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Bridal & Engagement Trends

Articles from DIAMOND JEWELLERY (834 Articles), GOLD JEWELLERY (605 Articles), RINGS - ENGAGEMENT (215 Articles)

Image courtesy of Genelle Bevan at STUDIOMAX Photography
Image courtesy of Genelle Bevan at STUDIOMAX Photography
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With this ring…

Nothing says engagement like a diamond, and the bigger the stone, the happier the bride. TALI BOROWSKI searches for what women want from today's bridal jewellery.

At once an embodiment of love, a status symbol and, according to some, an estimation of a woman's worth, it's no wonder the act of presenting an engagement ring makes a man fall to his knees. Stone sizes are getting bigger, diamond is the frontrunner and platinum is winning over consumers despite its skyrocketing costs. And with the average age of brides around 28, women are entering the wedding game more knowledgeable, and more discerning, than ever before.

While previously the one-carat diamond was the gem of everyone's dreams, today it's considered average.

"Everybody wants bigger," says Simon Kushnir, owner, Simon Prestige Jewellery. "There are more professional people getting engaged later in life, so they've saved more money and want something a bit more substantial."

"The large diamond seems to be the thing," echoes Craig Symons, director, Osjag. "It's become a bit of a status symbol."

Subsequently, the solitaire claw setting has remained on top in Australian engagement ring design, buoyed by the belief that this minimal setting best shows-off the stone.

"You really get to see the diamond," explains Rob Clark, co-owner, Sunstate Group. "It makes the diamond look bigger, especially if you cut it up the right way."

The princess cut is still very popular, yet Clark believes its status is starting to wane in comparison to the round brilliants, with Asscher and cushion cuts not far behind.

And while 18-carat white gold is still the metal of choice, platinum has seen resurgence.

"Platinum's colour doesn't change, unlike the plating on white-gold. People are choosing to spend that extra money and not worry about re-plating their jewellery," explains Robert Saffo, partner, Jacobson's Jewellery.

When it comes to engagement ring design, it seems there's no single influence; rather, it comes down to what suits the individual.

"People are going down their own road," says Tom Szenes, Lora Di Jewellery.

Milled edge, grain set and filigree styles are big requests, and pavé-set or three-clustered diamonds are also popular. But no matter what fashion dictates, bridal consumers are generally led by their heart, not the catwalks.

"There's always an underlying practicality in Australian jewellery, and how it's worn, because we're a fairly casual society," Symons adds.

Yet Kushnir believes the continued interest in big and bold engagement rings proves that Australians aren't as conservative as they're perceived to be: "It used to be that everybody wanted very plain rings, whereas now they've become much more flamboyant. Before, you couldn't give something different away but now, it's much more acceptable."

Coloured stones also appear in engagement rings, but they tend to be worn by second-time-around brides as a point of difference. And while some customers opt for a five or six-carat sapphire over a smaller diamond, Kushnir says, "It's usually a bride in her 40s who doesn't want to have a traditional engagement ring."

"Coloured stones still do well, but at the end of the day, for the wedding market, it's the diamond," Szenes adds. "I think it's what a lot of people grew up with, and diamonds are basically the accepted pattern."

Wedding bands are also showing signs of diamond domination, with more being set with small stones and in wider sizes, up to 8mm according to Szenes. And men are not missing their chance to shine, embellishing their wedding bands with some bling of their own.

"Most of the guys want to do something with their wedding bands rather than going for a plain one," Saffo says. "It's mainly white gold and two-tone, but some guys are going for platinum with diamonds. It's more acceptable now."

Symons believes the key is diversity when it comes to men's wedding bands.

"Men are becoming a little more adventurous with their designs and what they'll accept," he says.

Not only do consumers want something special that stands out, but they are also doing their homework before they shop around.

"Buyers are very, very educated. They do research on the internet and they come in knowing what they want," Kushnir warns.

And that knowledge also stretches to bridal jewellery, where it seems diamonds are still a girl's best friend. Diamond studs are the most requested, with pendants featuring diamonds or pearls also doing well. And in a similar vein to its wedding and engagement ring counterparts, diamond studs have increased in size, hitting the one-carat mark.

"Diamonds are still there," says Ian Sharp, owner of retail store Bijoux by Ian Sharp. "Everything's to do with the 'wow' factor."

But Candy Spender, who designs couture and ready-to-wear jewellery at Candy Spender Jewels, believes that more conservative and traditional bridal gowns have seen a decline in creative accessories. "I think people are a bit scared, they don't want to make the wrong decision," she says.

Spender's consumers are opting for earrings above all else, with chandelier styles in Swarovski crystal and diamantés proving the most popular.

"A lot of girls that come to me don't want to wear anything but earrings because they've got a lot of beadwork on their gowns, so they don't want too much jewellery," she explains.

Colour also tends to be featured in a minimal way, to match with white gowns - Spender finds peach-coloured crystal and café latte-coloured pearls the most successful. And while costume jewellery may not have much of an impact on engagement and wedding ring sales, Spender admits this has been her quietest season on record, in part due to the abundance of imported and imitation products available in the market.

"I think the marketplace is absolutely flooded with so much jewellery and people are overwhelmed, they don't know what to choose."

One thing she has noticed among this year's bridal trends is a return to glamour, predicting that 1940s styles featuring layers of pearls will be a big hit amongst brides this year.

And if the comments above are anything to go by, this year's pattern is big diamonds, either set simply or surrounded by smaller stones, with wedding bands to compliment each bride's particular style.

