It is undeniable that engagement rings exhibited by celebrities and Royalty are among the world’s most extravagant and opulent pieces of jewellery. Fashion Icon, Elizabeth Taylor was famed for her love of extravagant gems. The spectacular Elizabeth Taylor Diamond was gifted to her by Richard Burton in 1968. In 2011, the jewel sold at Christies for $8.8 million dollars. The 33-carat Asscher cut Krupp Diamond is reportedly among the most expensive engagement rings of all time. With astronomical price tags, such gems are items most can only dream of. But, when it comes to an engagement ring, is a sensational diamond a necessity, or is it truly the sentiment that counts?
Professor Scott Stanley from the University of Denver firstly illuminates the reasons behind the exchange of an engagement ring. Professor Stanley explains; “There are various customs through history that accomplish a fundamental task: symbolize commitment. This is fundamentally the question of what engagement does. It is a mutually determined and publicly signalled message about the intention to have a future together. Engagement rings, per se, are a relatively modern (from the 1940s or so) method for symbolizing engagement. But across cultures and time, there have been various customs for families and couples to signify to others that they are intended for a future together.”
The task of selecting the perfect gem is still often assumed by the hopeful groom. Lee Buxon of COO Jewellers says, “The trend mostly tends to be on the groom choosing the engagement ring as is traditional, some could say that this is old fashioned and outdated, but it still holds in my view that element of surprise and romance. We are seeing more frequently these days that a groom will take a promise ring (this is a fake engagement ring) he can propose with this ring and then bring his now fiancé to us and get the ring she has always wanted designed.”
Selecting the perfect ring is a high priority for many couples and it can represent a considerable financial outlay. Helen Pye at hitched.co.uk explains; “According to our 21st Century Bride Survey, the engagement ring is the fourth biggest wedding spend, after the venue, honeymoon and catering. In 2017, the average cost of an engagement ring was £2,084. While the myth of having to spend three months’ salary on an engagement ring has been well and truly shattered, couples appear more than happy to invest heavily in the perfect ring. The average cost of a ring to pop the question with has been rising steadily year on year but leaped a huge £342 from 2016 to 2017 alone. With brides-to-be lusting after a similar ring to Meghan Markle, there’ll doubtlessly be an increased demand for the more expensive cushion cut diamond this year, which will likely contribute to another big bump in engagement ring spending.”
Given the often hefty price tag, it is fair to ask if a ring should be looked upon as a sound financial investment? Lee Buxon says, “It really depends on the type of ring you would choose, bigger diamonds tend to hold their value more so than smaller diamonds, as they are rarer, so are more sought after. But most people buying an engagement ring, would not see the ring as an investment, they see it more as a gift for the person they love and want to spend the rest of their lives with.”
The recipient of a ring can however, certainly impact its financial worth. Catherine Duchess of Cambridge’s engagement ring is one of the world’s most recognisable and iconic pieces of Jewellery. The 12 carat sapphire surrounded by 14 solitaires was originally purchased for the future Princess of Wales by Prince Charles. It is reported that the ring sold for £28,000 in 1981 but today is valued in excess of £300,000. This represents a more than tenfold increase in its price tag.
While a ring may appreciate in value, the opposite trend is also apparent. Before becoming “Mrs Kanye West,” Kim Kardashian was briefly hitched to basketball star Kris Humphries. Following the implosion of their 72 day marriage, her 16.21 carat diamond engagement ring sold for $750,000, less than half its original value. This depreciation was possibly due to the fact that the gem had become tainted as the symbol of a brief and ultimately unhappy union.
