When it comes to rings, even the most traditional bride appreciates a tweak or two to the gold-standard solitaire. Whether you’re eyeing the classic Tiffany rock or something a little left of center, here are some of the latest elegant, yet alternative, options for brides-to-be who think outside the typical jewelry box.
Styles and practices might change over time, but few nuptial customs have withstood the test of time quite like the engagement ring. That said, tradition can be elevated to an even higher degree with the help of purveyors like Sandy DeMaio Antique & Fine Jewelry of Bryn Mawr—and DeMaio’s best friends, Van Cleef and Cartier. She’s seen firsthand the surge in antique and estate jewelry purchases to help pop the question, and participation in this growing trend has its benefits.
Secondhand purchases are typically less expensive than comparable options in retail, and DeMaio’s collection is “practically infinite” due to the various selections of whole rings and loose diamonds. Antique rings (those at least 100 years old) and previously owned estate pieces contain gems worth their weight in the obvious symbolism of love—plus historical significance.
There’s certainly something to be said for continuing a ring’s life cycle through generations of marriage. That’s especially true when it comes to a hefty name like Tiffany & Co. It might not come in the iconic turquoise box, but the vintage sparkle is still going strong.
“There’s never a lot, but there’s always a few,” DeMaio says.
Sometimes, the old-school glitz and glamour just don’t cut it for modern brides. Rather than browsing shelves or clicking through websites, they’re taking the reins and crafting their own rings to suit their personal styles. The options are endless—from the center stone to the band design, and every detail in between.
Joe Bucci of Bucci Jewelers in Conshohocken caters extensively to those looking for something truly unique, and credits the popularity surge to folks looking to invest in local interests while maintaining their own distinctive flair. “Most of the mass-produced rings are sent out of the country and made in China, so you don’t really get the quality of work that a one-of-a-kind piece gives you,” Bucci says. “For these custom-designed rings, I don’t make them for other people as knockoffs and give them to everyone once someone else designs it.”
The only downside is waiting for the ring to be produced, but two to three weeks at most is a small price to pay for something completely personal and never before seen, tried on or considered by anyone else.
This one’s for the hopeless romantic—the women who want more than just some shiny bling on their left hands. The appeal of choosing vintage Art Deco rings “borrowed” from eras past to suit modern, elegant tastes is all in the details. Rather than contemporary, clean lines and precision-cut stones, these rings from the mid-1920s to ’40s are the epitome of elegance and beauty, without a hint of the predictable style of mainstream, cookie-cutter jewelry design.
John Marg of Greenhill Jewelers in Wynnewood says these artisan finds are becoming hot items. “People are starting to appreciate the fineness and individuality of a one-of-a-kind ring, and in the past four or five years I’ve seen even more of a rise in popularity because people like the idea of recycling a ring rather than having one produced.”
Art Deco buyers can expect their rings to be made of platinum with a “fine and lacy” setting that reflects the practices of handmade, filigree ring production. Each band started out as a flat piece of metal, which was then pierced with a threaded wire to create doily-like patterns around the band and in the setting.
These showstoppers are for women unafraid to be admired and envied. Ever since J.Lo’s behemoth pink stunner, colored diamonds and precious gems are evolving from supporting roles to center stage. Strafford jeweler Brian Smaul says Main Liners are loving the sapphire, in particular, as a diamond alternative. This splashy stone ranges in color from deep navy to aquamarine-esque baby blue.
Smaul also carries yellow-diamond, emerald and ruby rings, but warns that these options require extra care and consideration. “Emeralds are very fragile and can break much easier than other stones,” he says. “They’re softer and usually oil treated, so you can’t store that ring in cotton, which absorbs the oils out of the stone and makes it brittle. It’s not the best choice for a ring that you’re going to wear on a daily basis.”
The good news is that buyers aren’t limited by size, cut or setting. Brides who are looking to push the envelope even further will be happy to know they aren’t restricted to just blue sapphires, either. Smaul has some hot-pink ones up his sleeve also.
• Brian M. Smaul Ltd.: Jewelry Eagle Village Shops, 503 W. Lancaster Ave., Strafford; (610) 687-4035, brianmsmaul.com
• Bucci Jewelers: 117 W. Ridge Pike, Conshohocken; (610) 828-1637, ilovejoebucci.com
• Greenhill Jewelers: 15 Greenhill Lane, Wynnewood; (610) 649-4075, greenhilljewelers.com
• Sandy DeMaio Antique & Fine Jewelry: 860 Lancaster Ave., Bryn Mawr; (610) 525-1717, sdmantiquejewelry.com