styles started to change. Two popular historic examples of unique designs are the gimmel ring and the posie ring. The concept of the engagement ring entered American culture in 1840, but the bands were still widely unpopular until the early 1900s.
In the Edwardian period, popular fashion dictated engagement rings must include a large diamond with as many small diamonds around it as possible. The designs were delicate yet detailed, and most diamonds were crafted with a European cut.
The colorful cocktail-style rings of the 1920s gave way to the simple, meaningful engagement rings of the 1930s. During the depression, interest in engagement rings declined, and the price of diamonds collapsed. In 1938, DeBeers launched their "A diamond is forever" campaign and revolutionized diamond buying in the U.S.
Current trends in engagement jewelry
Today, buyers are moving away from traditional diamond rings to create new and exciting styles. Colored gemstones, unorthodox band materials, and many other trends are becoming mainstream, and the diamond is taking a backseat to these styles.
20 stunning engagement ring styles
Engagement rings reveal parts of your personality with the people around you, and it’s important to choose one that suits your style. Without further ado, let’s look at 20 dazzling engagement rings:
Diamond Engagement Rings
Strong and decadent, diamonds are still the quintessential engagement stone. Diamonds are made of carbon that is organized in a very orderly structure. As a result, diamonds are incredibly durable, measuring at a 10 on the Mohs scale. In fact, they’re the hardest gemstone available!
Colored diamonds come in a rainbow of hues, and white diamonds are varying shades of yellow and brown. However, white diamonds are the most popular option for engagement jewelry, as their white glow conveys the purity and beauty of one’s intention to marry.👰🏻
White diamonds are graded by the GIA using the 4Cs: cut, color, clarity, and carat weight. Of these criteria, cut, color, and clarity matter the most. The cut of a diamond determines its fire, scintillation, and brilliance, and diamond cuts are graded on a scale of Excellent to Poor.✨
A white diamond’s color is graded on a scale of D to Z, with D being a colorless diamond. For clarity, diamonds range from Flawless (FL) to Included (I1, I2, and I3). These grades measure how many blemishes and inclusions a diamond has, which can greatly affect the stone’s sparkle and appeal.
Diamonds come in all shapes and sizes, and popular shapes include round, cushion, oval, pear, and marquise. Diamond halos are also a sought-after feature for colored gemstone engagement rings.
White diamonds are pricey, and you can expect to pay anywhere between $1,500 and $12,000 for a good quality 1-carat stone. As such, people often seek lab-grown or simulant alternatives to offset the cost.
Although lab-grown diamonds aren’t produced by the earth itself, they are—quite literally—carbon copies of natural diamonds. With the same carbon structure for a fraction of the price, lab-grown diamonds are a perfect alternative to natural stones.
Lab-grown diamonds are produced in labs through complex processes, and the most common procedures are High Pressure, High Temperature (HPHT) and Chemical Vapor Deposition (CVD).
These man-made diamonds are just as white or colorful as natural diamonds, and their sparkle is identical. Additionally, any shape or cut available for natural diamonds can be replicated for lab-grown stones.
Similar to the GIA’s grading structure for natural diamonds, lab-grown diamonds are subject to the 4Cs. However, an IGI report is recommended for lab-grown stones, as it provides more detailed grading criteria.
The best part of lab-grown diamonds is the price: they’re typically 30-50% less expensive than a natural diamond! However, natural diamonds hold some inherent value even after purchase. In contrast, lab-grown diamonds hold much less resale value, so you won’t be able to resell if anything goes wrong!
Diamond Simulant Engagement Rings
Moissanite Engagement Ring
Also known as silicon carbide, moissanite is mostly lab-grown. However, at a 9.25 on the Mohs scale, it’s a strong alternative to diamonds.
A white stone, typical moissanite has about K grade color based on the GIA diamond scale, with hints of green, gray, and yellow. However, some companies have perfected moissanite’s hue to near-colorless levels!
Many people prefer moissanite because of its refractive capabilities. Due to a higher refractive index and dispersion, moissanite creates rainbows of color from the light bouncing through it.
At about half the prices of diamonds, moissanite is an affordable alternative that offers equal durability and shine!
Cubic Zirconia Engagement Ring
Arguably the most affordable diamond alternative, cubic zirconia (CZ) can be purchased for about $20-100 depending on size. This man-made diamond simulant is made of zirconium carbide, and it’s an 8.5 on the Mohs scale.
