There is a new conversation around diamond engagement rings. It’s no longer just about carat weight and the 4Cs (clarity, cut, color and carat)—today’s brides want designs that reflect their personal style and values.
For some couples that means artisan-style rings that have a personal touch, while for others it’s about low-profile designs that fit into their active lifestyles.
Even more, it’s about a shared ethos: couples are increasingly seeking out eco-friendly and socially minded designers and brands.
We just made the ring search easier with our list of the 15 best diamond engagement rings—all under $5,000.
Marrow by Jillian Sassone
Instagram has proven to be one of the most influential tools for brides-to-be and couples who are searching social media for ring styles and designers whose aesthetic matches theirs. It’s what’s driving Marrow’s ring business, says its designer and founder Jillian Sassone. “Couples find me on social media and start asking questions, and often they buy a ring without ever seeing it,” she says.
In the under $5,000 range, Marrow offers a selection of antique diamonds removed from vintage tiaras and Edwardian necklaces set in new designs. “There’s something romantic about stones that were cut over a century ago, and knowing they’ve been worn by someone else.” Some brides are opting for diamond bands (she has over 70 styles) over solitaire engagement rings, and black diamonds are also an affordable option for women who want an edgy and distinctive ring.
“Our customers connect with our values and our message,” says Los Angeles-based designer Jennie Kwon, who uses only ethically sourced and conflict-free stones and fairmined and fairtrade gold and produces her jewelry in local workshops.
Kwon’s rings portray an artistic and antique spirit due to the fine hand millgrain and delicate bead work featured on many of her designs. She also creates bespoke rings and will reimagine a client’s family diamond into their dream ring.
Couples come to Ylang23 to discover unique designer rings, like Selim Mouzannar’s minimalist diamond and enamel rings, Anna Sheffield’s rings with antique stones or Ruta Reifen’s rough diamond designs. “Alternative rings are mainstream today,” says Joanne Teichman, Managing Director of Ylang23. The Dallas-based jewelry business says more couples are choosing artistic diamond bands from Cathy Waterman and Suzanne Kalan over solitaire rings. Several designers also work with clients to create custom pieces and can within a budget.
Ruth Tomlinson’s handmade rings feature a mix of unusual diamonds, including antique, rough, colored and flecked stones and recycled gold. Inspired by the finely detailed jewels of the past, the London-based designer creates pieces that appear as if they have been passed down for generations. “I’m also inspired by nature and the way things grow,” she explains. “Since diamonds and gold come from the earth, I want to combine them in harmonious designs, so it appears the gold is almost growing around the stone.”
The mainstays of the designer’s collection are all under $5,000, and she also works with clients in London and the United States via Zoom to create custom designs.
Valerie Madison offers unique engagement ring designs using conflict-free diamonds. “The most important thing is to have a stone and setting that fits our clients’ tastes and is strong enough to withstand everyday wear.”
Madison offers a range of rings, from antique and rough stone to minimalist designs, and also creates custom models that can fall under the $5,000 range.
ĀZLEE has attracted a high-profile celebrity following for its unusually cut diamonds, including shield, kite and lozenge stones that are set in modern and effortlessly wearable gold designs. Owner Baylee Ann Zwart says clients often find her designs on Instagram, and then work with her on custom pieces. Among the most popular trends she sees are wider gold bands with smaller diamonds, which are especially appealing for today’s active lifestyle.
The hot engagement trends at Brilliant Earth are elongated fancy shaped diamonds—oval, pear and marquise—set in yellow gold, says Kathryn Money, Brilliant Earth’s Senior Vice President. “These shapes are especially flattering on the finger,” she points out, and she explains that high-profile celebrity engagements (such as Paris Hilton’s recent engagement with an elongated emerald cut stone) often inspire greater demand for a style.
It’s all about options at Brilliant Earth: Stacking contoured diamond bands is another way that brides are expressing their individuality, and more couples are looking for gender fluid rings, which tend to have fewer or smaller stones and are more affordable.