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Feature Stories, Engagement Rings

Articles from RINGS - ENGAGEMENT (217 Articles)












Otherwise engaged: Exploring engagement ring trends

The engagement ring category continues to evolve, with jewellers rising to the challenge of reinventing the classics – and creating unique designs – for the modern consumer. ARABELLA RODEN reports.


QUICK NUMBERS

70% 

Engagement rings
with a white diamond

_________
 

4.7m 

Instagram posts tagged #engagementring

_________
 

92% 

Proposals shared on
social media
Source: The Knot

_________
 

Engagement rings are the bread and butter of the retail jewellery industry. Month after month, year after year, excited couples have marked one of the most significant moments in their lives with the gift of a sparkling diamond ring.

However, many parts of that traditional love story are now changing.

The couple are just as likely to be well over 30 than they are to be under 25, may already have children, almost certainly live together, and are choosing a ring to celebrate their relationship as it is, rather than formalise an engagement.

Yet the core element of the gift remains the same: a piece of jewellery that lasts forever, reflecting the wearer’s unique style, personality, and relationship.

It is no longer enough to reassure customers that each natural diamond is unique; instead, many retailers have evolved their businesses to offer a fully personalised experience with greater control over the design process.

Justin Linney, creative director Linneys Jewellery in Perth, tells Jeweller, “One customer’s perfect ring is another customer’s nightmare, so the number-one priority is finding a design that suits their individual style.”

Steve Der Bedrossian, CEO SAMS Group Australia, which supplies engagement rings through its Blush Pink and Pink Kimberley brands, adds, “There has been far more demand for individuality – unique designs – in engagement rings over the past 12 months. We’ve definitely seen a shift.”

The prevalence of social media – particularly apps such as Instagram and Pinterest – as a source of inspiration means consumers now have more choice than ever when it comes to engagement ring design.

Some of the most popular Pinterest Boards for engagement ring ideas have more than 4,000 images and the app publishes an annual report analysing ring trends on its platform.

The most recent edition, released in October 2019, revealed marquise shapes, elongated cushion cuts, turquoise hues, lavender sapphires, and seamless halo settings had the most significant increases in user searches.

Meanwhile, engagement rings are now almost guaranteed to appear on any number of social media channels. A 2019 survey of 21,000 engaged and newlywed US couples, conducted by US wedding planning service The Knot, found 92 per cent had shared their engagement news on social media.

At the time of publication, there were 4.7 million Instagram posts tagged #engagementring, and 4 million tagged #shesaidyes. As a result, consumers are choosing rings that look larger and stand out in photos.

The Knot survey found the average cost of an engagement ring was $US5,900, with the style and setting the most important consideration, followed by price.

Both suppliers and retailers have noted the rising popularity of oval-cut diamonds over the traditional round. Ovals appear significantly larger than rounds of the same carat weight, while making the wearer’s fingers seem slimmer. They are also less expensive, per carat, than round diamonds.

Linney has also observed a trend toward thinner bands, which make the centre stone appear larger.

Rising demand for colour gemstones – particularly sapphires, colour diamonds, and pearls – also speaks to consumers’ preference for unique and photogenic jewellery.

“We have seen more demand for Argyle pink diamond centre stones and accent stones due to the upcoming closure of the mine,” says Der Bedrossian, adding, “Using a ruby or an opal as the centre stone while adding pink diamond accents gives the ring a larger appearance and a unique look, while taking into account the customer’s budget.”

The surge in popularity for unusual rings may also be inspired by celebrities like Emma Stone and Michelle Williams, who both received pearl engagement rings in 2019. Meanwhile, actress Scarlett Johansson’s Art Deco-inspired black ceramic enagement ring is adorned with an 11-carat champagne diamond.

Alex Graham, bridal director Stuller, says,

“From a gemstone standpoint, we are seeing a lot of unique centre stones. Each bride wants something that speaks just to her.

“Eternity and anniversary bands are also becoming more and more popular, sometimes being used as the actual engagement ring instead of a traditional ring with the primary centre stone.”

Classic white diamond rings, too, are being embellished with unconventional and personal touches – whether through unusual shapes, creative settings, or accent stones.

