Engagement Ring Settings by Decade
In the last century, well before the advent of lab grown diamonds like VRAI created diamonds, engagement rings went through several trend cycles that followed jewelry trends and mirrored what was happening in fashion and the visual arts. It’s good to keep in mind, however, that engagement rings as elaborate pieces of jewelry are a fairly recent development.
In the Roman era, betrothal rings were plain bands made of iron or more precious metals. In the Middle Ages, engagement rings were usually adorned with sapphires and rubies. Diamonds weren’t introduced until the late 15th century, and did not become widely available until the 18th century with the discovery of diamond mines in Brazil.
The subsequent discovery of African diamond mines in the 19th century, coupled with the rise of widespread wealth (thanks to the Industrial Revolution), made diamond rings even more popular.
By the Edwardian era (around 1901 to 1910), the evolution of engagement rings became more elaborate, with elongated curves and nature-inspired motifs such as floral and foliate flourishes. These details were not exclusive to jewelry design, but had parallels in several branches of Art Nouveau, including the visual arts and the decorative arts.
The elongated curves of Edwardian engagement rings have a parallel in the S-shaped fashion silhouettes of the early 1900s. Art Deco jewelry also shared the ornate and geometric lines present in architecture and women’s fashion of the 1920s. In line with the hyper feminine elegance of the post-World War II era, engagement rings from the 1950s favored solitaire styles flanked by Baguette side stones.
In the later part of the 20th century, celebrity and royal engagement rings played a defining role in setting trends, thanks to tabloid culture and, more recently, the internet. Diana’s flower-shaped Victorian-revival sapphire engagement ring coincided with the bold, maximalist style of the 1980s. In the last 15 years, styles such as Blake Lively’s large diamond paired with a thin band and Emily Ratajkowski’s Toi et Moi ring also played a leading role in engagement ring trends.
We need to take into account, however, that the jewelers and the designers who crafted rings in the past decades were not consciously forcing their hands with, say, Art Deco or Mid-Century style signifiers, so it’s not uncommon to see past designs incorporating several influences. You can also expect some overlap between time periods. It's also interesting to examine what diamond shapes were popular over the decades.
In the Edwardian period, 1900–1910, engagement rings were on the ornate side. Jewelers went for elaborate designs, with lots of detail, small diamonds, and filigree work
Art Deco settings are known for being geometric and elaborate. The center diamond is usually accompanied by other diamonds arranged in distinctive patterns: Art Deco styles had repetitive patterns and more geometric shapes throughout. Halo styles were very popular for Deco designs. Platinum was a popular metal for rings, which were adorned with multiple small diamonds. Halo settings were popular too.
After the 1920s, the pendulum swung in the opposite direction, with details such as ribbons, lace, and bow adorning the shank and the band. This is when we first started seeing a surge in popularity for the solitaire design, a cost-effective alternative to the more elaborate, multi-stone designs of the 1920s. White gold or Palladium became a viable alternative, as both were cheaper than platinum.
The popularity of solitaires continued its rise during World War II. Platinum was scarce, so white, yellow, and rose gold were more widely used. 1940’s engagement rings relied more on metal work and illusion settings around smaller diamonds to create an impressive, but more modestly priced ring during WWII.
Be the first to know
Hear about our latest designs and upcoming events.
Given the hyper-feminine fashion of the 1950s, details like braidings and engravings abounded. Tapered baguettes began adorning center stones, and the solitaires that became fashionable then are still popular to this day. Notable examples in this case include Grace Kelly’s engagement ring by Cartier, featuring two tapered baguettes.
Settings become sleeker to better showcase the center diamond. Deco styles were in fashion again, so settings featured a lot of baguette accents and geometric designs.
Angular and geometric rings with a slightly Art Deco feel were back in the 1970s. Matching engagement and wedding ring sets also started to become popular, which ledto more variety in metal colors, especially yellow and rose gold. Bands were thicker and wider, and hippie style played a leading role in engagement ring designs. Think floral halos and asymmetrical unique designs.
Yellow gold was the most popular metal of the 80s, and settings featured opulent halos, tall Cathedral settings that were designed to accommodate larger stones.
While the larger-diamond trend continued from the 1980s, the settings became sleeker and the bands became thinner. White gold and platinum were the most popular metals.
Intricate scintillation patterns and white metals (white gold, platinum) reflected the fashion trend towards rhinestones and glitzy glamor. Three stone rings became a popular engagement ring, along with channel set bands and halos.
2010s saw the rise in dainty bands, sometimes as thin as 1 mm in diameter, paired with large, center diamonds. Rose gold also gained in popularity for the more unique bride. Vintage-inspired and estate jewelry also became trendy, which resulted in quirky details like milgrain and elaborate crown baskets on solitaire styles.
Yellow gold became popular again, alongside sleek, modern designs. While classic solitaire cuts in traditional settings will always be relevant, new takes on traditional cuts with horizontal settings and other unique combinations of old and new styles open things up for fresh interpretations as the decade unfolds.
VRAI offers a wide variety of settings that take inspiration from past decades while still remaining timeless yet modern. The “Vintage-Inspired” category features styles directly inspired by Art Nouveau, such as The Duet and The Signature Floral, and Art Deco, such as The Five Stone Heirloom Ring. The Three Stone Ring has ample side stone options so it can be customized to fit any decade that inspires you and your personal style.