Because it is lab-created, CZ is considered flawless. Although it’s meant to be colorless, CZ does present flashes of orange under certain lighting.
CZ offers more fire than diamonds, but it requires more care over time and can become cloudy with years of wear. However, if you’re not looking for an investment piece, CZ is a great way to get a sparkling stone for a small fraction of a diamond’s price!
White Sapphire Engagement Ring
A white variant of the beloved blue stone, the white sapphire is just as strong and beautiful as its blue counterpart.
Just like blue sapphires, white stones rate as a 9 on the Mohs scale, so they’re perfectly suited for engagement rings. While white sapphires sometimes have a yellow or gray tint, many of them are color-treated to be pure white.
However, you should make sure the color is consistent throughout the gem. Additionally, white sapphires naturally have more inclusions than diamonds, so inspect the stone carefully to ensure it is eye clean.
At about one-third the price of a diamond of equal quality, white sapphires are an easy way to get the same sparkle for much less!
White Spinel Engagement Ring
White spinel, or magnesium aluminum oxide, was one of the first crystalline diamond simulants. Although they sometimes appear lifeless when compared to a diamond, they are still near colorless and can fool observers from a distance.
Fairly durable, white spinel is an 8 on the Mohs scale. Its somewhat subdued sparkle can be enhanced when surrounded by a halo of small diamonds or another simulant with a higher refractive index and dispersion.
White Topaz Engagement Ring
A very affordable alternative to diamonds, white topaz sparkles incredibly well. It does not have the same rainbow displays as diamonds, but it still provides adequate white sparkle.
White topaz is an 8 on the Mohs scale, but it can sometimes chip over time. As such, use a protected setting, such as a bezel or 6 prong style, to keep this stone safe and sparkling!
Colored Gemstone Engagement Rings
Sapphire Engagement Ring
After Duchess Kate Middleton received the gorgeous blue stone as the center of her engagement ring, sapphires have taken the wedding world by storm!☄️
Sapphire is the September birthstone, and it’s a variety of corundum. While blue is the most common color, "fancy" sapphires can be found in every color except red.
This durable gemstone is a 9 on the Mohs scale, so it’s a perfect stone for engagement jewelry. Carat for carat, sapphires are also significantly cheaper than diamonds, costing just a fraction of the price.
Common shapes jewelers use for sapphires include round, cushion, oval, and emerald. They look exceptional with white gold or platinum, and a halo of diamonds can enhance the color of the sapphire.
For those who love stones with a deeper meaning, sapphires symbolize honesty, loyalty, and nobility.
Moonstone Engagement Ring
Mystical moonstone is ideal for wearers with witchy sensibilities, as it signifies fertility, protection, and love.
Moonstone is a June birthstone, and it was named by the Roman historian Pliny as he thought the stone’s color changed with the phases of the moon.🌕 This color comes from the stone’s adularescence, which is the milky glow caused by the alternating layers of orthoclase and albite scattering light within the moonstone.
While moonstones can come in many colors, there are also cat’s eye versions as well as those with "asterism" or a four-pointed star in their center.
Because moonstones are soft—only rating a 6 on the Mohs scale—they are usually cut into cabochon shapes. However, particularly transparent stones may be faceted as gems for a murky, unique look.
Amethyst Engagement Ring
Richly colored amethyst is an affordable way to bring deep, eye-catching hues to your engagement ring. It’s also a great choice for those born in February, as it is their birthstone!💜
Made of purple quartz, amethyst’s color is the result of irradiation and iron impurities. The stone’s color ranges from deep purple to a light, violet-pink, and it looks just as beautiful in white metals as it does in yellow gold.
A solid 7 on the Mohs scale, amethyst is a gemstone of average strength. However, sticking to stronger gem shapes, such as round, square, oval, and cushion stones, may help avoid chipping, scratches, etc.
Many cultures believed amethyst bestows clear thoughts and a quick wit to wearers.
Emerald Engagement Ring
The birthstone of May, emerald has a bright hue that perfectly matches the greens of spring.
A variety of beryl, emerald is prized for its light to deep green color. The deeper the green, the more valuable the emerald! These stones are commonly treated to improve their clarity and color.
