The white gold solitaire engagement ring for women and the simple white/yellow gold or titanium/tungsten wedding band for men have long been seen as the ubiquitous staples of the wedding jewellery industry. But tastes are evolving, the wheel is turning from white back to yellow gold, coloured stones are replacing diamonds, and vintage styles may be having a renaissance. Here, we look at the atypical styles and trends making waves in the Australian engagement and wedding jewellery market with input from five players in the industry.
What couples bought in the 2010s
Our five contributors had mixed opinions regarding how they perceived the trends in wedding rings over the past decade. Sydney- based founder/jeweller Zoe Pook of her eponymous jewellery brand said she has noticed brides choosing coloured gemstones and a move away from the traditional white diamond solitaire.
“Salt and pepper diamonds are very popular along with geometric cut gemstones and Australian gemstones (in particular parti sapphires),” she said. “For men, more texture, more creativity in their bands.”
Along a similar vein, owner of Gold Coast jewellery store My Jewellery Shop Catherine Pevy-Trewartha believed men and women are moving away from the traditional styles.
“I have found men are moving away from the standard polished metals and are moving towards rose gold and alternative metals with satin and matt finishes,” she said.
Catherine also found women have moved away from traditional haloes in preference for more fancy shapes such as oval, radiant and pear.
“The halo styles have transitioned into crowns with fancier accent stones such as baguette or marquise.”
In contrast, founder of The Online Jewellery Company Steven Sher observed that women’s wedding ring designs have primarily remained traditional, with brides-to-be opting for plain wedders with or without diamonds, and with finer bands between 1.6 and 2.0mm.
“There has also been a fringe element of those wanting unusual stones, marquee, baguettes and a mix of both with some brilliant cuts,” he said.
As for the men, Steven hasn’t noticed much of a change in gents wedding ring designs, still seeing a very basic plain, half- round, ellipse or flat profile with a polish or satin finish.
Showcase Jewellers Buying Group is Australasia’s premier buying and marketing group, representing over 250 independent jewellery stores across Australia and New Zealand. Director Carson Webb has noticed a preference for fine bands for women’s rings along with larger single stones. As for stones, Carson notes that fancy shapes such as ovals, and classic solitaires continue to be the main sellers.
Director Chris Worth from leading Australasian wedding ring manufacturer Worth & Douglas has noticed a trend for bespoke pieces over mass-produced.
“More couples (are) looking to find something truly special that reflects their tastes and
suits their own styles, so we’re seeing a lot of unique, custom CAD designs come through,” he said.
The return of yellow gold
The white gold solitaire diamond ring has remained among the most popular design for engagement rings for what seems like an age, so it was enlightening to learn from some of our contributors that the wheel is slowly beginning to turn back to yellow. Carson said that while everyone thinks white gold is the most popular, in Australia and New Zealand, yellow gold (or a combination of) is still the best seller.
“The metro areas are more driven with white gold and regional areas are more yellow gold,” he said. “In fact, out of our top selling diamond rings, 7 of the top 10 (by quantity sold) are still yellow gold.”
Chris and Steven both shared the view that while white gold has remained popular, there’s been a trend back to yellow along with a trend toward platinum. Chris said the increased demand for platinum is due to its comparable price to 18ct white gold along with the added benefits platinum has to offer (durability, patina, etc.).
For Catherine and Zoe, they have both seen a move away from white gold towards colour, both in metal and stones.
More couples (are) looking to find something truly special that reflects their tastes and suits their own styles, so we’re seeing a lot of unique, custom CAD designs come through.
Catherine said she has seen a shift towards engagement rings in yellow gold and rose gold with a combination of blues and greens with diamonds. Zoe stated that white gold is still on top, but rose and yellow are now both close contenders.
