By Deborah Yonick, jewelry style expert
Bridal couples today are rewriting the wedding playbook to reflect more individuality in their nuptials. People feel free to express themselves in their weddings, and that extends to their bridal rings.
“Traditional paradigms about how a wedding should be and how significant elements of the wedding are looked upon are changing,” describes Michael O'Connor, style expert and TV commentator. He credits the shift, in part, to celebrity influence in highly publicized engagements and weddings that showcase unique approaches to the rings, especially use of colored stones.
Thirty years after it made a splash for color in the bridal market, the 18-carat blue sapphire Princess Diana wore when she wed Prince Charles is now on the finger of Kate Middleton, her son Prince William's bride. Beyond Brit royals, Hollywood 's elite wear gemmy engagement rings like Penelope Cruz in blue sapphire, Nicole Richie in pink sapphire, and Jessica Simpson in ruby. Among the most coveted options, color diamonds have a big fan base, especially for yellows, champagnes and pinks, including Carrie Underwood in yellow diamond and Mariah Carey in pink.
“Color allows women to showcase their sense of style,” describes Amanda Gizzi, spokesperson for Jewelers of America, Jewelry Information Center (JIC). “Everyone has a favorite color and every color tends to make women feel differently. That's perhaps why women are falling head over heels for colored gemstone engagement rings. Sapphires, rubies, and aquamarines are just a few of the gemstones being worn by these trendsetting brides.”
Erica Courtney, Hollywood designer to the stars and member of the American Gem Trade Association (AGTA), has found that women love morganite, pink tourmaline, and moonstone. The multi-AGTA Spectrum Award™ winner has even used green quartz in bridal rings.
“Since we no longer live in an era of homogeny, people are willing to be bold and unique,” says Courtney. “Couples love to use their wedding colors or birthstones in their rings. They want them to represent their love and life as a couple.”
Although color is more likely to show up in the bride's rings, Courtney says she enjoys surprising the groom by adding the same gem as his bride has on the inside of his band. “It's their little secret and a great personal touch.”
Classically speaking, blue sapphire reigns as a top colored gemstone choice in bridal, followed by fancy color sapphires (especially pink and yellow) and ruby, as corundum gems are second in hardness to diamond.
“Sapphire is the most popular, partly because of its royal blue color and also since it's generally more affordable than ruby and emerald of similar size and quality,” explains Niveet Nagpal, principal with Omi Gems, an AGTA Member, Los Angeles-based fine gem importer and manufacturer.
Next to sapphire, ruby and emerald lead as bridal ring choices. But Nagpal also has requests for spinel and alexandrite. The demand inspired Omi Gems to develop a colored gemstone bridal line, says Nagpal, who took first place in bridal wear in the 2011 AGTA Spectrum Awards™ jewelry design competition for a nearly 6-carat tsavorite ring with yellow diamond accents set in platinum and 18k gold.
“In the past, brides opted for colored gems in their rings because they couldn't afford a nice or large diamond,” says Nagpal. “Now, people are spending big money on color for its own merits. They wear colored gemstone engagement rings to show off their individuality and to feel like a celebrity.”
Posts by fans on AGTA Member LeVian's Facebook page share stories of engagement rings centered with gems like Raspberry Rhodolite Garnet®, Ocean Blue Topaz™, Aquamarine, and Cotton Candy Amethyst®, tells Eddie LeVian, owner of the Great Neck, New York based jewelry manufacturer.
Multi-Spectrum winner and AGTA Member, Robert Pelliccia of JR Dunn Jewelers in Lighthouse Point , Florida says the trend for color in bridal has become an important niche, especially in custom design work. “Years ago it had to be a white diamond. Now, more brides are saying “yes” to many gems.” He says it's about 50/50 that color-minded brides choose a gem center or accents.
Atlanta-based designer Jane Wullbrandt notes that secret or surprise stones worked in the gallery of the ring are often the most symbolic to a couple, representing the birthstones of the children entering a new family union or colors/gems with special meaning to the couple. “It's a subtle way to add sentiment,” says the AGTA member and multi-Spectrum winner.
Whether used as the center stone, side accents or hidden inside the gallery work, blue sapphire requests are on the rise for couple looking to bring a bit of good luck to the marriage in the bridal rings, reports LeVian.
Pelliccia attributes the proliferation of bridal shows, magazines and web sites for raising awareness about non-traditional bridal options. He says requests for certain colors spike after important Who's Wearing What posts go viral online. With the royal nuptials looming, it's no surprise blue sapphire requests are up. In fact, Pelliccia took platinum honors in the bridal division of the 2011 Spectrum Awards with a blue sapphire platinum ring accented by sapphires and diamonds.
Another example, one that truly solidifies the trend for bridal color, is demand for black diamond rings—inspired by Mr. Big giving Carrie a 5-carat rock in the final scene of the film Sex and the City 2. More couture than taboo, Big gave Carrie a black diamond ring because she's “not like anyone else!”
While Israeli designer Nelly Cohen for Cherie Dori is not convinced that black diamond rings will be a big trend, she does see a strong penchant for stacking black and white diamond bands. She advocates the use of black diamonds be subtle, simple and tailored. “It's best as a trim around the edge of the shank, or eternity style,” she explains.
But most striking has been a strong trend for champagne, cognac and chocolate diamonds, reports LeVian, who has had tremendous success with the brand's Chocolate Diamonds, often paired with Strawberry Gold, in engagement ring designs. In fact, LeVian hails the chocolate theme as big in weddings, overall, including the bands for both bride and groom. He says that since December, brown diamonds have really taken off in the bridal category.
San Francisco-based designer, Pratima Sethi for Sethi Couture, deems brown diamonds almost as popular as yellow diamonds, translating their success in fashion to bridal. Like yellow diamonds, she says the browns work well in both a starring or supporting role in the ring design.
The key for most color-minded brides, notes Courtney, is that the ring design looks traditional. The twist is in the gems selected; and the sky's the limit in color, type and combination. So, drop the formalities, get introspective, and think inside the crayon box!
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