Emeralds range from 7.5 to 8 on the Mohs scale, which means they’re durable enough for an engagement ring. They look great in all settings, but an emerald cut is always a true stunner!
Thought to cure diseases and ward off evil entities, emeralds are a symbol of protection.
Ruby Engagement Ring
One of the most popular gemstones to date and the birthstone of July, rubies are prized for their color and durability.
Ruby, a variety of corundum, gets its color from chromium impurities. They can be deep red or reddish-orange, and they also have fluorescence.
Almost as tough as diamond, ruby is a 9 on the Mohs scale. This means it is the best-suited colored gemstone for wearers with active lifestyles. Although it looks great set in any metal, ruby looks particularly regal in yellow gold.💋 They also make great side stones for anyone who wants a diamond center with colored accents.
Many ancient groups believed rubies provided safety and peace to wearers, and medieval Europeans thought the stones brough health, wealth, wisdom, love, and success to those who wore them.
Opal Engagement Ring
If color is your goal, nothing beats the rainbow glow of the October birthstone: opal.
Opals have a unique "play of color" caused by microscopic silica, which causes the rainbow effect people love. Furthermore, there are several variations of it, such as fire opals, pink opals, and more. However, some opals do not have this kaleidoscopic color, and they are known as "common opals".
Typically, you’ll only find cabochon opals, as they rate at 5.5 to 6 on the Mohs scale. In truth, opals are one of the most delicate gemstones worn in jewelry, and they must be closely cared for in order to remain protected.
A symbol of hope, truth, and purity, opals are a perfect symbol of a newly minted promise between two people in love!
Alexandrite Engagement Ring
A magnificent stone with royal ties, alexandrite was discovered around 1834 and named after Alexander II of Russia. It’s a June birthstone, and naturally occurring specimens are exceptionally rare.
Alexandrite is the ideal stone for wearers who like variety because chromium impurities cause it to change colors! In sunlight, the stone has a blue-green glow, but it burns with a purplish-red tint in incandescent light.
While faceted alexandrite is often more popular for engagement rings, cabochon cuts are excellent for cat’s eye versions of the stone. 🤩Because of its color changing properties, alexandrite looks amazing in any color setting, and they look particularly beautiful when flanked with similar colored stones.
At an 8.5 on the Mohs scale, alexandrite can weather daily wear with ease. However, due to its rarity, it won’t be as affordable as other options on this list!
Morganite Engagement Ring
A perfect gem for those with sunny dispositions, morganite is a recent find. It’s a form of beryl, meaning it’s most closely related to emerald and aquamarines.
The peachy pink color of morganite comes from traces of manganese within the stone. Because morganite doesn’t receive as much marketing as its other beryl counterparts, there are plenty of larger specimens on the market that are affordable alternatives to diamond.
Morganite is a 7.5 to 8 on the Mohs scale, so it’s durable enough for daily wear. However, wearers should find protected settings that safely tuck any pointed ends behind a prong or bezel.
This vibrant stone looks amazing with the pink hues of rose gold. Morganite settings tend to be incredibly luxe, with daring halos and accent stones!
Aquamarine Engagement Ring
Another member of the beryl family, aquamarine’s soothing hue is a great choice for those who want a subtle pop of color. It’s also the March birthstone!
With a blue-green color reminiscent of water, aquamarine was thought to keep sailors safe at sea. This color is a result of ferrous iron within the gem, and it can range from greenish-blue to deep blue. This gem was also thought to bring wearers good health, mental clarity, and strength.
Like its cousin, emerald, aquamarine is a 7.5 to 8 on the Mohs scale and can suit any setting. The tranquil tones of this stone look best in white metal, and it truly sparkles as a solitaire or with small accent stones.
Turquoise Engagement Ring
A staple of Native American tribes for centuries, turquoise is often what people first think of when imagining jewelry with southwestern influences. Turquoise is a birthstone of December, and it was thought to protect the wearer from harm and the bad intentions of others.
Similar to a robin’s egg, turquoise’s color ranges from light blue to greenish-blue. Some turquoise even contains veins of host rock called "matrix".
If you choose turquoise for your engagement ring, handle it with care! It’s very sensitive to sunlight and chemicals, such as those found in perfume, hair care, and cleaning products.
Turquoise is only a 6 on the Mohs scale, and its opaque color means you’ll typically find cabochon cuts of this stone. Protect your turquoise with a bezel or large prongs to make sure it lasts forever!
