Theweddingreport.com estimates Americans spent $6.1 billion on engagement rings in 2018. But shelling out the big bucks for the best bling can be downright overwhelming. And just like every bride-to-be, every engagement ring comes in a different size, shape and color. To help you embark on one of the biggest purchases of your life, we polled several local jewelers to narrow down the hottest trends in the engagement ring market today.
Get more miles out of vintage style
Think estate jewelry with a modern twist, your grandmother’s diamond ring reincarnated.
Many couples, inspired by romance of the past, choose cushion-cut diamond rings as the symbol of their love. “All of them are very differently cut and unique, so they’re not held to the same precise proportion that rounds are,” said Julie Haack, president of Donald Haack Diamonds.
“People are moving away from the princess cut and more towards other fancy cuts,” said Chuck Smith, owner of Morrison Smith Jewelers. “The cushion is certainly the first iteration away from that.”
“I didn’t want to buy a ring that was super trendy. The cushion-cut ring has the longevity to be fashionable forever,” said Daniel Cottingham, Jr., whose office romance quickly blossomed into the real deal. Cottingham and his beloved, Christina Brown Cottingham, work as Realtors for his father’s company, Cottingham-Chalk.
“It took me forever to convince her to date me.” A fan of yellow roses and the number 12, Cottingham romanced Brown, giving her a fresh-cut yellow rose here, texting her a picture of a yellow rose there. He even made her a rose fashioned from yellow construction paper.
After pursuing Brown over four months’ time and offering her 12 yellow roses in various forms, Cottingham persuaded her to go out with him, unaware of her secret journal entry. “I didn’t really connect the dots for awhile,” said Brown.
After reading an inspiring story from “Chicken Soup for the Soul,” the then 14-year-old Brown wrote in her journal about her husband-to-be, who she dreamed would give her a dozen random yellow roses “even if they were from somebody I would never expect to be with.”
After a year of dating, Cottingham stretched his proposal over six days with 12 more random yellow roses. He presented Brown with a two-carat cushion-cut engagement ring at his parents’ cabin in Lake Wylie.
The couple married this past August 16 at the Basilica of St. Lawrence in Asheville.
Another modern vintage winner is an engagement ring with what some in the industry term a “halo effect,” meaning the center stone is surrounded by a halo of small diamonds. “They took an antique-style ring and made it a little bit more contemporary looking, with a little bit cleaner look,” said Haack. “We sell more of that than just about everything.”
Simple Elegance Lyle Nearby, director of Tiffany amp; Co. at SouthPark Mall, said his top seller remains the six-prong round Tiffany setting. Smith estimates that more than 50% of his customers choose round brilliant stones. For grooms-to-be who want to err on the safe side, a diamond solitaire is a good choice and retains its value over time.
“I find a lot of people putting all their money into the center stone,” said Diana Zepsa of Diamonds Direct SouthPark. Their mountings can range anywhere from $500 to $5,000. “That’s a lot of budget to take away from your diamond,” said Zepsa. “Some people will remount it in a couple years, just to get the diamond they want up front.”
When Richard Marelli decided he wanted to propose to Brandy Foshee, he looked to her mother and best friend for help. While he preferred a simple round solitaire, they suggested a princess-cut diamond. “He was kind of frustrated because I was not specific at all about the type of ring I wanted,” Foshee said. Going for a happy medium, Marelli decided on a radiant-cut stone, which is reminiscent of a princess-cut diamond, but with trimmed corners. Because of the way it is cut, a radiant diamond mirrors a round brilliant diamond’s faceting underneath.
On a cold winter day after ice skating at The Green in uptown Charlotte, Marelli got down on one knee
and presented Foshee with a 1.51-carat radiant-cut diamond engagement ring. “I had no idea it was coming,” said Foshee. “I was in shock.”
Continuing with the simple elegance theme, the couple is planning a destination wedding on April 11 at The Sandals Royal Bohemian Spa Resort in Nassau. “I’m a very stress-free bride,” Foshee laughed.
Past, present and future The three-stone ring isn’t just for anniversaries anymore. In recent years, the three-stone ring is gaining in popularity as an engagement-style ring, said Zepsa. “Some people are making it different by adding more stones along the shank.”
Smith often designs three-stone rings, using a stone from a family heirloom ring and adding two complementary side stones to it. Not only is a three-stone ring symbolic of your endless love, keeping a treasured diamond in the family adds to its personal value.
White is out of sight While all the jewelers we polled occasionally see yellow and pink gold settings, “White metals still persist,” said Smith. White metal enhances the sparkle of diamonds and lends a more modern touch to traditional settings.
While platinum and white gold look virtually the same, “white gold gets a yellowish tint to it as you wear it,” said Zepsa. “And the coating will wear off over time.” Depending on body chemistry and how often it’s worn, a white gold ring will have to be rhodium plated every one to three years to maintain its ultra-white pristine appearance. Usually, rhodium plating can be done while you wait.
Platinum is heavier than white gold and is 90 to 95% pure, which usually translates to a higher price tag. Many jewelers tend to sway customers toward platinum, their bottom line being their guiding force. The price of platinum has come down recently, giving white gold a run for its money; however, it will take a few months to see if that translates to lower prices in the jewelry industry overall, according to Smith.
While it has been marketed as the metal for the millennium, platinum loses its white luster over time. If the inevitable greyish patina is not to your liking, a platinum ring can undergo a 13-step polishing process that takes 24 hours to restore its original finish, said Haack, who prefers white gold.
So which is better — white gold or platinum? Unfortunately, there is no easy answer. Shop around and talk to several jewelers about the pros and cons of each metal. If you have a sensitivity to alloyed metals, like white or yellow gold, or if you choose a pave-style ring, platinum is definitely the way to go.