Engagement rings have always mirrored the trending styles of the time period. Though these pieces are made to last a lifetime, you can see distinct differences in rings used for proposals from one time period to the next. If you’re looking for vintage inspiration for your own ring, there are several designs worth considering. Take a look at some of the eye-catching options that have graced the hands of glowing brides through the decades.
1920s – Art Deco Rings
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The Art Deco period of the 1920s emphasized geometric designs and modern-looking styles. This gave rise to intriguing pieces that cleverly juxtapose maximalist and minimalist elements in this period. Asscher-cut diamonds are the perfect example, with their simple square shape accented by distinctive step-cut facets.
Pear-cut and emerald-cut diamonds offer a simpler way to channel this look. More extravagant rings from the 1920s often feature a diamond halo around the center stone, which was a trending feature at the time. Some styles also feature a halo of other stones like sapphires, rubies, or emeralds for a dramatic look. White metals were the most popular option.
1930s – The Retro Era
In the early 1930s, Art Deco styles were still popular. However, near the middle of the ’30s, the Retro Era began to take over and styles were simplified. Platinum was requisitioned for the war effort, so gold made a resurgence. Diamonds were more difficult to come by, so these tended to be smaller, though the diamonds were often pave-set to give them a larger appearance. Semi-precious stones were featured in the place of precious stones, as it was easier to come by options like amethyst or citrine for engagement rings of the era.
1940s – Prominent Bands
In the 1940s, engagement rings took on a softer, more feminine look that’s distinctly different from the sharp corners and modern patterns that reigned in the Art Deco period. As platinum was still being used for the war effort, yellow gold and rose gold remained the metals of choice until the mid-1940s. Engagement rings in this period often featured elaborate bands that resembled ribbons, bows, or stems. This allowed designers to craft stunning rings using very small stones, as these were frugal times. Etchings and engravings let the metal take center stage.
The De Beers’ “A diamond is forever” marketing campaign in 1948 began to shift attention back toward diamonds after the war. Large, round diamonds began to rise in popularity for engagement rings in this period. This is seen by some as the birth of the modern engagement ring.
1950s – Diamond Rings
Large, distinctive diamonds were a popular choice for engagement rings in the 1950s. Styles typically featured one central stone that might be flanked by other, smaller diamonds. Rectangular-shaped baguette diamonds were often used on either side of the primary diamond, sitting lengthwise along the band.
Audrey Hepburn received two wedding bands from Mel Ferrer in 1954 — with one in yellow gold and the other in rose — so she could match her ring to her outfit. Though Hepburn never wore the rings together, this idea gave rise to the popularity of a stacked ring design.
1960s – Bold Designs
In the 1960s, big, bold engagement rings were all the rage. Though few could live up to Elizabeth Taylor’s 33-carat ring, this didn’t stop brides from coveting over-the-top diamonds. Other precious stones gained popularity in this period as well, thanks to the emerald and diamond ring worn by Jackie Kennedy. White metals returned to popularity in the 1960s as well, having been out of favor since the 1930s.
1970s – Angular Diamonds
The square-shaped princess cut diamond first emerged in the 1960s, but it didn’t gain popularity until the ’70s. Other angular styles like the emerald cut were in vogue during this decade as well. Yellow gold retained its popularity, though rose gold rings were seen occasionally as well. White metals were still out of vogue.
It was the ’70s that gave birth to the idea of matching one’s engagement ring and wedding band. Matched sets were not widely available before this period.
1980s – Colored Stones
In 1981, Princess Diana received a stunning blue sapphire engagement ring that set off a new trend for stones other than diamonds. Colored gemstones became a popular pick for many engagement rings, though diamonds never lost their place of pride entirely. The pillowy shape of the cushion-cut diamond became popular around this time. Pear- and emerald-shaped stones are often seen in rings from this period as well.
1990s -Solitaire Stones
After the colorful exuberance of the 1980s, the 1990s were ready for a simpler style. Solitaire rings became the go-to for engagements. These featured a single stone that was often finer and more brilliant than those seen previously since all of the attention and investment was now given to just one rock. Marquise-cut diamonds entered the arena, with this football shape generating a great deal of demand. Yellow gold remained out of favor during this decade, with platinum and white gold taking precedence.
2000s – Elaborate Bands
In the 2000s, engagement ring bands began to get more attention. Diamond-encrusted bands added serious sparkle around the entirety of the ring. While white gold and platinum remained popular, rose gold started to enter the scene as well. Three-stone rings gained popularity during this decade, with a central diamond flanked by two smaller diamonds on either side. Halo settings regained their popularity as well.
The diversity in designs during this decade is credited largely to the internet, which made it easier than ever to comparison shop and search for fresh ideas.
If you’re shopping for an engagement ring, you can take inspiration from one or more of these decades. Whether you want a distinctly vintage look or you’re interested in designing a custom piece with a touch of inspiration from decades past, we can help you find the right ring. Hustedt Jewelers carries a wide selection of engagement rings in different styles. We can also assist with personalized pieces that are made to suit your specifications.
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