• Alexandria Living

Wedding Jewelry Trends: Engagement Rings and Wedding Bands

Diamonds weren’t always the norm. For centuries, engagement rings were sapphires or other stones, usually paired with diamonds. It was in 1947 that the lines turned: That was the year DeBeers launched its slogan, “A Diamond is Forever.” According to the American Gem Society, “The implied durability of a diamond conveyed the meaning in the American psyche that marriage is forever.”

What is changing now is the way diamonds are attained. The more traditional diamond is mined, but an increasing number of couples are turning to lab-grown diamonds that are less harmful to the environment and lessen the human toll from mining operations.

What hasn't changed? The most popular cut for a diamond engagement ring. "Round diamonds are always the most popular, but lately we have been getting a lot of requests for ovals," said Cathy Bradford, owner of King's Jewelry 609 King St., which has been in business since 1955.

The round brilliant consists of 58 facets that divide the stone into a top and bottom half, the American Gem Society notes.

Runners up, according to the gem society, include the oval cut, princess cut and the emerald-cut. The cushion cut, which combines a square cut with rounded corners, like a pillow, is getting more popular, as well.

Many couples considering getting engaged often do their homework by searching for rings they like on social media. Pinterest notes that elongated cuts including oval are popular, and searches for pear-shaped and elongated cushion engagement rings are up 143 percent.

After doing their homework, many couples often go ring shopping together before a proposal, Bradford noted. "We usually get couples who come in and look first so that the groom has an idea of what she likes. Later, he comes back and picks a ring he knows she will love."

While about 80 percent of brides stroll down the aisle wearing a diamond engagement ring, some opt for something more unique. Aside from diamonds, "sapphires seem to be the most popular colored stone because it is harder than other colored stones and produces excellent sparkle," Bradford said.

When it comes to the average amount spent on an engagement ring, the Mid-Atlantic region spends the most, with an average of a whopping $7,500, according to wedding authority The Knot. The guidance to spend two to three months’ salary on an engagement ring was made up by marketers, and financial advisers recommend spending only what you can afford without going into debt. (You can always upgrade with a nice anniversary ring later.)

When it comes to popping the question, the most popular days are Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year's Eve, New Year's Day and Valentine's Day.

And a small-but-growing number of heterosexual couples are swapping roles, or at least thinking about it. Searches on Pinterest for “women propose to men ideas” increased 336 percent from 2017 to 2018, the most recent year data is available, Brides magazine reported. But it’s still something only about 5 percent of women do.

After the proposal, most couples are engaged for just over 14 months before the big day.

Wedding Rings

While the engagement ring gets a lot of attention before the wedding, it’s the wedding rings that play a big role in the ceremony.

Wedding rings come in an endless variety from simple bands in gold to more complex designs in titanium. They can come with or without gems, or be paired to complement an engagement ring. Some couples are opting for vintage rings, and matching bands are no longer necessary.

So where do you start? Stop by a local jewelry store or start searching social media for what you love – this is something you’ll probably be wearing every day for the rest of your lives together, after all. Keeping your lifestyle in mind will help narrow the selection, too. If you play sports or work with your hands a lot, a simple band may be the safer choice, according to The Knot.

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