Battle of the bands: Local jewelers discuss factors shaping today’s rings

Fashion is driven by many forces. Engagement rings are no exception. While a woman’s wedding ring is perhaps her most personal and precious piece of jewelry, her choice is usually influenced by what she sees and admires on others — be they celebrities, princesses or Pinterest hand models.

Of course, jewelry designers hold a lot of sway when it comes to the latest engagement ring fashions. Their creations often are inspired by the past — what’s old is often new again. Look no further than the return of yellow gold and the enduring popularity of the classic solitaire diamond.

But ring designers are always looking for new ways to please the next generation of betrothed. That means couples have more choices than ever — in design, stone shapes and metals — to express their love and commitment.

Among the latest trends: ovals and other elongated diamonds, colored gemstones, and an abundance of small accent stones, both on the engagement ring and on the wedding band.

We tapped two longtime Las Vegas jewelers for their insights about the forces shaping wedding rings, and expert advice on how to select the right one. Cliff Miller owns MJ Christensen Diamonds, which celebrated 80 years in business this April. Darryl Kulwin owns T-Bird Jewels, his family’s business for 57 years. Here are their takes for 2019:

Famous Influencers

“The celebrity world has really influenced the shape of the diamond engagement ring,” Miller said. “Katy Perry and Lady Gaga both had ovals.”

Thanks to Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, three-stone engagement rings also are in demand, he said. The prince designed his bride’s ring, which features a large center diamond, flanked by two smaller stones. Traditionally, three stones represent the past, present and future.

Duchess Meghan’s ring is cast in yellow gold, in contrast to the white gold and platinum styles that have dominated the engagement market for the past decade or so.

“We’re getting more requests for yellow gold because of (Markle’s) ring,” Miller said.

Colorful revolution

Colored stones are gaining in popularity, either as centerpieces or accents on the engagement band.

“Many brides are opting for stones that reflect color. Pink is popular,” Miller said. If that pink stone is a diamond, expect it to be expensive. “It can become a million-dollar pink diamond quickly.”

Some of Miller’s clients have opted instead for pink sapphires or pink tourmaline as a center stone. One couple did a green peridot — not because it’s the August birthstone, but because it’s the month they met.

Kulwin said his clients largely stick with white diamonds, though some opt for pink or other rare colored diamonds.

“We have done engagement rings in stunning pink, green or even red diamonds,” he said.

Still, Kulwin cautions couples to “think twice about color,” because colorful diamonds and other gemstones often come with a high price.

That’s just one reason that classic white diamonds are still the most popular choice, he said. Another is the long tradition of celebrating engagements with a sparkling, colorless diamond.

Abundant Diamonds

More diamonds mean more sparkle. That’s the reason many brides are choosing “halo” engagement rings. The setting features a large center stone encircled by smaller stones, often pavé diamonds.

Kate Middleton received a halo engagement ring from Prince William when he proposed in 2010. The center stone is the famous 12-carat blue sapphire worn by Princess Diana, William’s mother. The oval gem is surrounded by 14 solitaire diamonds.

You don’t need a large center stone to capture the halo effect. Indeed, one advantage of the halo is that it can make even a half-carat center diamond look larger.

The style is a celebrity favorite. Lady Gaga and Katy Perry’s engagement rings were yellow gold with pink center stones surrounded by diamonds.

For many brides, the diamonds don’t end at the engagement ring,

“The ladies usually want a complementary row of diamonds” on their wedding band, Miller said. “Some ladies want two of them.”

Surprises are nice…but rings are forever

When it comes to choosing an engagement ring, Kulwin and Miller agree that the bride-to-be should be involved. The couple could look together in stores or on Pinterest, Miller said, and select three options. That way there’s still an element of surprise but a happy outcome is more likely.

“Consulting friends and parents isn’t the best way to do it,” Kulwin said. “It’s one of the most important gifts a woman receives in her lifetime. It’s very important in starting out a great relationship.”

“Take your fiancé with you and pick out something together,” he suggested. “Save the actual proposal for a surprise.”

For those who can’t decide, Kulwin recommends buying a classic white solitaire. “Find the finest, most beautifully cut diamond, because the main stone is always the most important aspect of an engagement ring.”

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