It is said that diamond is the hardest naturally occurring substance known to man. Regrettably, in some relationships the diamonds exchanged are more durable than the union they are intended to represent. The demise of an engagement can subsequently present a dilemma regarding ownership of “the rock.” The legal and cultural norms depend upon the jurisdiction and have varied over time. Celebrities have been known to follow different trends. Jennifer Lopez for instance, returned her 6.1 carat Harry Winston diamond to Ben Affleck when their engagement crashed and burned. In contrast, Paris Hilton reportedly auctioned the sparkler given to her by Paris Latsis for $2 million and donated the proceeds to the Hurricane Katrina Appeal. The abrupt termination of both engagements clearly illustrate that diamonds are not always forever.
In light of this, it is reasonable to consider whether it is still important to present ones significant other with a glistening diamond. Do we really require a band of gold to live happily ever after? The question is probably best addressed by R’n’B icon Beyonce Knowles. Lest we forget, the superstar rocketed to the top of the US Charts admonishing a former beau, “if you liked it you should have put a ring on it.”
One Hollywood star who certainly put quite a ring on it was Ryan Reynolds. The actor presented Blake Lively with an engagement ring designed by celebrity jeweller Lorraine Schwartz. The jaw dropping 7 carrot light pink oval diamond in set in pave diamonds and rose gold reportedly set the star back a cool $2 million.
It is undeniable that celebrities influence all aspects of popular culture. This includes our taste in jewellery. Helen Pye explains; “Celebrities lead the way with style trends and it’s no different with engagement rings, however very few couples can afford the hefty price tags that go alongside the giant gems that celebs like Kim Kardashian West sport. After a high profile celebrity engagement, we instead see a spike in interest in stones with the same cut or for a similar distinctive colour. Both Kim and Meghan Markle’s rings sent the popularity of cushion-cut diamonds soaring, while the Duchess of Cambridge’s ring reportedly tripled interest in blue sapphire jewellery.” Helen Pye continues; “An engagement ring should be timeless, but it’s impossible to deny that where the celebrities go, we follow.”
Those who strive to emulate “A-Listers” remain adamant that when it comes to diamonds, bigger definitely equals better. Lee Buxon considers;“For some this would be true, some people like big diamonds, say 1ct or above, but generally I would say people want more quality over size, for the stone to have a good white colour and for the clarity to be high and an excellent cut, as this is what makes a diamond sparkle.”
Meghan Markel’s exquisite Trilogy ring from Prince Harry consists of three sparkling diamonds, intended to represent the couples past, present and future together. Those planning to go down on bended knee may not know what their future holds, but the future style of engagement rings can be reliably predicted. Helen Pye attests; “Meghan Markle’s cushion-cut engagement ring sent the popularity of the cut surging, but Princess Eugenie’s ring has told a different story. Eugenie’s partner Jack presented her with a padparadscha sapphire ring, a lesser-known, salmon-pink variety of sapphire. Blush or pink coloured gems have had a slightly gaudy reputation until now, when Eugenie’s elegant ring shed them of their tainted past. While there might be slightly more interest in pink engagement rings after Eugenie showed off hers, it’s Meghan’s classic and stylish ring that will be emulated for years to come.”
While many grooms may fret over the style and cost of a ring, for most future brides the price tag does pale into insignificance when set against its sentimental value. Helen Pye explains, “The actual value of the ring is inconsequential compared to the commitment and love that it signifies. Insuring your ring is one of the first things a couple should do after getting engaged, but most women would find no amount of money could truly replace their cherished engagement ring if it was lost. You might be able to buy an identical replacement, but the emotions and memories attached to the ring are priceless.” Helen Pye continues, “We hear of plenty of couples choosing lower value rings in order to spend the money on their honeymoon or a house deposit instead, and I’m sure they’ll confirm that the cheaper price tag has no effect on how much they treasure their ring.”
Sparkling and eye catching diamonds are an understandably popular choice for an engagement ring for both celebs and mere mortals alike. But, when it comes to Colour, Clarity, Carat and Cut, the perfect diamond may prove elusive. However, you have struck gold if you find that rare diamond who considers you to be the most precious of gems, because that– is truly- priceless.
Editorial by Paula Hogan