Love was in the air at the 2022 COUTURE jewelry show held at the Wynn Hotel in Las Vegas. Of course here, that refers to the a selection of dynamic diamond engagement rings spotted throughout booths, ballrooms and private villas.
While you might think engagement rings are natural for a jewelry show, they actually are kind of rare. Few independent designers feature them in their regular collections, and few established houses show them to the press with their new wares. But that was not the case for a number of emerging designers who are all millennials including A.M. Thorne, Maggi Simpkins, Octavia Elizabeth, Prounis and Shihara.
Although, to be fully honest, most of these iconoclasts don’t view their diamond rings as strictly engagement rings. “I just wanted to create something that was fluid and for anyone,” explains designer Maggi Simpkins. “I think this speaks to my generation who is always fighting back tradition.”
Find out more about the specifics of the dynamic engagement ring designs below.
Wave sculptures by Maya Lin and decorative creations from Pierre Augustin Rose and Jean Royère were all on Ashley Thorne’s mind as she thought about her new work. The founder and designer of A.M. Thorne also visualized rhythmic flow during breathing meditations with a shamanic herbalist. The reflections resulted in her collection named Anapanasati which means ‘mindfulness of breathing.’
The line includes engagement rings centering on De Beers Code of Origin oval and round diamonds that have a customized engraved number on the gems assuring clients they are natural and conflict free. “I began designing this collection with the rings first that I formulated using clay,” explains Ashley. “Each ring is meant to mimic the rise and fall like water waves or the rise and fall of the breath.” All the back story is a beautiful metaphor for a couples’ goal of flowing together in wedlock.
“I always play with masculine and feminine ideas as well as classic and vintage forms,” explains Maggi Simpkins. For the jewels she showed at COUTURE, the designer focused on reimagining signet rings centering on De Beers Code of Origin diamonds.
The twist on the beloved historic silhouette comes in the details of the setting. Each of the one carat center stones is surrounded by a specially hand-cut domed gem inlay like the pink and Australian opals seen here. “Opals and diamonds throw color in such a special way,” says Maggi. “It’s kind of magical the way a diamond can throw a bit of orange in the right light and so can the opal.”
The Los Angeles-based designer who specializes in custom bespoke work says she sees the jewels as perfect for men or women. “I think it would be great if both people getting married wore them as their engagement ring,” explains Maggi. “My clients want something a little alternative and they don’t follow all the rules.
When bench jeweler Octavia Zamagias launched Octavia Elizabeth in Los Angeles in 2016, she focused on creating some of the most dynamic engagement rings. “I felt like there was a need for non-traditional designs in the category and it ended up being a great way to create an emotional attachment with clients and slowly grow my business,” explains Octavia.
Overall, the jewels in the collection are all bold 18 karat gold with a hammered polished surface. “The finish allows you to really live your active life in the ring,” says Octavia. “The hammering camouflages normal everyday wear on the design.”
One of the most eye-catching styles among Octavia’s rings is the Mishy. Originally designed for and named after one of her friends, the Mishy captures the eternally popular 70s silhouette in a chunky cigar band style with an elongated radiant diamond center stone. “Mishy wears her ring with two slender diamond bands, but other people wear it alone or they put their wedding band on their right hand,” says Octavia. Chalk the unorthodox stacking choices up to another way millennials are rewriting the engagement ring rule book.
A goldsmith, Jean Prounis began studying the art of granulation when she was just 18 years old. A few years later she launched her magnificently handmade Prounis collection in New York City featuring all kinds of old fashion elements that you would find featured on ancient jewelry at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The jewels are composed of 24 karat gold and antique diamonds.
These old world materials and techniques extend to her Vow line of rings, but there are also a lot of new beliefs brought to the mix. Jean says the rings are “a symbol of modern devotion, self-care and purpose.” In other words, these dynamic engagement rings are designed for anyone who wants to wear them to take their relationship to the alter, as well as those who just want to get a jewel as a sign of their commitment to one another. The self-care component is for the person who wants a special reward.
The magnificent minimalist aesthetic of the Shihara collection by Japanese designer Yuta Ishihara is delicate and detail oriented. Functional parts like necklace clasps and earring posts, that few designers consider, are just as important to Yuta as central pendants.
When it comes to diamond rings, Yuta uses unusually shaped diamonds as part of the design as opposed to just the setting. A portrait shaped diamond, which looks almost like a flat piece of glass, sits at the center of one Shihara wide band ring. Slender baguette shaped diamonds define the form of a geometric band. The gems are set in gold with a matte finish, which the designer prefers because of the way it accentuates the angles.
Like his contemporaries, Yuta doesn’t necessarily feel these diamond rings need to be engagement rings. “However,” he says, “if two people are looking for an engagement ring, and they find and choose a special ring I designed, it is always an incredible honor.”