Diamonds have long been associated with engagement and marriage – but perhaps not as long as you think. The diamond engagement ring is in fact a modern, specifically western phenomenon. Diamond rings were first linked to marriage only in the late 1930s, when De Beers hired the NW Ayer advertising agency to convince young women that diamonds were indeed the ultimate symbol of romance.
The partnership with NW Ayer led to the famous "Diamonds Are Forever" campaign about a decade later. And from then on, diamond engagement rings were set (pardon the pun) to accompany marriage proposals. Since the 1990s, the trend has seeped into eastern culture and tradition as well. In fact, China is now the fastest growing diamond market in the world.
During the 80 or so years that diamond engagement rings have been around, they've been subject to fashion trends just like every other type of jewelry. Although the classic round solitaire diamond engagement ring has remained a bestseller across time, other trends have dominated the market as well.
In the 1960s, platinum bands were all the rage. In the 1980s, it was all about bling. The 1990s were the popular years for radiant cut diamonds, and the past decade saw the rise and rise of the halo design.
In 2018, yellow diamonds, open band, rose gold, and oval cut are just some of the hottest diamond engagement ring trends. But scratch the surface, and you'll find surprising – and some truly shocking! – diamond engagement ring trends that are seeping into the market and going mainstream. Here's a roundup of the ones that we can't stop talking about.
Pierced diamond engagement rings
Ok, this one takes a little getting used to. Instead of just slipping on an engagement ring, there's a new, and original, technique that takes 'putting a ring on it' to entirely new levels. It's called 'diamond dermal piercing' and it's the rage among certain younger diamond wearers. It involves a professional piercing artist embedding the diamond into the skin of the ring finger, so the diamond sits in the skin, just like an earring or nose ring.
This is probably the weirdest engagement ring trend ever, but given the expert advice from dermatologists warning that it's actually pretty dangerous – we don’t think this particular trend will catch on.
Rough diamond engagement rings
This is not a new trend – it's been going for a year or two – however it seems it's here to stay. Many women are discovering the raw beauty and appeal of rough, uncut diamonds in their engagement rings. It's a pretty revolutionary fashion statement, if you think about it. Since ancient times, people have been looking for ways to cut and polish diamonds, to extract the most beautiful polished jewel from the rough mined stone. And now, women in droves are going back to basics, choosing engagement rings featuring rough diamonds that have never been in the hands of a diamond cutter. Why?
Cost is certainly one reason for the appeal of rough diamonds. Rough diamonds don't undergo the laborious, time-consuming process of polishing, so they are significantly cheaper than polished diamonds. But it's not just about cost. In a fast paced, hi-tech world, younger consumers are seeking simple, special ways to express themselves. They want a diamond ring that doesn't speak to old fashioned traditions, yet is also not a modern, mass produced, branded item. And the boom of ecommerce craft websites, such as Etsy, have given many more consumers access to artisan, home-grown jewelers who dabble in alternative forms of jewelry making.
Recycled diamond engagement rings
While some consumers are running away from past traditions, others are going back in time, using older diamonds in their engagement rings. Some people have diamonds removed from family heirloom rings or other jewelry pieces, and then reset them in a custom-designed ring. Others scour second hand jewelers, estate sales, pawn shops or online sites dealing in pre-owned diamonds to find their own one-of-a-kind vintage diamond. It's not about being frugal, but rather about getting inspiration from the past to create a unique modern twist on the traditional engagement ring.
"Mangagement" diamond engagement rings
Believe it or not, men are getting in on the act too. In an era of equality, the concept of a women's engagement ring is too closely associated with backward notions of ownership. If she's going to wear one, well, he will too. Even a few years ago, a survey by The Knot showed that about 5% of men were wearing engagement rings. The number is increasing all the time, and many jewelers are meeting the demand, creating rings for a specifically male clientele.
And it's not just engagement rings – according to De Beers research, 67% of Chinese men aged between 30 and 44 want diamonds. It seems that even outside the bounds of engagements and proposals, the roles of women and men in diamond consumption are becoming blurred.
That's our roundup of strange, sometimes beautiful, sometimes shocking, diamond engagement ring trends for 2018. Steeped in tradition, yet subject to the whims of a new generation, the diamond engagement ring has traveled a fascinating route. Where will it end? Only time – and the timeless diamond – will tell.