Garnet Engagement Ring
A gem that suits any wearer, garnet comes in many colors. This January birthstone is also not just one stone, but rather a collection of different species of gem!
Garnet can be found in red, blue, green, or even colorless varieties. However, the most common garnet color is a deep red similar to pomegranate seeds. Ancient royals prized this gem for its rich hue, and so it's often associated with nobility.
At 6.5 to 7 on the Mohs scale, garnet is somewhat durable and looks amazing in any engagement ring setting. Some garnets even change color under different lighting, offering a unique look for every occasion!
Citrine Engagement Ring
A sunny stone originally thought to have healing properties, citrine is at the forefront of the "earthly tones" gemstone trend. This November birthstone is a variety of quartz that’s sure to brighten any setting!
Ranging from yellow to reddish-orange, citrine seems to burn with color in certain settings. Most deeply colored citrine is not mined, but rather experts treat quartz with heat to produce a golden tone.
As a 7 on the Mohs scale, citrine can handle most ring settings. This citrus-hued gem looks best in yellow gold, but the deeper, redder stones also look great with white metal.
Because quartz is easy to work with, gem cutters can facet this gemstone in interesting ways. As such, you may even be able to purchase a custom faceted stone for less than a diamond!
Creative Engagement Rings
Wood Engagement Rings
Wooden engagement rings are a simple yet beautiful way to reduce waste and include natural themes in your jewelry.🌱 Although wood is a common option for men’s wedding bands, it’s becoming increasingly popular as a material for women’s wedding jewelry.
Wood is a sturdy, versatile material, and it comes in several colors that offer its own unique characteristics. Oak, sandalwood, cherry, and walnut are popular options used to make wooden rings.
While a simple wooden band is always beautiful, you can even dress this style up with a diamond or other gemstone for those who prefer a bit of sparkle!
Silicone Engagement Rings
Typically used for wedding bands, silicone is becoming increasingly common in engagement rings. The perfect choice for anyone with an active lifestyle, silicone engagement rings are stylish without being restrictive.
Silicone is the ideal material for anyone who enjoys working out and outdoor activities. Because the material is flexible, it can break if snagged or caught and help you avoid ring avulsion.
Additionally, the endless colors of silicone means custom designs are easy and affordable. There are even silicone rings with patterns, multiple colors, and more!
How can you make your engagement ring unique?
You’ve chosen a beautiful engagement ring, and now you’re looking for other ways to customize your piece. There are several ways you can personalize engagement rings, and here are a few of the most popular options:
Most people opt for white or yellow metals, such as platinum and white or yellow gold. While these metals offer protection and sparkle, there are many other choices that can make your gemstone pop.
Rose gold is extremely en vogue, and it’s a great metal choice for morganite, pink diamonds, or even white diamonds. Mixed metal options are also an excellent way to set your engagement ring apart. Opt for a mixed metal band for your engagement ring, or combine a white ring with a gold wedding band—or vice versa—for a touch of variety.
Even though the design elements you choose for an engagement ring can be symbolic, sometimes you just have to convey your affection in words. Engraving is an easy, affordable way to elevate the deeper meaning of your engagement ring!
The options for engraving are often limitless, and you can mix and match ideas to create a one-of-a-kind piece. Many people like to engrave initials or significant dates inside the bands of engagement rings. Some jewelers even offer the option to engrave images or symbols for added meaning.
Or, if you want something truly unique, have a skilled jeweler engrave a message that is meaningful to you and your fianceé within the band. It can be a short message, such as “I love you”, a line from a poem or song, or even something you create!
Another simple way to dress up your engagement ring without paying more is through intricate metalwork. Milgrain and filigree have been used in jewelry for centuries, but the beauty and craftsmanship of both processes is still popular today.
Milgrain consists of tiny beading on a ring band, and it can be used in several ways to stylize an engagement ring. Filigree is delicate metal that is bent, shaped, and added to a ring. Jewelers often use themes when adding filigree to a piece, such as floral, greenery, and intricate swirls and patterns.
