After a surreal couple of years in which priorities have been reassesed and love celebrated, jewellers both new and contemporary are reporting a spike in engagement ring purchases for those who have enjoyed confinement together in close quarters, with a focus on unconventional and alternative engagement rings especially. ‘We have seen an increase in sales within fine rings during lockdown and interestingly across all different price points,’ says Tanika Wisdom, jewellery buyer at Matches Fashion. ‘We have seen more traction with statement styles; they all have a point of difference and stones range from diamonds to precious multi-coloured stones.’ For a ring with a difference, traditional elements such as gold and diamonds can be transformed with subtle design tweaks, making this most romantic of rings both special and surprising - alternative engagement rings have never looked so good.
Gold chains aren't just for the décolletage. Nadine Aysoy celebrates the chunky silhouette in her Catena collection, which threads links and precious stones through the ear and round the wrist. Here, a diamond ring makes for an offbeat engagement choice.
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Sarah Ysabel Dyne Narici creates fully customisable pieces as part of the brand philosophy for Dyne. Significant symbols and engravings can be added to one-of-a-kind rings for special adornments which are truly unique.
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In her new Soho Engagement Ring collection, Shahla Karimi draws the architecturally bold silhouettes of New York’s Soho, with unexpected placements and edgy geometric juxtapositions making for modern and chic pieces.
Eliza Walter turns to gold salvaged e-waste and dental waste, as well as utilising Lylie's in-house gold exchange, in a new line of truly sustainable engagement rings. Featuring both lab-grown and recycled diamonds, rings take inspiration from the natural world for fluid, sculptural designs.
Designer Natalie Schayes decentralises diamonds in her design-led jewellery made in Antwerp, Belgium. Pieces eschew classic design codes with riffs off undulating shapes and pure forms for rings which encapsulate a new modernity.
Can't decide which cut to go for? You don't need to with the Jumbo Multi Faceted Diamond Ring from EF Collection, which juxtaposes emerald, marquise and square cuts in a deliciously modern medley.
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Brazil-based Sauer creae intricate and offbeat silhouettes from 18k recycled gold and sustainable materials. The Helena ring casts diamonds and gold on an undulating wave, with an irregularly-placed emerald adding an untraditional precious pop of colour.
London-based jewellery designer Rachel Boston creates her edgy pieces in her London workshop, subverting classic design codes for jewellery both unexpected and elegant. With the Aelia ring, she turns the idea of a traditional engagement ring quite literally on its head, resting a hexagon step cut diamond on a thick yellow gold band.
Los Angeles-based designer Shannon Nataf suspends a diamond under an 18k yellow gold band in the Elevation V ring. The edges of the ring may be dotted in pavé diamonds, but the outside is a smooth and thickly drawn whorl of gold, making an edgy surprise for the wearer's eyes only.
Michelle Oh plays with off-centre asymmetrical design codes in the Hypatia ring, which brings a teasing edge to a traditonal square-cut white diamond. By tweaking the silhouette of the whole, the diamond appears to hover on its gold band for an edgy take on an engagement.
Jessica McCormack is kicking off her bridal focus with a collection of 25 new ring styles. A new bridal space, shortly to be unveiled in her London store, will showcase a wide selection of rings and bridal jewellery with none of the formality which can make choosing this special purchase a tad imposing. If the new ring collection is anything to go by, the bridal concept will be well worth a visit for all budding brides-to-be - we especially love the fan-like silhouette of this pleated diamond halo ring.
Who said engagement rings have to be perfectly symmetrical? Aaryah, who work with artisans in Jaipur and New York for pieces which combine traditional craftsmanship with an offbeat design edge, play with our concepts of traditional jewellery. Diamonds, rather than sitting neatly in their gold bands, hover over them, curve round them or - pictured - cosy up to a contrasting cut for an engagement with the cool factor.
The jewellery and industrial design backgrounds of the founders of Singapore-based fine jewellery brand State Property inform everything they do, creating slick design-led pieces. Their engagement rings twist ropes of gold together and stud them with precious stones for a contemporary textural update.
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Jessie Thomas is a master of untraditional silhouettes - her pieces, although simple, all add a quirk to a classic which makes them utterly irresistable. Her designs, which she hand-makes in her London workshop, are crafted from recycled gold for pieces both sustainable and with an offbeat charm.
Born in Morocco and raised in Paris, Dalila Barkache's seductive designs have caught the attention of Dover Street Market who have added her to their edgy roster. The Black Diamond ring subverts tradtional positioning for a cool take on a classic.
