Try to think of a fashion trend that has lasted as long as the engagement ring. Since the early 1900s, American engagement rings have withstood most of the ebb and flow of fashion, staying more consistent in design than almost every other accessory. Indeed, for over a century, the necessary solitaire diamond engagement ring — a plain silver or gold band with a single brilliant-cut round diamond — has been the emblem of betrothal.

When you look at antique wedding bands across the decades, you’ll see that there is quite a deal of change from one decade to the next, however slight. While the overarching motif may have remained consistent, the little details and finishes vary in tandem with the rest of the cultural and fashion trends. Here’s a look at how engagement rings have changed from decade to decade.

Art Deco Glam in the 1920s and 1930s

Jewelry, like art, architecture, and society, favored the geometric, abstract, and detailed at the height of the decorative arts movement in the 1920s. White gold and platinum were also characteristics of engagement ring design during this time period.

Platinum and white gold. White gold and platinum were supreme throughout the art deco period. Yellow gold would not resurface as a popular engagement ring material for some decades.
Gemstone cutting from the past. Some of the most popular engagement ring types at the period were old European cut diamonds (non-brilliant cut round diamonds) and the lasting Asscher cut, which respected the era’s tendencies with strong, geometric lines.
Stones with clusters of various colors. Art deco engagement rings, like this exquisite example donated by the Smithsonian, generally included several bright jewels and pearl embellishments to reflect the sophisticated, geometric design of the day. Diamonds were not widely used at the time. In fact, prior to World War II, just 10% of engagement rings had diamonds.
Configuration of clusters Cluster settings, which consist of numerous gemstones placed together in a distinctive style, was popular. It would be another year before solitaire engagement rings became fashionable.

The 1940s and 1950s

The De Beers diamond business launched its “A Diamond is Forever” campaign in 1947 as a strategy to advertise diamonds to men wanting to propose. Among the period’s signatures are:

The diamond’s ascension. In addition to clever diamond ads, the robust economic expansion of the 1950s aided diamond popularity in the 1950s. Diamond engagement rings were fashionable far into the 1970s.
Precious metal alternatives. During World War II, one of the most popular engagement ring materials, platinum, was in low supply. This prompted jewelry designers to return to gold, with a plethora of settings in gleaming yellow and rose gold.
Configuration of clusters By the end of the 1950s, solitaire engagement rings were still not the norm. While designers did accentuate a huge center stone, it was often surrounded on each side by lesser diamonds or baguette-cut diamonds. The pear cut was very popular.

Back to Art Deco in the 1960s and 1970s

Jewelry trends, like many other fads in fashion, tend to revert to older patterns once some time has gone. That’s precisely what occurred with engagement ring styles in the 1960s and 1970s. Designers resurrected the popular styles of the 1920s and 1930s throughout this period, frequently adding the extremely in-vogue diamond for a stylish impact.

The 1970s and 1980s

The 1970s and 1980s saw two major shifts in engagement ring design: new cuts and a lot of yellow gold. This era’s engagement rings were big, flamboyant, and dazzling, much like the general fashion trends of the time. Some of the most prevalent characteristics were:

Gold in a yellow hue. We all know that the overall style of the 1970s and 1980s had a distinct gold hue, so it’s no wonder that engagement rings of the period were often made of gleaming yellow gold.
New slashes. During this time period, the jewelry industry grew enamored with round-cut diamonds and emerald-cut diamonds. Prince Charles proposed to Princess Diana with a beautiful oval blue sapphire engagement ring in the 1980s. Naturally, this sparked a surge in demand for sapphires and oval cuts.
Thick bands and chunky settings. In sharp contrast to today’s small, delicate wedding and engagement rings, this era was all about making a large impression on the finger. They were chubby, enormous, and glitzy.

The 1990s and 2000s

The 1990s and 2000s witnessed a slight movement in engagement rings, yet there was a clear response to previous decades’ trends. This is most visible in the selection of precious metals. Rings from these decades shunned the bright yellow gold of the 1980s in favor of white gold and platinum.

Even now, yellow gold has not fully recovered, with lighter precious metals favored. During this time period, the bride and groom preferred basic but striking designs — think classic solitaires — and many featured intriguing new cuts. During these decades, princess-cut and cushion-cut diamond engagement rings ruled the jewelry world.

From 2010 to the Present

Today’s engagement ring trends include several of the greatest fads from the previous century. What’s the greatest part? Affordability is the king. Today’s brides and grooms have challenged the assumption that going down on one knee needs to cost an arm and a leg, which is why low-cost engagement rings are so popular.

Men’s engagement rings The growth of same-sex marriage in the twenty-first century has resulted in an increase in engagement rings for guys. Some jewelry producers promoted these fashionable rings as “marriage rings,” and they’re becoming more popular among both heterosexual and homosexual couples.
Stackable and dainty. You just cannot dispute that engagement ring bands have become thinner over the last decade or two. Ladies, in particular, like ultra-thin bands that may be stacked with wedding rings to create a distinctive, mismatched look.
You don’t have to follow tradition just because this brilliant gesture of affection has stayed quite consistent. Whether you draw from the past, forge a new path, or go completely trendy, as long as your engagement ring symbolizes you, you’re doing it properly.

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