The new rules for buying an engagement ring

The Solitaire Round cut diamond is the undisputed king of engagement rings.

It represents about 75 per cent of all diamonds sold; but while its dominance owes much to its maximal brilliance, not everyone is content with a safe classic that will go with everything.

Least of all jewellery designers, from bespoke independent artisans to the 'King of Diamonds', British jeweller Graff, who is throwing the well-thumbed rule book to the wind.

The Mondial Pink Diamond Atelier Continuum ring, announced as the 2015 Winner of the Diamond Guild of Australia Award in ...
The Mondial Pink Diamond Atelier Continuum ring, announced as the 2015 Winner of the Diamond Guild of Australia Award in the Solitaire Category. 

Why adhere to the limitations of a solitaire white diamond when you can replace it with two, or two coloured diamonds, from a spectrum of options? 

All the better in cases where budget is no constraint.

Ultra-modern or Art Deco-infused unique statements are the order of the bride in 2016.

The Musson 18ct white gold Loire ring, inspired the Chateaux of the Loire Valley and the French ‘Fleur-de-lis’ symbol.
The Musson 18ct white gold Loire ring, inspired the Chateaux of the Loire Valley and the French ‘Fleur-de-lis’ symbol. Photo: COTA

In the cut

Vintage jewellery's appeal lies in its romance and timeless elegance, but the search for the perfect piece can be an exacting trawl through antique dealers.

A savvy time-saver is wise to commission a modern vintage-inspired piece that might feature old diamond cuts or filigree in unexpected locations for a contemporary twist.

Whether you look for a loose antique diamond for your design or a new diamond in an antique cut, options can take in the Old European cut (the forerunner of the modern brilliant Round cut), the Antique Cushion cut and the Rose cut (a flat-bottomed stone that features triangular facets on the tipped crown).

The Musson Odyssey ring was winner at the 2015 Diamond Guild of Australia Award.
The Musson Odyssey ring was winner at the 2015 Diamond Guild of Australia Award. 

These bear consideration if Victorian, Edwardian or Art Deco motifs might be on the sketch pad. They will also knock the bright but unassuming Solitaire – prized for its adaptability to all sartorial settings – sideways.

This is exactly the case with a Marquise cut like the one in the rose gold, 1.12ct pink and white diamond engagement ring offered by Graff, whose first boutique in Australia opens at Crown Melbourne in February.

This type of cut gives the appearance of being bigger than a Round cut diamond of the same carat weight, as well as elongating fingers.

Sydney-based jewellery designer Cinnamon Lee.
Sydney-based jewellery designer Cinnamon Lee. Photo: Peter Braig

Suspended animation

Mondial Pink Diamond Atelier's award-winning 18ct platinum/palladium white gold Continuum ring features a solitaire of the highest quality but in a form that is entirely unexpected. It was a deserving winner of its Diamond Guild of Australia Award in the coveted Solitaire category in October last year, after it captivated high-profile judges including fashion designer Carla Zampatti.

Designed and crafted by hand by Mondial master jeweller Robert Opat, the unique design symbolises the deliberate and continuous energy that comes from Earth, encapsulated in the infinity symbol, with its idea of everlasting love.

Levendi's Rock Star, a finalist from the same category, is an architectural feat. The 2.01ct solitaire ring's concept is free motion setting (patent pending), allowing the diamond to move freely on a high polished 18ct platinum/palladium white gold concave platform. Designed by Mike Levendi and Amalia Stavreas, the ring seduces from every angle.

Musson's Odyssey ring was another winner at the 2015 Diamond Guild of Australia Awards, taking out the Fancy Shape category. Olivar Musson's 18ct white gold creation, featuring a bezel-set 2ct rare white pear shape diamond, takes inspiration from Homer's ancient poem, where pears were the ultimate gift of gods, allowing humans to taste heaven.

The intricate setting of the ring – in the crown of fully saw-pierced representation of the Pear cut – is a deconstruction of this particular cut that cleverly illustrates its sculptural beauty.

3D vistas

Secretive, meaning-laden jewellery informs the work of Sydney-based jewellery designer Cinnamon Lee, who is using digital printing technology to bring her poetic pieces to life.

Her Covert Romantic ring is from a series that aims to provoke consideration of the symbolic significance of such rings, including both their overt value and their more covert meanings. Contained within the iconic solitaire diamond ring form, a heart-shaped window is obscured from view and can only be seen from a certain angle, encouraging intrigue, while retaining a sense of privacy for the wearer.

"Matrimonial rings have for centuries remained carriers of profound meaning, and regardless of their outward appearances, are often imbued with private or even secret values," explains Lee.

The ring, with its window effect, is made from titanium using a direct metal 3D printing process, resulting in a loaded object that combines tradition and modernity, and splices romance with engineering.

From a technical perspective, Lee's jewellery unites traditional gold and silversmithing techniques with newer processes such as surprising settings, to produce objects that extend perceptions of what is physically possible; while on a conceptual level, notions of concealment and veiled meanings are a preoccupation.

Her Rose Solitaire ring employs a very non-conventional method of stone setting, where the two halves of the ring are riveted together to capture the cognac diamond from the Argyle mine. Making the ring in two halves signals the duality of relationships, and the precise symmetry of the ring is an intention to speak of equality, balance and unity.

A rainbow of stones

"What has been really strong for us since last year is clients wishing to incorporate colour and shape into their bespoke engagement rings," says Michael Neuman, company director of Mondial Pink Diamond Atelier.

"That means more pink, yellow and blue diamonds supporting a central white diamond, or gorgeous yellows or rich cognacs being the focal point, augmented by design or contrasting diamonds."

Argyle pink diamonds are unsurpassed as romantic symbols, and uniquely Australian treasures from the East Kimberley of Western Australia's outback. Design houses such as Mondial and Graff stock extraordinary coloured diamond creations for couples to peruse. Even smaller, contemporary makers such as Cinnamon Lee can't escape the drive to coloured stones.

"I am constantly inspired by the views," says Lee, who Iives on a coastal cliff-top just south of Sydney. "Lately I've been focusing my attention on horizon lines and the colour palette that summer weather patterns have on the light play between ocean and sky.

"Blushing sunsets and rolling grey storm clouds are captured in the pink and grey shades of gold I pair with Australian cognac diamonds or pale plum zircons from the Northern Territory, while the naturally deep blues and greens of locally-sourced Australian sapphires are reflected back at me when gazing down into the ocean depths."

Anthropologists trace engagement rings back to Roman times, though it was Archduke Maximilian of Austria who commissioned the very first diamond version on record in 1477, for his beloved Mary of Burgundy.