“We are still seeing a high percentage of our clients opting for white diamonds, although they are often open to different designs other than the classic solitaire,” says Linney.

At Worth & Douglas – which manufactures its own engagement collection, custom designs, and Karen Walker Atelier engagement rings – the desire for a personal ring has been reflected in increasing requests for custom makes.

“Customers are looking to find something truly special or custom that reflects their tastes and suits their own styles, so we’re seeing a lot of unique CAD designs come through,” confirms Chris Worth, business development manager.

Indeed, the definition of the ‘perfect’ engagement ring – once considered to be the largest, most flawless diamond solitaire a hopeful fiancé could afford – now appears to be too narrow for most consumers.

Instead, the ‘4 Cs’ have been replaced by a new mindset that emphasises individual taste, creative design, and personal touches that tell a story and make the ring stand out.  

Colour and creativity

The Art Deco period, which began in 1920, marks its centenary this year. As a result, there has been a resurgence in Art Deco-inspired patterns, shapes and motifs in jewellery.

This distinctive era of design is characterised by use of colour, geometric shapes, and filigree – all trends becoming more prevalent in engagement rings. Notably, Princess Beatrice of York received an Art Deco-inspired engagement ring in September 2019, which featured round and baguette diamonds in a platinum setting.

“I have seen Art Deco coming back into the spotlight recently,” Stuller’s Graham says, adding that “designs that play with scattered accents or halos” have also become more popular.

At Worth & Douglas, the Karen Walker Atelier engagement collection includes three-ring sets with colour gemstone centres, which interlock in Art Deco-style square and hexagonal patterns.

Demand for colour gemstone and fancy diamond engagement rings has been steadily rising over the past few years, and they are now firmly in the mainstream.

“Certainly, there has been a big surge in demand for coloured gemstones,” confirms Worth.

The Karen Walker Atelier range includes rings set with morganite, onyx, rutilated quartz, and even peach moonstone, accented with white, black, or champagne diamonds.

At Linneys Jewellery, customers “often request gems that would be considered unusual,” says Linney. “More recently, we have seen customers choose pearls, black diamonds, grey diamonds and green sapphires.”

Melbourne jeweller Simon West points to the popularity of sapphires “of Australian origin in particular”, alongside champagne diamonds from Western Australia’s Argyle Mine.

At Stuller, the most sought-after gemstone is also sapphire – mostly for its ability to fulfil customers’ desire for a range of colours, Graham explains.

She notes that teal, purple, peachy pink and ‘earthy green’ sapphires have been most in-demand in recent months.

Tourmaline, spinel, and garnet across the same palette are also frequently requested. “We also have a lot of brides asking for bi- and tri-colour sapphire and tourmaline, which is lovely as you really don’t get more one of a kind!”she adds.

Above: Tiffany & Co.Above: Larsen JewelleryAbove: Ruth Tomlinson
Above: Ikecho AustraliaAbove: SAMS Group AustraliaAbove: Tomasz Donocik

 

Fresh twist on the classic

While a significant proportion of customers are now opting for alternative gems – including fancy colour diamonds – the traditional white diamond remains the top choice for many.

West says 70 per cent of his engagement ring customers still select the classic stone, with a preference for Argyle origin.

Duraflex Group Australia launched an affordable finished jewellery collection, Diamonds by DGA, in September 2019. Its engagement ring range features white diamonds of varying sizes in clarity I1, colour H-I, set in either 9- or 18-carat white or yellow gold.

Duraflex managing director Phil Edwards says “the classics – single stone solitaires” have proven most popular to date.

Above: Rebecca Overmann

“The feedback has been excellent and we are hence planning to grow this offering from DGA,” Edwards adds. “A range of new styles and rose gold settings will be available in 2020.”

Indeed, Worth confirms “there are still many who are partial to the classic solitaire”, while Graham calls it “ever-popular”.

Alongside ovals, unusual shapes including pear and marquise have also been in demand as centre stones. Indeed, there are a significant number of brides-to-be willing to branch out in order to enhance the impact of their diamond.

