Unique Engagement Rings: What’s Trending Now and Into 2019

By Michael Fried

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The standard diamond and platinum engagement ring is considered a classic for good reason. When produced with quality craftsmanship and intense attention to detail, it represents timeless perfection.

But not everyone yearns for a traditional engagement experience.

A new wave of ring buyers are seeking something more unique and personal without compromising on quality. Jewelers are responding, showcasing more varied, antique and vintage rings — or just plain one-of-a-kind rings — for every taste and budget.

For example, shoppers with online jeweler Blue Nile can now choose between a range of memorable details, from beaded-edge milgrain to hand-engraved elements. Even a quick tour of their site shows that while rose gold is an easy trend to scoff at, it’s still holding firm throughout 2018. There seems no better representation of this unusual color choice than Blue Nile’s Monique Lhuillier (of wedding dress fame) Petal Garland diamond engagement ring in 18k Rose Gold (1/2 ct. tw).

Unique Ring at Blue Nile

Related content: More vintage engagement ring choices at Blue Nile.

Joanna Hardy, a UK-based expert, tells the Telegraph newspaper that millennial ring buyers are driving the trend toward more unique engagement pieces, seeking greater individuality. The same shift has been noted among older couples who are getting married for the second time. With more maturity behind the buying process, these couples are also driving the need for more breadth of choice.

Still, traditionalists need not fear. “Brides aren’t necessarily pulling away from tradition, but more so are making tradition their own,” Gurki Basra, senior buyer of jewelry and watches at Barneys New York, explains to Glamour magazine.

Even Princess Diana, considered by many to be the ultimate storybook bride, wore a completely original — and even controversial — engagement ring.

Instantly recognized across the globe and now gracing Princess Kate Middleton’s ring finger, Diana chose an iconic ring with 14 solitaire diamonds, a 12-carat blue Ceylon sapphire with an oval shape, and a distinctive white gold band.

What’s so interesting here to diamond experts is that it actually wasn’t custom made for the late Princess of Wales. It was expensive, to be sure, but in reality was simply “off-the-shelf” — featured in the ring maker’s catalogue — which really set royal tongues a-wagging.

But where can the decidedly non-royals among us begin?

In this guide you’ll learn how to make an engagement ring choice that’s deeply original but still an incredible value. Let’s dive in!

Defining the unique engagement ring

First, let’s take a minute to define what we mean when we talk about “unique” engagement rings. For some, this could mean anything that’s not the princess-cut white diamond. For others, it can mean only fully vintage, or modern settings with highly atypical gems, or even just something unique about the complete package. It really comes down to understanding what is unique or different in the eye of the beholder.

Take this example, a stunner of a bezel set pave halo engagement ring at James Allen.

James Allen Unique Halo Ring

The oval 1.06 carat green emerald is surrounded by diamonds and the simplest of a tapered metal band. What we love is that it’s far from traditional, yet each element is a known quantity. It’s a great example of how even the simplest elements can be thoughtfully arranged into something completely original.

What else is important when it comes to choosing among unusual engagement rings?

Don’t skip the basics

Your ring choice may not be basic, but it’s still critical you follow all the proper steps, according to our experts. Time-tested advice holds true no matter the ring, stone or era:

  • Know your vendors.

    Just like you wouldn’t buy a cheap car off the Internet without a test drive first, you don’t want to buy an engagement ring from someone untrustworthy.

  • Say no to pressure.

    No reputable seller of rings will pressure you to make a sale before you are ready. If it feels uncomfortable, walk away.

  • Understand expectations.

    Carat weight, a key consideration, still applies, even with other gemstones or unusual settings or materials. If your better half believes bigger is always better, then a speck of a gem isn’t going to cut it.

Appraising that one-of-a-kind gemstone

While we certainly support taking a step off the beaten path, it’s still vital to stick with trusted retailers. No one wants to find out that perfect Art Deco piece is actually worthless. Have the ring appraised by a professional. James Allen is one such retailer who packages your ring with a lab report and appraisal.

Related content: Everything you need to know about diamond appraisals.

Trend alert in diamond engagement rings for women

When thinking ahead to what trends will be meaningful in 2019, we’re expecting many brides-to-be to show off more unusual shapes than colors like this 7.25 ct black and pave diamond flower ring at Leibish — a completely unique alternative to the typical solitaire.

Unique Black Diamond Flower Ring at Leibish

And since we know that celebrity proposals (and rings!) make a lot of headlines and launch trends, we too watched as pop icon Justin Bieber proposed to model Hailey Baldwin. The 6 to 10 carat ring, according to People magazine, was custom made to best show off the shape of Hailey’s hands.

Unique engagement rings for under $1,000

We’ve all heard the saying money can’t buy love, yet we tend to completely stress out when it comes to budgeting for engagement rings.

You definitely do not have to spend a mint to get a show-stopping ring. One way to find an affordable one-of-a-kind engagement ring is to build your own. This way you can focus more of your budget on the elements you and your partner actually care most about.

At Leibish & Co color is one element that is full display leading into 2019, from “argyle” to “chameleon” and many more options, including several for single diamonds under $1,000. In all, don’t be afraid to buck the phrase that you need two months salary in order to make a ring purchase.

Shape is also a factor you won’t necessarily need to compromise on when it comes to the ring of your dreams. You can also consider how the ring might interact with the wedding band, like an antique halo design that is “stackable” which allows it to fit snugly against the band for less than a grand.

On James Allen or Blue Nile you can browse endlessly for options, from heart shapes to euro cuts. We’re currently big fans of the yellow diamonds at Leibish, like this yellow cushion cut diamond pave style.

Unique Yellow Diamond Ring from Leibish

It manages to be slightly on the classic side but with a strong modern element reflected in the choice of color.

Final thoughts

Unique engagement rings are here to stay. From east-west settings to unusual color choices, there’s never been a better time to step outside of the mainstream and focus on pairing your ring selection with deeply personal creative expression. And again, don’t be afraid to ask questions and insist on the same level of quality you’d expect from any gem-based transaction. Like your love, you’ll want this investment in time and money to last a lifetime.

About the author
Mike learned the diamond business from the ground-up at Leo Schachter Diamonds - one of the world's top diamond manufacturers. He has been recognized as a diamond industry expert by Time, PeopleMoney, The Daily Mirror, NerdWallet, The Times Herald, Yahoo Finance Australia, The Art of Charm, The Washington Diplomat, The Next Web, and more. See more
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Blue Nile Blue Nile is the largest and most well known internet jewelry seller. They have the industry-leading largest available exclusive online inventory. Their high quality images are catching up to James Allens' and their prices are amazing. Exclusive to us for the 2018 Christmas shopping season - Pick Up a single-use Blue Nile Coupon Here for $100 off!
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James Allen James Allen is the leader in online diamond sales. Their imaging technology is at the point where it's almost the same as inspecting a diamond with a jeweler's loupe. Their customer experience is best in class, and they have recently upgraded their non-engagement jewelry inventory as well. Take advantage of their ongoing 25% Off Holiday Sale.
What we love about them:
  • No questions asked returns within 30 days of shipment. James Allen will send you a paid shipping label to return the ring.
  • Lifetime Warranty
  • Free International Shipping
  • Free prong tightening, repolishing, rhodium plating and cleaning every 6 months
  • Provide insurance appraisals
  • One free resizing within 60 days of purchase
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