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Bridal & Engagement Trends

Articles from DIAMOND JEWELLERY (983 Articles), RINGS - ENGAGEMENT (220 Articles), RINGS - WEDDING (206 Articles)

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Dora from RJ Scanlan
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Perfect Union

Fancy-cut engagement rings for the brides and diamond-set wedding bands for the grooms are just some of the looks being favoured in bridal jewellery, but will the economic downturn see a paring back? CARLA CARUSO reports.

The first thing a group of women is likely to chorus when one of them announces they are engaged is, "Let's see the ring!"

Again, on the wedding day, the bride is swamped by an inevitable cluster of women fawning over how the wedding band further shows off the bride's engagement ring; admiration of any other jewellery the groom may have bought her as a gift only adds to the fervour.

Typically, the bride revels in it all. Tiffany & Co has estimated that she'll look at her engagement ring more than one million times in her lifetime, according to a report in The Age newspaper. One million times! If any one figure emphasises the importance of the ring to a bride, surely this is it.

But, with hard-hitting times ahead, do brides still expect the ring of their dreams? If they do, can the groom afford it?

The economic downturn is indeed having an effect on the sizes of diamonds brides are requesting, at least according to David Gabriel, director of Melbourne specialist caster and chain manufacturer Lenrose and Ace David Jewellery: "I think people are more conservative in how much they want to spend on a piece. People will always spend money, but it's definitely slowed down. If you've got to have one carat, it's cheaper to go for a few stones to make up the weight, rather than just the one. With the price of gold being so high, you have a double whammy effect."

Rita Williams, managing director of Queensland manufacturer Sunstate Group, says anything between 50 points and a carat is a common choice these days.

"The 75-point seems quite popular at the moment and it's likely a pricing thing. Sometimes people opt for accent diamonds, which can help bring it up to a carat."

Essam Georgis, the owner of Sydney diamond jewellery wholesaler E Georgis Enterprises, also shakes his head when asked if most still want at least a carat.

"Not at the moment. We're working around half a carat for a centre stone - 25 to 50 points, or 70 at the most," he says.

Still consumers are making up the loss in size by raising other factors, says David Barr, sales representative for Melbourne dealer Metro Diamonds: "While they seem to be asking for under a carat, they're often asking for a higher quality in purity and colour."

Chris Worth, the name behind jewellery manufacturer Worth & Douglas, agrees: "Customers are paying attention to the quality of their stones, choosing a higher clarity and colour." Popular colour grade choices include SI2, H and G.

Lonn Miller, director of Sydney supplier Miller Diamonds, notes: "Smart brides - and their grooms - are placing their emphasis on well-cut diamonds - the better the cut, the brighter the diamond, and the more likely the diamond is to retain its value."

For Worth, the round-brilliant remains ever popular, but he says: "I've also noticed an increase in the sale of princess-cut stones."

Tiffany & Co is where many brides are looking for style inspiration even if they're not shopping there, according to Barr, so Tiffany staples such as the cushion cut "are getting popular now, as well as radiant cuts".

Some brides are also opting for cuts with fancier shoulders, according to Williams: "Brides-to-be are looking at trilliants and tapered baguettes."

To offset the perfect diamond, consumers are requesting claw-set diamond jewellery, "along with diamond rings with fitted wedding bands," according to Worth.

Bezel settings have been popular over the last decade, Williams says, but have started to fall by the wayside. "Now, there's a lot more claw and double-claw settings. The double claw gives a really nice finish, because it's a lot more delicate and you can run a little edge along it with saw piercing. We're also seeing a lot more milled edges, which create a pretty, lacy edge around the stone."

As has been a trend in other categories, diamond jewellery consumers are benefiting from the introduction of coloured stones for striking contrast, Williams remarks: "We are seeing a few flourishes with pink sapphires - especially on rose gold accents - or blue sapphires, but they're always teamed with diamonds."

In metals, white gold continues to shine, though some still prefer the sheen of yellow gold, says Williams. "Yellow gold looks a lot more opulent. Nothing beats that lustre. We're also doing a lot more highly personalised bands, with people's names, messages and even fingerprints - set in wax - put on the inside of the ring. Platinum's also becoming more popular because of the rise in gold. The difference between the two in price is not so vast anymore - they're nearly one-on-one."

