Diamonds may be forever, but the traditional diamond engagement ring is not for everyone.
Jennifer Lopez made headlines back in 2002 when she wore a pink diamond engagement ring from then fiancé Ben Affleck, inspiring others to copy the trend. In a recent rom-com, The Five-Year Engagement, Jason Segel’s character proposes to his girlfriend with an antique ruby ring. Even Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg chose a simple ruby stunner for his bride, Priscilla Chan, following in the footsteps of football player Eric Johnson, who proposed to Jessica Simpson last fall with a Neil Lane engagement ring centered on a cushion-cut ruby flanked by diamond accents.
In part because of these celebrity ring choices, nontraditional engagement rings have risen in popularity. “While about 95 percent of people come in looking for classic diamonds, there is always that 5 percent that go for something different,” Bob Swanson, owner of Swanson Jewelers in Arlington, Mass., says. “Sapphires and rubies have been popular recently.”
Designers have responded to the trend by creating innovative designs incorporating colored diamonds and stones. “There’s a big increase in consumer interest for unique rings,” Marina Kurian, director of marketing at Los Angeles-based jewelry manufacturer Barkev’s, says.
Retailers note that many of today’s brides want to combine the tradition of marriage with their own personality, whether they choose to design their own ring or select a stone that reflects individuality. “The modern day bride wants to be different than everybody else,” Kurian says.
Even if couples choose to stick with the traditional diamond, many newly engaged pairs like to be a part of the design process. “A lot of couples today are looking to create their own engagement rings,” Wayne Addessi, owner of Addessi Jewelers in Ridgefield, Conn., says. “They choose their own loose diamond and custom setting.”
The demand for nontraditional styles sparked Barkev’s black diamond collection, combining traditional diamonds with unique black stones. “We realized that in fashion jewelry, black diamonds were a hot trend,” Kurian says. “We decided to try the stone in bridal jewelry which eventually evolved into a collection.”
A survey earlier this year from TheKnot.com and Men’s Health also found that 17 percent of men would wear a “man-gagement” ring. JCK senior editor Rob Bates blogged about the issue and wondered if there was an actual public demand that jewelers were experiencing. Judging by the readers who weighed in, the industry—as well as the public—remains skeptical. Jewelers will also have to factor in more same-sex engagement ring plans, which could also yield a slew of nontraditional designs.