If history has taught us anything about engagement rings, it’s that there will always be a market for a standard solitaire diamond. At Tiffany & Co., for example, the single rock prong-set in platinum (from $10,600) has been a top seller among the betrothed for about 130 years now.
But according to jewellery designer Rosemary Bartram, a sparkling chunk of ice mounted high on the finger for all the world to see isn’t for everyone.
“I guess there are two camps in the world: the people who want a big huge honking stone and those who just want a beautiful ring—that’s what I specialize in,” says Bartram, who recently sat down with the Straight at her store, Era Custom Design Modern & Vintage Jewellery (1266 Homer Street). “I don’t care how big or small a stone is—I just want it to be pretty.”
And she’s not the only one. Pretty, delicate detailing is very hot right now among brides-to-be. The narrower the band, the better—just so long as there’s room for a little wheat-patterned engraving, tiny lacy filigree, and some micro-millgrain edging. A great example of this is Bartram’s sliver-thin, 18-carat white-gold ring with a .07-carat pavé-set diamond surrounded by four sculpted petals ($1,400). It’s small, yes. But it looks absolutely lovely on the finger.
Peoples Jewellers (various locations) also has a wide selection of rings with dainty ornate accents, including a 14-carat white-gold ring with a .7-carat centrepiece diamond set in swirling ribbons of smaller diamonds hugging the top and bottom ($2,799)—again, pretty but not showy.
In addition to detailing, more brides are asking for bezel- and pavé-set rings—as opposed to 3-D nylon-snaggers set in protruding claws.
“That’s a huge trend,” says Bartram. “Everything has to be low. People are too active. You can’t have things catching, so people like it as flush to the finger as they possibly can.”
That’s partially why the Era-designed Emma ($2,400 to $3,000) is such a huge hit with Bartram’s clients. In a nod to Edwardian design, its five pavé-set diamonds sit totally flush with the embellished band. Gorgeous!
For a super-streamlined look, there are the platinum Tiffany Bezet round and princess solitaires (starting at $9,600). Their surface is smooth—more contemporary, for those who prefer cleaner lines.
If you’re among those who don’t prefer cleaner lines, you’re in luck! Retro-inspired designs are all the rage this year, too. They have all the heritage charm of Grandma’s hand-me-downs, but are way sturdier and shinier.
Era’s custom-made Deco stunner ($5,500) probably illustrates this trend best. It’s a .5-carat round Canadian diamond pavé-set in a square frame with a millgrain edge. It’s got some beautiful hand-engraved tiers leading down the band as well.
Another vintage-looking standout is from the Caresse collection at Birks (various locations). This princess-cut, pavé-set .7-carat diamond ($12,150) looks like it could be a 20th-century family heirloom, but it’s not.
Even at Tiffany’s—where the classic reigns supreme—the bead-set Embrace with a round centrepiece diamond, which starts at $12,800, is in high demand. It’s a new style, but it is based on one of Tiffany’s archival designs.
This focus on vintage-inspired rings prompts the question: Why not just buy vintage? Cheaper, no? Well, as Rob Ferguson, director of the Tiffany store in Vancouver (723 Burrard Street) explains, with new rings, we can have our cake and shiny icing, too.
“I think the advantage of something new is it allows someone to have a vintage look with modern construction and the modern cut of stones,” he says at the downtown store. “A lot of older rings have rose-cut diamonds, which are also very beautiful, but they don’t have the same brilliance that people are accustomed to now, so this allows you to have the best of both worlds.”