Different settings, as well as using unusually-shaped accent stones, can enhance visual appeal or give an heirloom diamond a fresh and modern look.

“There is a shift towards asymmetrical designs that look more fluid and interesting to the eye,” says Graham. “This isn’t to say that we aren’t still seeing demand for classic solitaires – simplicity is a trend on its own that I’ve seen coming back into play – but brides are pairing that solitaire more and more with a fancy shape contour over a simple matched band.”

Meanwhile, Der Bedrossian has noticed increased demand for halo designs in the past 12 months – in particular, those featuring pink diamonds from the Argyle Mine.

Consumers have shown a desire for the classic engagement ring metals of white gold and platinum, which complement and enhance the sparkle of white diamonds. Meanwhile, traditional yellow gold and feminine rose gold still attract a significant proportion of shoppers.

At Stuller, Graham observes that wedding and engagement band designs appear to have been influenced by fashion jewellery trends such as ‘stacking’ rings and a ‘pop’ of colour. 

At the same time, Worth notes that the traditional matching engagement and wedding ring set “remains the most popular”, though custom two- and three-piece sets, with bands made to fit around an unusual centre stone, have also garnered interest.

Consumers’ desire for both ‘traditional with a twist’ and unique, custom makes ensures the engagement ring category offers jewellers both sales opportunities and creative challenges.


LEVERAGING SOCIAL MEDIA FOR SALES SUCCESS

IMPROVE YOUR ENGAGEMENT


In the past, the process of buying an engagement ring followed a traditional path: a man would visit a jewellery store, purchase the white diamond ring recommended to him by the staff, and present it to his partner as a surprise.

One of the strongest indications of change in the engagement category is the success of US jewellery business Ring Concierge, which offers several key lessons for retail jewellers wanting to improve their engagement sales.

Ring Concierge was founded by Nicole Wegman in 2013 based on a female-focused, e-commerce approach to engagement. “At our core, Ring Concierge is a brand for women, by women,” Wegman tells Jeweller, adding that the business aims to “empower women to be involved” in the design process: “We work with couples to design their dream custom ring, from the diamond they select to the details of the handmade setting.”

The business was also established to challenge the “traditionally opaque” diamond industry, with Wegman explaining, “We set ourselves apart by cultivating genuine relationships through transparency and integrity.”

She calls social media “instrumental” to Ring Concierge’s success. Its Instagram account has more than 290,000 followers, with Wegman revealing, “Over 90 per cent of our new clientele find us through Instagram.”

Indeed, visual social media apps such as Instagram and Pinterest are a key source of inspiration for women when choosing their ‘dream ring’. “When a celebrity debuts a cool new engagement ring style [on social media], we instantly see requests for it. For example, we made a very unique triple-row micro-pavé setting for [Victoria’s Secret model] Devon Windsor and it became so popular we’ve since named it The Devon,” Wegman explains.

Ring Concierge has developed its own criteria – beyond GIA certification – to assess a stone’s “overall beauty and liveliness” called the ‘RC Diamond Make’: “This is why all of the diamonds on our Instagram look so beautiful,” says Wegman.

In 2019, Ring Concierge’s most ‘liked’ engagement ring belonged to US The Bachelorette star JoJo Fletcher. “She has our signature Whisper Thin band with a hidden halo – it’s a gorgeous ring,” says Wegman.

Putting female customers at the centre of the purchasing process, utilising social media effectively, and paying attention to trends – particularly those of celebrities – are important strategies in the new engagement ring environment.

Above: Linneys JewelleryAbove: Megan ThorneAbove: Linneys Jewellery
Above: ArtëmerAbove: ChaumetAbove: Harry Winston
Above: Rachel BostonAbove: Paul BramAbove: Linneys Jewellery
Above: Victoria BuckleyAbove: Tiffany & Co.Above: Diamond By DGA
Above: CerroneAbove: Karen Walker AtelierAbove: Eva Fehren


 

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Arabella Roden • Assistant Editor

Arabella Roden is assistant editor of Jeweller. She has nine years of experience as a journalist and sub-editor, working at publications across Australia and the UK.











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