If you’re thinking about buying an engagement ring whether choosing your own or giving helpful hints to help your partner pick, the choices and options can be overwhelming. To help you navigate this potential minefield, Ingle & Rhodes outline the main styles you should consider.
A solitaire ring is one that has been set with a single gemstone, normally a diamond. Most engagement rings are solitaires, and this is unlikely to change in the foreseeable future.
With simple, classic design like a solitaire, a good quality diamond is essential, so it’s well worth taking a little time to understand diamond grading. Typically, a larger finger is flattered by a slightly wider band, but this may require a bigger stone for it to remain in proportion. In contrast, a really dainty band might suit a very slim finger, and will work well with a smaller gem. However, these are only rough guidelines, not a firm rule.
In a classic solitaire, the diamond is held in place by claws, but there are other options – you could opt for a tension setting, a rub-over setting, or a swirl. While a claw setting works well with a diamond or gemstone of almost any size, tension settings and swirls tend to work best with gems up to about 0.6ct.
If you choose a classic claw setting, you will face a decision over how many claws to have – if a round brilliant cut diamond is set in four claws, this will tend to square off its appearance, whereas a six claws setting will emphasise its roundness. An eight-claw setting tends to create an old-fashioned look – We weren’t lying when we said there are a lot of details to consider!
After the solitaire, the trilogy is probably the next most popular type of engagement ring. Sometimes referred to as ‘trinity rings’, trilogy rings are set with three gems, with the configuration said to represent your past, present and future. The most popular arrangement for a trilogy design consists of three diamonds, but it’s not unusual to see diamond combined with a coloured gemstone, usually sapphire, ruby or emerald. If a coloured stone is used, it is usually the centrepiece – as diamonds are generally priced higher than coloured stones, using a diamond as the centrepiece would typically be a more expensive option.
Vintage-style engagement rings are typically ornate, and capture the romance, the quality and the elegance of the Victorian and Edwardian eras. The Victorian era saw the discovery of gold and diamonds in South Africa, which made fine jewellery accessible to the middle classes that had emerged from the Industrial Revolution. Victorian designs were often influenced by discoveries during this time of ancient Greek, Egyptian and Roman treasures. This era saw also the the height of the Art Nouveau movement, inspired by the free-flowing forms and elaborate curves found in nature – a reaction against the age of industrialisation.
The Edwardian period witnessed the development of new technologies such as the aeroplane, the car – and the oxy-acetylene torch, which made it far easier for jewellers to work with platinum. The high tensile strength of platinum allowed the development of delicate and elaborate designs, with open filigree and lacy patterns. This new jewellery matched the mood of the ‘Belle Epoque’ – feminine, elegant and delicate, to go with the silk dresses and feathered hats of the time. It really was the ‘Beautiful Era’.
When World War One broke out in 1914, jewellery manufacture more or less ground to a halt. These hard times marked the end of the Edwardian and Art Nouveau eras, which had been typified in the jewellery industry by elaborate halo-set rings and detailed hand-engravings.
While there isn’t a single technical feature that unites all modern engagement rings, most of them are stripped back, simple designs featuring clean lines. Beyond that, there are a handful of themes that are often associated with contemporary style rings.
Tension settings are one of these, with the gemstone held in place by compression. The shank tends to be at least as wide as the gemstone, which gives a chunky, contemporary appearance. The tension setting was pioneered within the last forty years by the German manufacturer Niessing, and is perhaps the archetypal modern engagement ring.
A swirl style setting is a variation of this idea. As with a tension setting, metal is pushed over the girdle of the gemstone to hold it in place. But with a swirl setting, the shoulder of the ring extends to ‘swirl’ around the gemstone.
Another modern ‘look’ is to set a single stone in a rub-over setting (a rim of metal runs all the way round the gemstone). This gives a simpler finish than the traditional claw setting.
Contemporary style rings can also feature unusual alignments of gemstones. Traditionally elongated gems (like oval cuts, emerald cuts, and marquise cuts) were set running along the length of the finger. However in modern rings, they are often set the other way, running across the finger, or even offset at forty-five degrees.
Take a look at all of these styles in various settings and more, plus further collections and Ingle and Rhodes bespoke ring design service.