Sam Ham Jewellery Design
Sam Hamilton inverts traditional symbols of power by merging signet and engagement rings for tongue-in-cheek fine jewellery. Rings can slot into each other, be worn alone, studded with diamonds or left unadorned – what remains consistent, though, is the contemporary silhouettes and well-crafted forms in this very modern bridal jewellery.
A former style editor of Vogue China, Yi was keen to create something of her own after extensive travels around Sri Lanka and Myanmar. Her eponymous jewellery brand recalls the vivid colours of the region with bright gemstones, as in this colourful ring which frames an aquamarine against a thin band of emeralds in a chic example of colour blocking.
Geneva-based jewellery maison Boghossian create dazzling technically accomplished gems, each piece pushing the boundries of what is possible. This Kissing ring is a case in point – a cushion-shaped ruby, sinking into the opulence of a bold tanzanite, makes for a contrast both arresting and symbolic.
The Ashoka diamond takes centre stage in this swirling engagement ring from Kwiat, which brilliantly reflects the light thanks to its 62 facets. Instead of the traditional circle of gold, a diamond-studded loop winds its way round the finger so the stones appear to float on the skin, in an elegant play on a very precious piece.
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The Maya cut, Maya Gemstones’ signature diamond cut which creates 28 gleaming facets, is the star of this unusually shaped ring. Architecturally striking, it turns the traditional silhouette quite literally on its head for a piece both contemporary and cool.
Anita Ko's engagement rings cast diamonds into hypnotic spirals or symmetrical geometric patterns, always subverting the traditional for chic results. The Arc ring with floating pear diamonds neatly doubles up on a simple design for a ring which, luckily, you will never want to take off.
Jenny Klatt and Stephanie Wynne Lalin are the duo behind New York-based jewellery brand Jemma Wynne, together creating pieces that exude an effortless elegance. Their jewels strike the right balance between precious and informal – take this offbeat engagement ring, which elongates asymmetrical diamonds in a chic subversion of a classic style.
Moritz Glik brings a playful fluidity to rings which move with the wearer. The Shaker rings cradle diamonds in a white sapphire kaleidoscopic shaker, making for fun fine jewellery which puts a spin on a traditional piece.
Annette Welander unites sharp Scandinavian design with warm sustainably sourced gold for her Stockholm-based brand. The Arc ring appears to be an understated choice at first glance - but look again, and its slick craftsmanship and edgy silhouette makes for an enduringly elegant design.
Emily P. Wheeler
Los Angeles-based fine jeweller Emily P. Wheeler focuses on one-of-a-kind and limited-edition pieces for her carefully considered jewels, which aim to reduce waste and carbon impact. The resulting pieces play on geometrical silhouettes for a unique take on fine jewellery – here, an off-centre cross of diamonds makes for a chic rethinking of the classic centre stone.
Alternative bridal wear for the modern bride (opens in new tab)
The clean and elegant lines of Liv Luttrell's fine jewellery play on traditional silhouettes with surprising design tweaks. Classic hoop earrings become twisting ribbons of gold, ear pendants architectural mini sculptures. Her bespoke engagement rings are equally as unexpected – we love the juxtaposition of geometrical outlines in this recycled gold piece, for a chic and modern update to this most classic of adornments.
New York-based jeweller Jade Trau uses subtle design tweaks to breathe new life into classic silhouettes. In some pieces, thick ribbons of gold wind around the finger, balancing a diamond in their loops; here, a coil of silver twists over the knuckles, making for an engagement ring with maximum impact.
Fine jewellery brand Kimaï, which champions the use of lab-grown diamonds in its contemporary jewels, has just launched its first collection of engagement rings. The Perfectly Imperfect collection is comprised of six made-to-order pieces which undulate around the finger for flowing and flattering forms. Handmade in the Antwerp studio using 18ct recycled gold, the rings can include any diamond carat or cut of your choice.
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Chicago-based jewellery brand Almasika plays with simple concepts of geometry to create unique twists on classic pieces. The Universum ring, part of the Sagesse collection, surrounds the traditional central diamond with hypnotising circles for a sculptured take on an engagement ring.
Nigerian-born gemologist Thelma West combines ethically sourced African diamonds with recycled gem stones for her eponymous jewellery brand. Her all-female team bring a new aesthetic to the diamond market with contemporary designs such as this Rebel Black ring. A traditional pear-cut diamond is hugged by a twist of 18ct black gold in a bold take on a classic.
