Proposing to your loved one with an engagement ring is not a new custom. In fact, the tradition of gifting your bride-to-be with an engagement ring originated in 1477 by Archduke Maximilian of Austria. Since then, engagement ring trends and styles have varied greatly. Jewelry can often be indicative of the time period in which it was made, and engagement rings are no exception. Pick up any vintage engagement ring today and you can likely determine the era it originates from simply by examining its details.
Here, we’ll explore the most popular engagement ring styles by decade, discover their inspirations, and learn the influence they’ve had on contemporary designs.
Engagement Ring Trends: Then and Now
As history has slowly been unearthed, it’s been discovered that even ancient cultures like the Egyptians used rings to symbolize commitment to one another. In fact, they wore these rings on the same finger and hand as we do today. It was believed that this finger was where a vein connected directly to the heart.
During this time period in Europe, couples exchanged what were known as posie rings. These rings would have lines of poetry or a love message for the wearer engraved on the inside. Even William Shakespeare’s plays make mention of engagements and rings being gifted.
The mid 1800’s mark the beginning of the Victorian era in England with Queen Victoria’s accession to the throne. This period is often characterized as the Romantic Period because of the love Victoria so openly had for her husband, Albert. This romanticism is reflected in jewelry pieces of the time, with motifs like flowers, bows, and hearts being common.
Early 20th century
This time period is classified as the Edwardian era. Marked by the Industrial Revolution and a growing middle class, engagement rings became more accessible to the masses. Edwardian jewelry commonly features delicate, ornate platinum designs and diamond accents.
1920’s & 30’s
The roaring twenties saw a shift in jewelry trends. Art Deco engagement rings are very distinct, with their sharp lines, geometric shapes, and the use of many small diamonds rather than a single large one. These pieces were most often designed with platinum or white gold and commonly featured colored gemstones in addition to diamonds. During the 1930’s and the Great Depression, fine jewelry was reserved exclusively for the wealthy. Designs became simpler than the bold styles of the 1920’s, though platinum was still the preferred choice of metal.
During the 1940’s and WWII, platinum was scarce. This made gold the metal of choice for jewelry. Engagement rings began focusing on a solitary stone rather than multiple small stones. Diamonds continued to be the gemstone of choice for engagement rings, though rubies and sapphires remained popular.
In the 1950’s, diamonds became more accessible, cementing their status as the choice stone for engagement rings. Because of this, 1950’s engagement rings began featuring larger stones. One common design was a large center stone, flanked on either side by smaller diamonds or baguettes. Stackable rings also became a trend, and are still popular today. Audrey Hepburn’s husband gave her rings in both yellow and rose gold so she could switch them to match her outfits.
During the 1960’s, celebrities faced more exposure than ever before. The public began to adopt trends based on what the Hollywood starlets were wearing. Famous figures like Elizabeth Taylor and Jackie Kennedy made statements with their engagement rings. Taylor’s engagement ring from Richard Burton was a whopping 33-carat diamond, while Kennedy’s ring was a mix of diamonds and emeralds.
The princess cut diamond originated in the 1960’s, but wasn’t widely accepted until the 70’s. During this decade, new diamond cuts became popular and angular designs were in demand. It was also during this time that the tradition of matching a wedding band to your engagement ring was adopted. You’ll notice this when you shop vintage engagement rings, as it’s common to see 1970’s wedding ring sets.
The engagement and wedding of Princess Diana and Prince Charles was the event of the decade. Along with all of the excitement surrounding the royal wedding came a turn in ring trends that was undoubtedly inspired by the princess. Her 12-carat blue sapphire engagement ring helped to popularize the use of colored gemstones for engagement rings.
1990’s engagement rings were marked by simplicity. White metals experienced a resurgence, and marquise cut diamonds were all the rage. The advent of the internet meant couples had more access than ever to information. They could access information about engagement rings, and could shop online vendors rather than visiting a traditional jewelry store.
Since the early 2000’s, engagement ring trends have taken a turn towards the traditional. The cushion cut has surpassed the round solitaire as the most popular diamond cut. Thinner bands are most common, and are often set with diamonds for added brilliance. Although platinum and white gold are still preferred metals, rose gold has become quite fashionable for engagement rings.
Engagement Rings from Every Decade
Wondering where you can find the perfect engagement ring for your sweetheart? Leo Hamel Fine Jewelry & Engagement Rings Store in San Diego has an amazing selection of engagement rings to choose from! We offer all of the most popular engagement ring styles, so there’s truly something for everyone to enjoy. Whether you’re looking for a contemporary design, an antique engagement ring, or something vintage, you’ll find it all here at Leo Hamel’s!