When you close your eyes and envision your ideal engagement ring, what you see may be different now from what you envisioned a year or decade ago. But, there are other factors to consider besides the passing of time — location, and even the preferences of your friends can shift your own thoughts. In the U.S., Los Angeles and New York are considered two of the biggest fashion hubs, but 2020's most popular engagement ring trends differ on the two coasts.
Yes, diamonds still prevail, but increasingly, shoppers in different markets are exploring colored stones like sapphires and emeralds, unique cuts, and non-traditional settings. Then, there's bespoke design — this customized approach to engagement rings allows for a one-of-a-kind look comprised of the exact stone, cut, and setting you've always dreamed of (talk about goals). Jewelry designers and stores offer this around the country, but is the process different on the East Coast versus the West?
For a designer's view of what's most popular across the country, TZR spoke to fine jewelry designers Lizzie Mandler, Ashley Zhang, Grace Lee, and Baylee Zwart of Azlee, each of whom has a network of clients on both coasts. While each designer sees things from a slightly different viewpoint, some overarching themes prove like-minded preferences in the East versus the West. As for emerging trends in the engagement ring market, each designer weighs in on styles they predict will gain momentum throughout 2020 and into 2021. All the sparkly intel lies ahead, along with an edit of rings you can shop or admire now.
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Engagement Ring Trends: Classic Vs. Non-Traditional Engagement Rings
Mandler, Zhang, and Azlee all told TZR that the most significant difference between their clients on the East and West coasts is that the East tends more classic, while the West embraces unique designs more frequently. "My clients from L.A. tend to be more adventurous and want a ring that is one-of-a-kind," says Zhang. "They are more often open to unusual diamond cuts like marquise, or shield cuts." Similarly, Mandler says, "my West Coast clients tend to be a bit more wild. I've done a few signet-style engagement rings recently and rings with gray diamond center stones, trillion center stones, and knife-edge silhouettes for West Coast clients." Zwart told TZR that her West Coast clients also fall into the non-traditional camp and ask about colored stone options more often than those on the East Coast.
For the East Coasters cravings classics, Mandler and Zwart says white gold and platinum are requested most often. Mandler also highlighted timeless solitaire silhouettes as a popular choice, while Zwart noted a higher request for white gold and platinum prongs as opposed to the demand for yellow gold and bezel settings on the West Coast.
Engagement Ring Trends: Sustainable Engagement Rings
Sustainability continues to be a rising trend in the engagement ring market, and Zhang and Lee each told TZR that both coasts are interested in traceable sources and materials. "My West Coast clients seem to ask about lab-created diamonds more often," says Lee, while Mandler says her West Coast clients ask for sustainable stones more often, specifically in the Bay Area and Silicon Valley.
Engagement Ring Trends: Non-Traditional Engagement Rings
When asked about emerging engagement ring trends on either coast, Zwart says she's seeing an overall shift toward open-mindedness around what an engagement ring looks like, and an awareness that goes beyond traditional retailers for both women and men. "I think men across the board are opening up more to a customized piece versus something standard. They're considering various stones or small diamond accents," she says. "I think it's the same for women; they are hoping for something that feels more personal and special than wanting a ring that looks similar to all of their friend's rings.
For Lee's custom clients, those choices can vary depending on location and style. "My East Coast custom clients have more unique requests. I have designed many custom pieces that incorporate two or more large center diamonds," she says, noting a specific design for an East Coast bride that combined a round brilliant, emerald cut, and pear-shaped diamond in one engagement ring. "Most of my West Coast client requests have been pieces with one large focal diamond."
This customization also extends to wedding bands. "In the past, I would design a custom engagement ring, and the bride would pair it with one of our collection rings for a wedding band," says Lee. "Brides are looking for a unique wedding band that can pair well with their engagement ring, but that also shines on its own."
Engagement Ring Trends: Signet Setting Engagement Rings
Mandler predicts that the signet-style engagement ring will continue to gain popularity, specifically in San Francisco and L.A.. "It's a much easier-to-wear style, it feels less traditional, and can make a large diamond less dressy or intimidating to wear." The designer says she's already seen many West Coast clients gravitate toward this style, particularly those who are having a classic or traditional engagement ring reset into a style they feel they can wear everyday with ease. "I don't know that the style will become as popular on the East Coast. I think the East Coast will always gravitate toward a slightly more conservative and classic style, whereas the West Coast is notoriously laid back."
Engagement Ring Trends: Antique Engagement Rings
While Zhang creates modern and unique engagement rings under her namesake label, she also works with antique jewelry, which she thinks will become a more significant trend among L.A. brides. "Antique diamonds have been very popular on the East Coast for a while, and I'm finding more of my clients on the West Coast are requesting information on these rare stones."
This story was originally published on Apr. 4, 2020.
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