February 07, 2020

The Death of the Diamond Engagement Ring

By Elizabeth Christenbury

Before we get too deep, I’ll offer a brief history of the diamond engagement ring. Prior to 1950, diamond engagement rings were generally reserved for the ultra-wealthy, with the average couple opting for a simple gold band, if they could even afford that. It is no small secret that the popularity of the diamond engagement ring arose from a mid-century ad campaign from diamond monopoly holder DeBeers. In 1947, copywriter Frances Gerety coined the phrase “A Diamond Is Forever”, and the phrase has appeared in every DeBeers diamond ad since. By 1965, 80 percent of young brides in the United States had a diamond on their ring finger. This trend plateaued until very recently, where we are now seeing a slight decline in the popularity of the (not so) traditional diamond engagement ring.  

Millennials are changing the world. Student debts, poverty, and unemployment rates are at a significantly higher rate among millennials than they were for youngsters of Gen X and the Baby Boomer generation. With less money to spend, young couples are opting for less expensive engagement options like heirloom, vintage, and gemstone engagement rings. Due to this financial climate, most are opting to postpone marriage, with the median marriage age currently at 30 years old, compared to the average age of 23 in 1970. The takeaway from this stat: Major trends in millennial engagement preferences are only just surfacing, and will peak in the coming years.

Millennials also tend to be more socially conscious than their predecessors. Although several retailers provide offerings for “conflict-free diamonds”, these supposedly “ethical" options, more often than not, are still not free of human rights abuses, and are not acquired using fair labor practices. Additionally, these stones are not mined using environmentally and economically responsible methods. Secondly, for the socially conscious consumer, all forms of diamonds (even conflict free diamonds) act as a symbol of violence and abuse, as both conflict free and conventional diamonds are visually indistinguishable from one another. While some are protesting by opting to forgo the entire tradition of wearing rings, several couples prefer the milder statement of simply wearing a gemstone instead of a diamond.

Ethical concerns aside, diamond centric rings tend to simply limit the design options. There are two main facets of design – Color and Shape. By restricting a ring to a white metal and a white diamond, you essentially eliminate one of those facets, which is why most diamond engagement rings are indistinguishable from one another. The whitewashing of 99.9 % contemporary engagement rings have left the eccentric millennial bored and craving something dramatically different. According to Vogue, “diamond rings are just no longer cool.”

With the internet leveling the fashion playing field and merging cultural trends, many young Americans are following in the footsteps of their European and South American counterparts, who tend to wear what Americans would consider as “Luxury Fashion” rings as their engagement and wedding rings.

Today’s youth wants their jewelry to reflect their creativity and eccentricity. “Millennials want everything to be personalized and nonuniform,” said David J. Bonaparte, the president and chief executive of Jewelers of America in a New York Times interview. Plus the trend “bigger is better” doesn’t seem to be slowing down, and gemstone rings offer significantly larger statement options, as semi-precious options tend to have a much lower cost-per-carat.


We are currently crushing on some pretty awesome alternative engagement rings. Come back frequently, as we are constantly adding new and exciting designs.