Combine elements and settings for something completely new
Finally, if you like more than one of these design ideas, mix it up! Mix and match elements to create an engagement ring that’s truly one of a kind. Whether you add yellow gold milgrain to a white gold band or pavé diamonds to a solitaire prong setting, play around with different design elements to create the perfect ring for your needs.🦑
Another popular way to create an engagement ring with individuality is through custom designs. By working with a trusted retailer who provides custom CAD design services, you can create your dream ring from scratch. Here are some popular retailers who offer custom ring services:
Before buying: Basic knowledge for gemstone rings
There are several factors that impact how a gemstone will perform and withstand wear in your engagement ring. The more informed you are about how different factors play into your gemstone’s lifespan and sparkle, the happier you will be in the long run. Pay close attention to these characteristics and grading criteria to gauge which gemstone is right for you.
Created in the 1940s, the 4Cs are now the premiere grading criteria for diamonds. In many cases, some of these criteria—such as cut and carat—can be used to evaluate colored gemstones as well. We’ll briefly explain each C below, but check out our article on the 4Cs of diamonds for further information.
While many people think carat measures the size of a diamond, carat actually relates to a diamond’s overall weight. A carat is 200 milligrams, and gemologists measure carat weight in whole or partial carats, such as 1.00, 2.53, 4.62, etc.
Carat weight is important because it can help you understand whether your diamond’s proportions are balanced, and it’s also a main factor in pricing.
Gemstone cut refers to how well a gem cutter faceted a stone for superior light refraction, reflection, and dispersion.
Cut is a huge factor in how well a gemstone sparkles and it’s incredibly important for a diamond’s fire, brilliance, and scintillation. Cut also impacts carat weight, as some gem cutters may deceptively cut gemstones to increase their overall weight. Shop wisely to ensure your stone is proportional!
Gemologists utilize the clarity category to inspect the “blemishes” or “inclusions” of a gemstone. Blemishes are imperfections on the outside of the stone, whereas inclusions are flaws within the gem. However, both can impact the efficiency of a gemstone’s sparkle.
A gem’s shape can impact how much or little of these imperfections can be seen, and certain inclusions can even impact a diamond’s color.
Color measures the hue or saturation of a gemstone. For white diamonds, the color grade measures colorlessness on a scale of D to Z.
For colored diamonds and other gemstones, color measures tone, hue, saturation, and color uniformity. Depth of color is usually the identifying factor in gemstone color, and terms used to describe colored diamonds include vivid, fancy vivid, etc.
A gemstone’s shape can completely change the style and durability of an engagement ring. Think about your personal style when considering which shape and type are right for you.
For starters, consider whether you want a cut gem or a cabochon. If you like softer gemstones—such as pearls, opals, and turquoise—the cabochon will better protect these delicate stones. However, most durable gemstones can withstand the faceted shape.
For cut gems, there are plenty of shapes to choose from for your center stone. Round is the most popular gemstone shape, but other desired options include oval, marquise, pear, princess, cushion, and rectangle. The more points a shape has, the more locations where your gemstone may chip, so it’s important to find a shape that can withstand your lifestyle.
If your stone has few inclusions, you can choose pretty much any shape. However, shapes with larger tables will show inclusions more easily. The best shapes for hiding inclusions are round, princess, and narrow shapes like oval, pear, triangle, and marquise.
A ring’s setting is just as important as the center stone itself, and the metal surrounding your gemstone is designed to keep it safe. However, certain settings work better for some gemstones than others.
If you have a cabochon of soft stone, bezel settings are a great way to keep the delicate edges of your stone secure. In contrast, durable diamonds are perfect for daring tension settings. Overall, solitaire settings are also better for active lifestyles when compared to three stone or halo settings.
Finally, some metals make for stronger settings than others. As such, it’s important to figure out whether you need incredibly strong platinum or moderately durable white, rose, or yellow gold. Make sure you read more about the durability of your chosen gemstone so you can properly set it in a design that will keep your gems secure.
Choosing the engagement ring for your fianceé
Engagement rings have a deep history of confirming advantageous matches, both for love and business. Luckily, most matches made today are out of the former, and that makes these symbols of love and affection all the more important nowadays.💝
Whether you choose a diamond, simulant, or colored gemstone, make sure you understand the specifics of your chosen gem and how to buy a quality stone. Read the basic knowledge shared in the previous section and peruse some of our other guides regarding all types of gemstones. For instance, take a look at these articles about simulated and lab-grown diamonds. We also have details regarding colored gemstones for adventurous buyers!
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