“A diamond is forever” because of its hardness – diamond is the hardest naturally occurring material on earth that isn’t so scarce it has only been found in quantities undetectable to the human eye (I’m looking at you, qingsongite). Obviously, your engagement ring’s longevity is down to the everlasting nature of your love, but in practical terms, it helps that diamonds are such robust gemstones.
‘Your engagement ring’s longevity is down to the everlasting nature of your love, but in practical terms, it helps that diamonds are such robust gemstones’
However, don’t let anyone tell you that other stones aren’t an option. Emeralds and opals are often cited as being brittle and fragile, but in the right setting, and with the right care, any stone is feasible. A ring sporting a cabochon-cut emerald high above the gold, as in Julia Lloyd George’s example, would require seriously cautious wear, but if you’re the sort of person who can wear white linen to dinner and never get a speck of puttanesca sauce on it, you can handle a ring that can’t handle being knocked against the sink.
Pimlico-based independent jeweller Jessie Thomas apprenticed under her father, is one of those rare jewellers who actually makes and designs every piece herself, and sources the stones. A recently debuted collection of engagement rings included a bombe-style wide band set with the most delicately-hued unheated Sri Lankan sapphire, for a boldly-scaled ring totally removed from that cookie-cutter idea of the traditional engagement ring. She has a diamond version, too, in a mottled gold, which, while it would be fabulous on a woman’s hand, would totally work for a man.
Citrine may not be everyone’s dream, but the fabulous buff-topped stone in Cartier’s 1990s era “Tank” ring is seamlessly set into the shank, its honeyed tones beautifully working with the gold surrounds. This is a ring that so nonchalantly ignores all traditional engagement ring protocols, it deserves a round of applause. (Citrine is a 7 on the mohs scale – the measurement of a gemstone’s hardness – so it can handle a good clap.)
The most obvious, and traditional engagement ring style is, of course, a diamond solitaire, but even that brief can be swung wide open, with, say, Jo Hayes Ward’s black diamond pear in her distinctive pixelated gold band style, or Tomasz Donocik’s solitaire diamond surrounded by a twisted halo of baguette-cut tourmalines. Diamonds come in so many more cuts than brilliant – pears and hearts, asschers and cushions – and gloriously vintage old-cuts for a romantic, bygone-era feel.
I don’t know why more people don’t opt for bands as their engagement rings, and seem to think of them as more suitable for wedding bands. The most obvious benefit of a band is that it will work seamlessly with a wedding band, but bands – be they a Victorian five-stone sapphire ring, an all-diamond band, or a mix of both stones (see our main image) – are also brilliantly wearable. Elizabeth Gage’s Templar bands have always been one of first recommendations for engagement ring shoppers who want something particularly bold and statement-making, and come in everything from diamonds to citrines to – outrageously enough – chalcedony cabochons.
‘The most obvious benefit of a band is that it will work seamlessly with a wedding band, but bands – be they a Victorian five-stone sapphire ring, an all-diamond band, or a mix of both stones – are also brilliantly wearable’
Colour is another reason to opt for something other than diamonds, but don’t forget coloured diamonds. They can be seriously pricey if of the rare fancy vivid variety, but if you’re looking to make a serious investment (in your love, of course), certified natural-coloured diamonds are a pretty good bet. Anyone who can get hold of one of the extraordinary pink diamonds from the soon-to-be gone Argyle mine in Australia wouldn’t need to think twice about resale value (not that you ever would), and they’re spectacular enough to handle the most simple setting.
Rubies are mired in superstition for many cultures, which seems to stop even the most die-hard ruby lover from choosing this regal stone as the centrepiece of their engagement ring. But superstition be damned (knock on wood); the glorious raspberry-pink tones of this Art Deco ruby and diamond ring from the 1930s are too delicious to ignore, and you could scour the globe for someone sporting a matching one.
For all the advertising campaigns for engagement rings promoting a white diamond solitaire, which is, of course, a perfectly romantic and stylish choice, there are countless alternatives out there, catering for every taste. Be it the colour blue, Art Deco lines, Victorian stateliness or modern design that capture your heart, there is an engagement ring that exists just for you. Don’t let an advertising slogan from the 1940s influence your decision on what should be forever – let your eye make that choice.