Los Angeles-based fine jewellery designer Nancy Newberg taps into the trend with her new bridal collection, Modern Love, which unites a wealth of alternative options for those looking to avoid the more traditional. The collection mixes metals, edging gold with black and diamonds for rings that eschew sentimentality. All the new pieces cut architecturally bold silhouettes, but it is the perfect symmetry in this piece, when juxtaposed against a mash of textures, that makes it the one for us.
Katherine Kim is the LA-based designer behind fine jewellery brand Katkim. A jewellery education at both Central Saint Martins and New York's Fashion Institute of Technology means Kim's style has been finely honed, and she has made a combination of fuss-free lines and surprising design tweaks her own. The Floating Asscher diamond ring marks a signature setting for her: by turning the traditional positioning quite literally on its head, she savours the elements which make an engagement ring so precious, while adding the wry humour often lacking from this most romantic of accessories.
Maison Dauphin at Dover Street Market
Charlotte Dauphin de la Rochefoucauld’s eponymous jewellery brand is synonymous with sculptural design. Her jewels frequently offer unexpected qualities: in this rose gold ring the off-centre placing of the diamond, when paired with the clean break of the traditional circle, presents a chic and modern engagement ring alternative.
Engagement rings don’t come much cooler than Melissa Kaye’s neon enamel collection, which intersperse traditional elements with fluorescent pops of colour. Enamel in black or white – or the more contemporary neon pink or yellow – gets a chic rethink when paired with more conventional yellow gold and diamonds.
Shahla Karimi’s designs, handcrafted in NYC’s Diamond District, cut architecture-inspired silhouettes in recycled gold or platinum. The Mid-Century series of rings pays tribute to architects including Louis Kahn, Mies van der Rohe and Frank Lloyd Wright with plays on vertically stacked baguettes, negatives spaces and clean aesthetics.
Le Gramme’s wedding rings, like all its pieces, embody a simple concept. Named after their weight, the emphasis is on form, function and succinct design. Originally created for men, we love the minimalist nature of this piece which would lend itself well to an engagement ring; a clandestine inner circle of diamonds a chic statement for those who see no need to make one.
Kavant & Sharart
Frozen on the crest of a wave, the Talay Dancing Wave ring in brushed yellow gold and diamonds eschews sentimentality, instead capturing the drama of an engagement with sensuous and undulating curves.
Georg Jensen’s sculptural silhouettes lend themselves well to engagement rings which are more elegant than elaborate. Designer Regitze Overgaard’s influence is obvious in this year’s Curve collection, which is characterised by the pure lines the Danish design house is celebrated for.
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Mateo at Matches Fashion
At first glance a traditional emerald-cut showstopper, the Point of Focus diamond and topaz ring from Jamaican designer Matthew Harris offers up unexpected details upon a second look.
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Sardo at Dover Street Market
Fluidity lies at the core of former architecture student Elena Sardo’s pieces. Made in Italy, this Roots and Wings ring encapsulates her philosophy of lightness, with dynamic branches of white gold and diamond leaves appearing to move with the wearer.
Fine jewellery becomes fun in Bucherer’s Dizzler rings, which integrate rollers crafted from precious metal between the inner and outer rings for tactile and colourful pieces. Spinning in opposite directions, yet ultimately linked together, as an alternative engagement ring they entrench playfulness with meaning.
Shihara’s jewellery is deceptively simple, keeping aesthetics to a minimum and focusing instead on clear, precise silhouettes which play with the ideas around how jewellery can be worn. The Un-Signet Rough Diamond ring is designed to ensure all eight sides of the octahedral uncut rough diamond can be seen. In a romantic quirk for an engagement ring, the diamond is positioned to ensure the tip is touching the wearer’s skin at all times.
Ana Khouri’s jewellery twists traditional concepts: with the unexpected setting of a diamond here and a just slightly off-centre placing there, her jewels are predictable only in their unpredictability. All of the expected elements are present in the Mirian ring, but with a swirl and a flourish, they become wholly new.
Understatement is key in Hancocks’ new collection of gypsy-set rings, so-called after they were designed specifically to fool highwaymen in the early 19th century as to the true value of the gemstone. The stones are inlaid to ensure they sit just below the surface; shying away from the ostentatious, they nod to the prevalent mood with no compromise on design.
Hannah Silver joined Wallpaper* in 2019 to work on watches and jewellery. Now, as well as her role as watches and jewellery editor, she writes widely across all areas including on art, architecture, fashion and design. As well as offbeat design trends and in-depth profiles, Hannah is interested in the quirks of what makes for a digital success story.
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