Trends are hard to pinpoint at the best of times and working out what women want is a puzzle that has riddled men since the dawn of time. But what everyone will agree on is that on their wedding day, a bride wants to feel glamorous and beautiful - and for her jewellery to be timeless and elegant. Oh, and a bit of sparkle never hurt anyone.

Band of gold: the link between gold and commitment

While the complexity of choosing an engagement and wedding ring might feel like a modern-day drama, the actual exchanging of rings is a tradition that is thousands of years old.

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The custom of bestowing a wedding ring is thought to have begun with the ancient Egyptians, who were believed to have twisted reeds found along the banks of the Nile River into rings then given to their partners as a sign of commitment. Its circular shape symbolised eternity and the ring's open middle a gateway or door, leading to events both known and unknown.

As these rings were found to have a very short shelf life, hemp became the next material of choice, with leather, bone or ivory also used. Metal rings were slow to take off, as early designs were clumsy and the surfaces uneven. To hide the imperfections, precious and semi-precious stones received as wedding gifts were set into the bands, images of which can be seen in hieroglyphs found in Egyptian tombs.

In early Rome, wedding rings were constructed of iron, symbolising strength of love, with the act of giving or accepting the ring also soon considered to be legally binding, indicating the woman was her husband's property.

Gold and silver rings were given on occasion, with rings also often fashioned out of a key. In those days, it was customary for valuables to be kept in a locked box, so for the sake of security, the key was worn on the finger and its presentation symbolic of a husband's confidence in his new wife and his future sharing of all that he possessed.

During the Renaissance period, the newly-created engagement, or betrothal, ring was primarily produced from silver, with designs taking on an intricate nature. Gold rapidly moved to first choice for wedding rings in the 17th century, with Irish folklore even declaring it to be bad luck to be married in a ring made from anything else.

Superstition also surrounded the ring's size, for the exactness with which it fit on the bride's finger was thought to indicate the degree of harmony the couple would find in their married life. And while the early Christian church denounced the wearing of rings as a pagan practice, the wedding ring is widely accepted among the Christian majority today.

In some parts of Europe, the tradition is still to wear the wedding ring on the right hand, but generally Christian tradition has seen the ring being placed on the left hand, as it was believed the vein of the wedding finger directly travelled to the heart.

In a Jewish marriage ceremony, the groom will place the ring on his bride's right index finger, as tradition dictates this is closer to the woman's heart. And just as Jewish law states that a wedding ring must be an unadorned, unbroken piece of solid gold to symbolise the hope for a whole and unbroken union, many brides today have chosen to embellish their wedding bands, making it just as much a fashion statement as a symbol of matrimony.

Design-a-ring: bespoke creations for unique couples

For those consumers who want a sparkler with difference, custom-designed wedding and engagement rings have become a popular choice in which the end result is not just a piece of jewellery, but also an accessory filled with love.

"I think more and more, people are trying to find that point of difference and put some meaning back into it, rather than just facts and figures and prices," says Aaron Wilson, manager, Wilson's Jewellers.

At his Melbourne store, Wilson will sit down with the couple and discuss their preferred style, along with elements they want included in the ring. Wilson and his team will then come up with a design either on paper or in silver, with the ring developing from there.

"In a lot of ways, handmade rings are quicker than non-handmade rings because often, when you're using cast pieces, the buying process can take some time and it's out of your hands," Wilson explains.

He also believes that the onslaught of mass-produced products onto the market has actually done well to serve the custom-design jewellery business.

"I think people these days want something individual and something unique, as well as something they've had input into."

Adelaide jeweller Benita Edwards says she often consults men wanting to create a surprise engagement ring for their partners - a sign of the extra effort a groom is willing to make to please his bride.

"I'm not saying that a man that takes his partner out and goes shopping with her isn't making an effort, but this is more personal. They put their own personality into it," she says.

Edwards says the trend is still pointing to 18-carat white gold or platinum bands, accentuated with coloured stones or white diamonds.

The jeweller has recently had an increase in requests for filigree designs, which "have that modern classic look while heading towards the antique style".

And with the increased interest in larger stones, Wilson believes custom-designed rings are in the perfect position to leverage off this current trend in commitment jewellery.

"The more people spend on a diamond the more likely they want a special handmade, unique ring to go with that. It encourages good, handmade jewellery," he says.

But custom-designed rings are not without their problems and Nicola Cerrone from Cerrone Jewellers admits that designing a piece with a customer is "a lot more of a challenge".

Pre-conceived ideas may not always suit, and what may be a grand design in a consumer's head may not translate perfectly to the finger.

But as Cerrone sees it, that doesn't mean jewellers can ignore a consumer's wants and needs. At this special time in their lives, the customers' desires have perhaps never been more important. And a lack of flexibility can be perilous for the jeweller.

"The jeweller will always advise what is possible to do and what is not possible to do," Cerrone says. "The balancing, the proportions, that's up to the jeweller to explain, but the rest is really up to the customer to decide what she really wants."

And for Wilson, the possibility of exposing a customer's mind to a different point of view and different possibilities, is what really makes the custom-design jewellery trade a satisfying one.

"We get a lot of people buying rings they wouldn't have had a pre-conceived idea of getting," Wilson says. "I think that's a sign of people being open to new ideas, which is a good, positive thing."

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Wednesday, 16 October, 2019 11:23pm
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