Wedding jewels of moral provenance
A September article from JCK Online discussed a recent trend among engagement ring shoppers for the sustainable. In it, the writer Brittany Siminitz described how “sustainability with respect to products’ impacts on both the environment and on the social welfare of our world’s population has been a huge concern among engagement ring shoppers”, and that it would only grow in importance in the future. When questioned about whether an engagement or wedding ring and their gems’ sustainability was important to our contributors’ customers and clients, the response was understandably mixed.
Catherine said that the shopping environment is changing and she found that clients are looking at the “bigger picture”.
“Shoppers are now talking more about their concerns of the world issues such as sustainability and the social impacts of how their jewellery is sourced and even worn,” she said. “They are doing more research and discussing with us in-store about how they can purchase or remodel in a way that is a positive impact instead of looking at jewellery ‘skin deep’.”
Zoe Pook Jewellery exclusively uses gold from either Fairtrade Gold sources or recycled
gold, and Zoe said the growth in the business is in being able to attract more discerning consumer who knows the questions to ask and wants a kinder, more sustainable product.
For Carson, while he believes jewellery sustainability is critically important and will become a larger concern in the future, he does not believe it is a primary concern when the Australian consumer is buying jewellery, at least not yet. However, as a member owned group, Showcase Jewellers would support a full diamond story.
“This meant we could educate the consumer on what was important to them: origin, performance, price or lab-created were some of our options and has been very successful,” he said.
“I believe the entire “sustainability” conversation needs to be something that is developed and discussed within each store accordingly and its importance mainly because depending on which side you need to stand on the sustainability discussion, eg: sustainability of the land and resources used for mining or sustainability of the millions of human lives it supports.”
At The Online Jewellery Company, Steven said that while sustainability is spoken about occasionally, it is usually price and quality that motivates the end purchase.
A love for the varied and the vintage
Following on from JCK Online’s sustainability finding, Brittany also wrote that the desire for sustainable wedding jewellery has led to a growth in varied wedding jewellery trends: where a coloured gemstone takes centre stone rather than a diamond, lab-grown diamond and gemstone rings; recycled gems and sometimes the absence of gemstones altogether. When probed on this Zoe said she felt that to some customers, the classic diamond represents an old school disdain for ethical practices.
“Lab grown diamonds are certainly an option for some clients and we have made a fair few of these in the last year or so,” she said.
As for vintage, Zoe said she gets requests for millgrain, engraving and filigree.
“Some clients like to merge two styles, vintage and organic for example – we have a client at the moment having millgrain around a bezel setting with a rose cut, oval white diamond in a textured band – and it looks great!”
Catherine has also noticed customers bucking the trend by selecting lab-grown diamonds and selecting coloured stones to adorn their rings.
“We have also seen a huge increase in couples desiring coloured stones for their engagement rings particularly London Blue Topaz and assorted colours of sapphires,” she said.
My Jewellery Shop also has more clients, particularly the younger generation, seeking to create a vintage-inspired engagement or dress ring. Catherine said vintage designs allow clients more freedom to add their own unique touch.
“With your more modern styles i.e. solitaire or modern halo design, there is only so much room for movement in the design but with a vintage style, there is a lot more ways to incorporate the wearer’s personality into the ring,” she said.
Chris said that Worth & Douglas has also experienced increased demand for coloured gemstones in wedding/engagement rings, in particular morganite, black diamond, and unusual colours like onyx. However, while Worth & Douglas offers vintage designs and saw an increase in demand several years ago, they have not been popular with their customers lately.
Carson said that coloured stones are more of an option now than a centre stone for engagement rings and reported that Showcase Jewellers’ coloured rings are 23 per cent up from 2019; a substantial increase that’s been rising for five years now.
“Coloured rings alone now make up over 5% of the total sales, so they certainly deserve the attention and focus,” he said.
Carson also reported that a number of Showcase stores are engaged in the vintage/ art deco area, and said it’s a real advantage for the independent that goes online.
“Rather than all the normal noise of fighting prices constantly, having an amazing selection of antique and art-deco jewellery is a real point of difference,” he said.