Think about it. When's the last time you saw a huge-ass, wait-is-that-actually-real diamond on the perfectly-manicured finger of your #Engaged friend's "Some personal news!" Insta post? Even scrolling through the #ISaidYes hashtag on the 'gram, you'll only spot a small number of big ole rocks. So...kinda seems like that whole "the bigger, the better" thing just ain't it for the 20- and 30-something crowd.
"I'm not a flashy person," says 29-year-old Rachel Bonenfant, who got engaged last October. "Having a big stone was never something that excited me."
Jewelry trend expert and designer Tara Gannon started noticing millennials requesting smaller stones about two years ago-and by "smaller," we mean those hovering around the one-carat neighborhood. “They wanted higher-quality diamonds that had more brilliance and fire even if it meant not as many carats,” she says. “This led to a trend of more stackable rings, unique bands, and smaller stones.”
It's partly about quality.
You might suspect cost is the reason for the shift, and while it may be a factor, it's not actually the biggest one. The new emphasis is on quality, which means people could be spending more and getting something smaller (pick your jaw back up)!
"Having a big ring isn't what matters to me," says Carly de Castro, the 34-year-old co-founder of Pressed Juicery, who, after being married for six years, recently resized her blinding double-halo setting for a simpler model. "I'd rather have a smaller, higher-quality diamond that's understatedly radiant, tasteful, and true to myself."
FYI: The national average price of an engagement ring is $5,600, according to The Knot's 2018 Real Weddings Study, and that can get you anything from a grain-of-rice-size stone to a substantial-yet flawed (but maybe not to the naked eye)-piece.
That's due to the four C’s: cut, carat weight, clarity, and color. For context: At a name-brand jeweler, $5,600 may fetch you a platinum setting with a round-cut stone weighing less than half a carat (read: that grain-of-rice sitch). On an online market place, the same amount of money could buy you a diamond lingering in the one-carat range, which measures approximately 6.5 millimeters-that's just the diamond, though, not the setting. But it’s that one-carat threshold that many girls want to hit, just for the sake of saying their ring is a solid carat.
Now back to that whole "brilliance and fire" thing-that's what makes your ring *sparkle.* Amanda Gizzi, spokesperson for Jewelers of America, a nonprofit trade organization, says a well-cut diamond will bring that out, no matter how big it is. And if capturing that shimmer on Insta is what you’re after, there are apps that can add glitter effects and make your stones shine extra bright.
But wearability plays a role too.
So why, after years of supersize rocks indicating status, do we legit not care about that (as much)? Los Angeles-based jewelry designer Ariel Gordon, whose celebrity clientele includes Gigi Hadid, Lauren Conrad, Jessica Alba, and Chrissy Teigen, thinks it's all about practicality and versatility. In other words: staying power.
“People want their jewelry to work at school drop-off, in meetings, on date night, and at the farmer’s market," she says. "If your pieces are delicate, they transition well into any activity, which means you can wear them more."
"I'm really active, so having something I didn't have to take on and off and could wear no matter what I'm doing is important to me," Bonenfant says. "I still wear a necklace my mom gave me when I was 17-I haven't taken it off for 12 years!"
Smaller stones are so on-trend that Des Kohan, owner, buyer, and designer for her eponymous boutique in LA says over the last three years, she’s helped dozens of clients redesign existing rings or make completely new ones with smaller diamonds. “The common denominator is that these are all working women and they don’t feel comfortable wearing larger stones in downtown LA, Venice, or even in Hollywood.” Five years ago, she says she only had a couple of inquiries about redesigning rings, but today, she’s seen a sudden spike in requests to make totally new, smaller, everyday rings.
Kohan has even found that clients who have larger rocks make excuses for their rings: “They’ll say, ‘It was a hand-me-down,’ or, ‘It was my mom’s stone,’ to justify wearing it.”
Halos are kind of a thing of the past.
BTW, the halo, a once-popular setting, mostly used to make smaller stones appear larger, is kinda dead unless it has a distinctive design element. "We've seen a decrease in that type of design aesthetic-there's less framing now," says fine jeweler Anita Ko, who designed Kate Upton's ring in 2016.
De Castro felt like the two halos that formerly surrounded her 1.2-carat stone were too much. “I was tired of the pavé and felt like it was hiding the beauty and simplicity of the stone. It was too heavy,” she says. Added bonus: She used the excess stones that previously surrounded her diamond to make a brand-new band.
Oh, also: Subtlety's the key with heirloom stones.
Tess Alpern, a 29-year old who lives on the Upper East Side, used her late grandmother’s 1.55-carat, 1940s Art Deco ring when she got engaged. While the emerald-cut diamond was originally set vertically, which made it stand out more, Alpern, a kindergarten teacher who admittedly doesn’t wear much jewelry (because: hello, kids!) opted instead for something simple, delicate, and wearable. “I showed NYC-based jeweler Jamie Wolf the diamond and she immediately suggested a horizontal, rose gold, bezel setting and it came out perfectly," she says. "It doesn’t look like any other engagement ring I’ve ever seen."
BTW, some people are going band-only now.
Meanwhile, New York City-based jewelry designer Stephanie Gottlieb has also noticed brides using what would traditionally be thought of as more of a diamond wedding band as their engagement rings. “This is about the practicality of a band versus a larger solitaire for everyday," she says. "They usually end up stacking two bands when they get married, which I love."
That’s exactly what Bonenfant did when she said "Yes." “I always knew I wanted something that wasn’t traditional," she says. "I really liked the idea of having something that could become stackable over the years."
Okay, so what's it all mean?
Honestly? You do you and, um, anyone who gets snooty about the size of your ring-big or small-can kindly see themselves TF out. "I didn't think about what anyone else thought about my ring when I redid the setting," says de Castro. "I'm the one that wears it, and as long as I love it, that's all that matters."
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