By Anthony DeMarco
Thanks to De Beers, white diamonds paired with white metals is by far the most established and popular design for engagement rings. White is the color of purity, perfection and new beginnings, certainly all symbols befitting a wedding.
It’s an image that’s difficult to compete with as colored gemstone companies have learned. Each attempt to introduce color to bridal jewelry has been largely ignored by retail jewelers and consumers.
But life is completed and traditions are made to be broken. Way back when before De Beers and its “A Diamond Is Forever” promotion, (and afterwards), members of royalty, business titans and celebrities were often inclined to express their love and unity with color.
Perhaps the most famous recent example was the engagement ring of Princess Diana, which was a 12-carat oval blue Ceylon sapphire surrounded by 14 solitaire diamonds surrounding set on 18k white gold. It was unusual not only because of its color but because it wasn’t custom made. It was purchased off the shelf at the London luxury jeweler, Garrard.
The ring made a second appearance in 2010, when Prince William presented it to Catherine Middleton, when he proposed. It made a great deal of press and fanfare with the obvious significance of the ring to William and his deceased mother. Sri Lankan gem dealers and others in the jewelry industry were trying their best to push blue sapphire engagement rings as a trend but newlyweds around the world shrugged.
One of the most historically prominent examples of using color for an engagement ring comes from Napoleon Bonaparte, when he presented his wife-to-be, Joséphine, with a diamond and sapphire engagement ring.
The gold ring, with an origin listed as 18th Century, is adorned with two pear-shaped stones: a blue sapphire and diamond that rest side by side facing opposite directions. The ring was sold at auction for more than $1 million in March, 2013, by the Osenat auction house in Paris.
More recently, one of the most famous colored-gem engagement rings was presented to Jacqueline Bouvier by future U.S. president, John F. Kennedy in 1953. The Van Cleef & Arpels gold ring with a 2-carat diamond and 2-carat emerald includes baguette diamonds around the stones. It reportedly cost Kennedy more than $1 million.
Modern celebrities do not shy away from color either. Academy Award winner Halle Berry has one of the most famous engagement rings in recent years. The hand-forged yellow gold textured ring is centered with a 4-carat Colombian emerald flanked by two round diamonds. It was given to her by her third husband, Olivier Martinez, in 2012 who commissioned the piece from Paris jeweler Robert Mazlo. The couple divorced in 2015 and Berry reportedly said she lost the ring.
In 2011, Elizabeth Hurley received a platinum engagement ring centered with a 9-carat square-cut sapphire from cricket player Shane Warne. The sapphire is flanked by 2-carat trillion-cut diamonds on each side. The couple split up in 2013 before marrying.
So for those who have an independent streak and are attracted to color, particularly if it’s not your first trip down the aisle, it’s good to know you are in good company. If you have a diamond engagement ring but always wanted something different, why not sell your diamond ring and get the colorful ring you’ve always wanted?
Anthony DeMarco is a freelance writer and editor who covers the luxury jewelry and watch industry for several publications, including Forbes.com the Financial Times, Hong Kong-based JewelleryNetAsia and the Italian jewelry magazine, VO+. He also has a blog covering the jewelry and watch industry, Jewelry News Network.