Engagement ring styles and designs
From the geometric 1920s engagement ring styles to the subtle solitaires of the 1940s and colourful cluster rings of the 1980s – engagement ring styles have evolved over time to reflect changing tastes and cultural influences.
While wedding fashions change annually, the pace of change with wedding jewellery tends to be a little slower.
In this article, we will explore the history of diamond engagement rings and delve into the most popular styles that have captured the hearts of couples around the world.
The History of Engagement Rings
Knowing where engagement rings come from helps put their modern designs and styles into context.
Engagement rings have been used for centuries as both a symbol of commitment between two people and as a sign of ownership to other potential suitors. While today only the former applies, the idea of a ring as an outward sign to other people has impacted its design.
The bigger and brighter the stone, the more likely it was to be noticed by other men who might have previously been in pursuit of the lady in question. It was also used to show the world the man’s wealth.
Other historical factors that have played into modern design go back as far as the ancient Egyptians, who can be credited with it being an engagement ring, and not a broach or necklace. They believed that rings – a circle with no end – represented eternal love.
The arrival of diamonds on to rings was first popularised in 1477, with the very first diamond engagement ring commissioned by the Archduke Maximilian of Austria for his bride, Mary of Burgundy.
Diamond rings were still a rare choice for centuries. Until the 1940s, only 10% of brides were proposed to with a diamond engagement ring.
Then, in 1947, diamond company De Beers ran a hugely successful marketing campaign and by the 1990s, over 80% of all engagement rings were made with diamonds.
More recently, lab grown diamonds have risen in popularity as a more ethical and environmentally friendly alternative to mined diamonds – almost half of all the diamond engagement rings sold this year were made with lab grow diamonds.
Popular Engagement Ring Styles
An engagement ring style is the combination of design and aesthetic features – including the type of metal, the amount and position of gemstones, and the way the stones are cut and set.
Whether you prefer the sophisticated simplicity of a diamond solitaire or the detailed charm of a cluster ring with colourful gemstones, we've broken down the most popular engagement ring styles to help you choose the perfect ring for your proposal.
Classic solitaire diamond ring
Solitaire engagement rings are a timeless and elegant choice. A single, sparkling stone is mounted on a plain band that allows the beauty of the diamond to take centre stage.
Nowadays, this is the most popular engagement ring style – more than 70% of engagement rings sold every year are solitaires.
First popularised during World War II, 1930s engagement rings were simple and understated, reflecting the economic hardship of the time. Solitaire diamonds were small and yellow gold became the metal of choice when platinum was restricted to military use only.
With the current revival of 90s fashion trends, we’re also expecting to see a revival of Princess Cut diamond solitaire rings.
This stylish square cut is a fresh and contemporary take on a classic – offering modern brides an alternative to a round cut diamond.
Halo engagement rings
For those who love a bit more sparkle, halo engagement rings are an excellent option.
This engagement ring style features a larger central diamond encircled by a 'halo' of smaller diamonds, which enhance the overall brilliance of the centre stone.
Halo rings first came into fashion in the 1920s, with the rise of the ‘Target’ ring: a single round cut diamond surrounded by a double (or even triple!) halo of smaller gemstones.
These days, the glamorous halo engagement ring is available in a variety shapes and sizes.
Read more: What is a halo ring?
Emerald cut engagement rings
For a sleek and sophisticated look, many couples opt for emerald-cut diamond engagement rings.
Characterised by its rectangular shape with cut corners, the emerald cut rose to popularity in the 1920s, becoming the signature choice for lovers of the Art Deco style.
The geometric shape elongates the fingers for a flattering look that feels both classic and modern. From Elizabeth Taylor to Beyoncé – this is a glamorous engagement ring style that will never go out of fashion!
Cluster engagement rings
Cluster rings are a captivating design where multiple diamonds or gemstones are closely grouped together to create a striking visual effect.
Princess Diana’s engagement ring – now worn by Princess Catherine – is a very elegant cluster ring, featuring a stunning blue sapphire surrounded by a cluster of diamonds.
This engagement ring style is perfect for vibrant individuals who want to stand out from the crowd, making them a popular choice for brides who appreciate a more non-traditional design.
Delicate engagement rings
Delicate engagement rings are graceful and refined. These rings often feature intricate detailing on a slender band, creating a dainty and feminine look.
The emphasis is on subtlety. Classic brides may delight in a small carat diamond surrounded by a delicate pavé band – sparkly but sophisticated.
Brides who love a more whimsical style may prefer delicate nature-inspired detail and marquise-cut diamonds. Choose the engagement ring style that best suits your loved one!
Trilogy engagement rings
Trilogy rings are defined by a symbolic trio of gemstones that represent the past, present, and future of a couple's journey together.
This romantic engagement ring style offers plenty of variety – from timeless three-stone rings set with three identical diamonds, to rings set with a mix of gemstone colours, cuts and sizes.
Meghan Markle’s diamond trilogy engagement ring is the perfect example of the more classic design – a stunning cushion-cut diamond flanked by two round diamonds. In contrast, Jennifer Lopez wore a stunning pink diamond trilogy ring, which offers a more romantic and whimsical look.
Whatever your choice, trilogy engagement rings are a beautiful ring style that highlight the commitment and shared history between partners.
Engagement rings of the future
Engagement ring styles have come a long way. As trends continue to evolve and new designs emerge, the perfect engagement ring should not only capture the essence of love but also align with the couple’s values and individuality.
Ethical and environmentally friendly options such as lab grown diamonds are becoming more popular, and we expect to see a rise in more personalised designs, using colourful lab grown gem stones and a variety of cuts and ring settings.
From the classic simplicity of a solitaire to the whimsical charm of a cluster ring, couples have more opportunities than ever to find an engagement ring style that truly represents their relationship.