(Trends)

The Chunky Engagement Ring Era Is Here

Move over, whisper-thin bands.

@brentnealejewelry
Yellow Gold and Diamond Chunky Engagement Rings by Brent Neale

Though engagement ring trends evolve at a much slower pace than most other fashion and accessories, a clear shift is happening in the fine jewelry category of late. In place of ultra-dainty designs featuring prong settings and whisper-thin bands, chunky engagement rings are gaining momentum, including wider bands and more sturdy bezel and signet settings.

“People are beginning to feel less precious about fine jewelry,” says designer Lizzie Mandler. At large, the LA-based jeweler says, dainty pieces have taken a backseat to heavier layered chains and stacks of rings and are no longer exclusive to special occasions but worn every day casually. “Engagement rings are following suit,” she explains, citing the cyclical nature of jewelry trends. “Super delicate bands were a justified reaction to the heavier classic solitaire settings that were popular for years starting in the ’80s and ’90s,” Mandler says. Adding, “Now the pendulum swings, as thicker engagement rings are nothing new; they actually predate the more delicate solitaire settings.”

Kirsty Stone, founder and designer of Retrouvai, and Brent Neale Winston, founder and designer of Brent Neale, both note an uptick in thicker band requests among their clients as an alternative to solitaire and prong-set engagement rings, namely for practicality’s sake. “The number one reason is for comfort and durability for everyday wear,” says Neale Winston. While Stone notes, “Common feedback we hear from clients is that a thicker band setting feels more aligned with their personal style.” Despite this, Stone adds, “I think daintier settings still have their place, but we have clients coming to us for pieces that are more androgynous and just heavier in general.”

Taking up more real estate on the finger, Stone points out how wider bands offer more visual impact in a range of budgets which isn’t always the case with solitaire diamonds, thus increasing their appeal. Likewise, Neale Winston says the fragility of prong settings is another cause for the shift. “Prongs allow for a lot of exposure, and stones tend to chip over time,” she explains. “While diamonds may be the most durable of all stones, they are still natural gemstones, and protecting them with a thicker bezel is just one way to have a sense of security.”

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According to Baylee Zwart, founder and designer of Azlee, the delicate-to-chunky shift is rooted in a desire for something that feels fresh and truly unique. “[People are] tired of seeing the same styles and are looking for designs that feel modern and special, different from what everyone else is wearing,” she says. “When I designed my engagement ring, I chose a 2.2mm band, which was pretty wide for the time, and somewhat still is today,” Zwart adds, though it has ultimately drawn many to her brand, inspiring her to continue pushing the design envelope. Additionally, on a more sentimental note, the designer says there’s meaningfulness to the weight of wider bands. “I think people love the heavier feeling on the finger,” she says. “It makes sense that clients would be drawn to a more substantial piece to mark a commitment of such magnitude and significance.”

Keep reading for more on the rise of chunky engagement rings, from the most popular band shapes and stone cuts to unique orientations, like off-kilter settings and cluster designs. Plus, an edit to shop or file away as inspiration, including bezel- and signet-set solitaires, multi-stone rings, diamond bands, and more.

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Popular Chunky Settings

@lizziemandler

“When considering a heavier gold setting, there are historical styles that clients are using as a baseline for inspiration,” says Stone, like a flush mount setting. “[These are] ideal for one to three stones and can vary in scale and weight, so it’s pretty versatile,” the Retrouvai designer explains. This versatility extends to colored gemstones; however, she cautions against them or a ring setting without a top or bottom if worn as an everyday piece as they’re more susceptible to chips and cracks. “I’d always have a quick conversation with your jeweler about durability and lifestyle,” Stone says. Noting, “Sapphire and ruby can be acceptable, but it comes down to lifestyle and how someone treats their jewelry.”

The flush mount setting, a signature of Brent Neale in chunky 18k gold, also allows different sizes of stones to be set together, says the designer. “Some clients choose one stone, some clients choose three,” Neale Winston tells TZR. “We also offer our signature channel-set bands — when stones are set along a track between two walls of metal — which are comfortable, durable, and really add to that bold-scale look.”

Like the historical flush mount setting, Mandler says the most popular thick-style ring with her customers is a signet. The designer’s best-seller features a bezel-set center stone in a geometrical shape, which transitions into a thicker knife edge band and tapers as it goes to the back of the shank. “For some diamond cuts, we use the geometric bezel setting to create shapes within shapes,” Mandler adds, such as a round diamond inside a hexagonal bezel or an oval diamond inside a rectangular shape.”