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Cost cutting is also a factor in metals, affecting weight.

"We have started manufacturing engagement rings in 9-carat, which is very unusual for us," Williams admits. "The last time we did that was around 1979/1980, when the gold price went through the roof."

Ilhan Denirel, the owner of Sydney wholesaler Infinity Wedding Rings, says this is also being seen among grooms: "A lot more men are going for 9-carat now because of the price of gold."

Andrew Lauder, sales manager of Melbourne jewellery wholesaler RJ Scanlan & Co, which stocks Dora men's wedding bands, says the group has taken it another step: "With the gold price going through the roof and the dollar dropping, we've now introduced 14-carat, which just gives people another option."

Alternative metals are being looked at, as well, according to Worth. "Titanium is still very popular for men's jewellery and we are having more and more requests for men's palladium jewellery."

On the flipside, while men are looking at more affordable metals, they're still splashing out on bling. Worth notes: "While the plain bands are still more popular for men's jewellery, there is a demand for heavier, diamond-set bands - though not too fancy - set with princess cuts and baguettes, which is great to see."

Lauder agrees: "These days, no one wants to do what their father or grandfather did. They don't want to be next to their mate and have the same ring. The push in the past eight years has been for men to go for something different, like multi-toning, twin finishes, carving and engraving. Australian men are right up there with the Europeans when it comes to fancy bands. Usually, in jewellery, men only have a watch and a ring - or maybe cufflinks or an earring, as well - so it's a rare time they can go all out."

Even so, Rachel Hehir, the marketing manager of Adelaide wedding ring manufacturer Peter W Beck, predicts a return to less "involved" styles in the future: "Diamond-set men's rings is a trend that has been evident over the past few seasons, but I think a more traditional look is going to come back - plain bands or rings that have less details and stones; just less 'busy' and more traditional."

When selecting accessories, Karl Rossi, director of Sydney-based Karl Rossi Collection, says classic styles dominate for the bride:.

"On the diamond's side, it's quite conservative, but there's also a bit of a fashion flair for black and white diamonds or white diamonds with rhodium or onyx," he says.

Popular jewellery styles include drop-style earrings and neck pendants, particularly in matching sets, while grooms are also accessorising with white gold or stainless steel bracelets, titanium dress rings and simple cuff links, Rossi says.

For bridesmaids, Sunstate Group has produced a round silver bead that can be hung on a necklace or bracelet and inscribed with the wedding date in coloured writing, as part of its Australian-made charm brand jewellery, Unique to You.

And, once the dust has settled on the wedding? Jewellery purchases don't end there, with eternity rings next in line.

Eternity rings traditionally contain three, five or seven stones and are generally made to match or fit with the engagement ring.

Still, there are no hard-and-fast rules on how these should appear - or when. Lauder notes: "Sometimes women get a diamond added for each child they have."

For those who've been married before and want something simpler than the full engagement, wedding and eternity ring set, "his and hers" commitment rings are the latest push.

"Europeans are very big on the couple's commitment rings, but Australians haven't been so big on it yet," Lauder says. "Still, we're going to push it a little more. It's a basic style of a band, so the cost isn't as high - around $500 to $1,000 per ring. It's also suitable for gay couples."

A sign of the times? Maybe, but there are still plenty of people willing to spend up big on accessories for their special day, even during an economic downturn.

As Hehir says: "People are still getting married. They aren't necessarily spending less on their wedding rings. They might shave money elsewhere, but we're not forecasting that people will halt what they're currently doing with jewellery. There might be a softening of the market, but we're not forecasting too much change."

Indeed, bridal jewellery - particularly, an engagement ring - is an investment meant for life. And, if a bride is going to look at her special item one million times, she'd better get something she likes.

Carla Caruso • Journalist
Carla Caruso has been a jewellery junkie for as long as she can remember, has covered the Vicenza gold fair in Italy and one day hopes to pen a novel about all that glitters. She has been a freelance contributor to Jeweller since 2005.
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