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According to Stone, bubble and cigar bands are two other popular weighty settings. Both typically incorporate multiple smaller-sized stones similar to eternity bands and are great for stacking. “These styles are awesome for someone who doesn’t want their ring to feel so ‘bridal,’” she says.

As an even more modern take on chunky engagement ring settings, Zwart has designed a thick staircase band which is now a core design element in Azlee’s collection. “This elevated architectural silhouette merges aesthetic references drawn from Art Deco design and ancient civilizations,” she tells TZR. The ring style is subtle and refined but with a stand-out quality that catches the eye, featuring graduating layers of 18k yellow gold in odd numbers of three or five.

Zwart also gets a lot of requests for clusters, including bezel-set stones of varying cuts configured together on a single thick band. “These clients tend to be very eclectic and are generally drawn to more boundary-pushing designs,” she explains. “They have a strong sense of personal style and are usually very playful and experimental, often mixing and matching color stones in daring combinations.”

Diamond Cuts For Chunky Rings

While just about any diamond cut can work in a chunky engagement ring, Stone and Mandler say that step-cut diamonds such as baguette, emerald cut, and Asscher are among the most popular. “It’s more about the proportions and transitions that make these rings look balanced to their center stone,” Mandler says.

Stone adds that the two most popular cuts for solitaire designs or center stones are oval and emerald cut. “I’m into finding a beautiful stone which may have unique faceting or proportions,” she says. When working with colored gems, the Retrouvai designer often cuts from rough material or re-cut existing stones. “I love chunky antique-looking step cuts,” she says.

For Zwart, unusual stones like shield and kite shapes are a brand signature, which is why her clients most often request chunky rings featuring one-of-a-kind and rare-cut stones. “They trust my perspective and are open to unexpected ideas that push the envelope,” she tells TZR, noting emeralds, champagne diamonds, and yellow diamonds among her favorites to work with. “I love creating designs that feel modern, with a nod to tradition but unlike anything you’ve seen before.”

Carat Size

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Mandler says that half-carat to one-carat stones work well in flush mount, bubble, and signet settings without feeling bulky or sitting too high off the finger. Larger stones, while challenging to work with due to their depth, are increasingly popular, from marquise to Asscher and pear cuts. “Larger stones in heavier settings are more of a commitment as they require so much more metal to accommodate the center,” Mandler explains. “I have clients who want the metal-heavy look with larger stones, without going full signet style. Instead, they’ll do a bezel setting with a thinner band which can be a hybrid of the solitaire style and the gypsy or signet style.”

Stone says budget primarily dictates the stone size for clients craving a chunky ring design. “If there is a budget for a larger center stone or calibrated layout of diamonds, we are seeing that clients still want to incorporate them,” she tells TZR. “One of the benefits of a heavier band is that it can be visually more impactful without needing to have large diamonds.”

Unique Orientation

While rare-cut stones are one of the most popular approaches to creating a unique engagement ring, orientation is equally significant. Mandler and Stone both highlight East-West settings, noting the style as a popular choice that works well in a weighty design. “East-West is a great option if you have an elongated stone and you want to do one of these heavier settings,” Mandler says. “It will take up less space on the finger than if you do it vertically, allowing for more stacking and a bit more fluid of a transition into the band.” Center stone’s tilted 45 degrees between North-South and East-West is another, slightly subtler take on this look, like Retrouvai’s Impetus collection.

According to Zwart, the focus on off-kilter and unconventional shapes has long been a trend for cluster designs. Still, she’s noticed a shift toward more significant asymmetries, like placing stones at a slight angle and creating unusual silhouettes. “[This] asymmetrical ring was a request from a client who wanted a thick band and a stone ‘falling off’ [of it],” the designer says of one of her bespoke creations. “To match the uniqueness of the design, we went on the hunt for an unusual shaped stone and sourced this unconventionally beautiful emerald.”

Rings For A Modern Era

Ultimately, the appeal of chunky engagement rings lies in their durability and impact. But beyond their distinctive look, there’s an empowering feeling that comes with these refined pieces in that the wearer needn’t feel precious about wearing them.

Mandler, who is currently designing her own engagement ring, which won’t be delicate, says, “I love how people are being less precious with fine jewelry in general, but especially with bridal, which is meant to be worn every day.” She continues, “In the last ten years, I’ve seen how brides have dared to go away from the classic white gold or platinum and opt for yellow because it fits their personal style better. I think this trend of chunkier engagement rings is an extension of that.” Adding, “Women are embracing what feels right to them, what fits their life, and not what they are ‘supposed to do.” Like breaking the glass ceiling, but with diamonds.