â€œWill you marry me?â€
These four little words can send even the most sensible woman into a tizzy, especially when the rocks are as dazzling as some of these beauties. Jewellery, after all, is about emotion. It revs up your heart, reignites memories, and recognises milestones.
Here, we take a look at the signature designs that have stood the test of time and become emblematic of the brands that originally created them.
This spread was originally published in Her World Brides LUXE April 2019
One of the oldest Italian jewellery brands around, Bulgari began as a modest store at the top of the Spanish Steps in Rome in 1884. It was opened by Sotirios Voulgaris, a Greek who started out as a silversmith. He adopted the phonetic version of his surname – Bulgari – and opened more stores, including the now historic luxury maison at 10 Via dei Condotti in 1905.
Later on, his grandsons Gianni, Paolo and Nicola introduced bold combinations of coloured stones (chosen for their hue rather than their weight), cabochon-shaped gems, and smooth, simple shapes that soon became recognised as the Bulgari style.
Many memorable designs ensued. The Serpenti, one of its most recognisable icons, dates back to the 1940s. The 1960s saw the introduction of Coins or Monete, which came about when Nicola was inspired by ancient Roman currency.
In the 1970s, the Parentesi brought a stylish simplicity to fine jewels with its soft, clean lines made up of repeated curves that were interlinked for flexibility. In 2000, the B.zero1, an audacious 3-D design inspired by the Colosseum, with a broad band encircled by two flat rings and engraved with the Bulgari double logo, became another signature.
Say “Yes”: The “B” in B.zero1 stands for Bulgari, while the “zero1” signifies that it was the brand’s first jewellery design of the second millennium. Updated every year, the flat rings that punctuate each end are engraved with the distinctive Bulgari double logo, with a Latin “V” replacing the “U”. This model with a gorgeous diamond is perfect as a proposal ring.
Say “I do”: The brand believes that a wedding band should always complement and magnify the engagement ring. Combining elegance and simplicity, this Bulgari B.zero1 ring set with four pave diamond bands is hard to resist.
Pictured (from top): B.zero1 rings in yellow, white, and rose gold, Bvlgari
From its modest founding in Paris by Louis-Francois Cartier in 1847, it became the “king of jewellers and jeweller of kings”, thanks to its reputation for exceptional gems, groundbreaking designs and exquisite craftsmanship. The French elite, European and British royalty, India’s maharajas, and American heiresses all vied to show off its most extravagant pieces. It was also one of the first jewellers to use platinum in jewellery – groundbreaking in the 19th century.
Thanks to this legacy, Cartier, which made the engagement rings for the late Duchess of Windsor, Princess Grace of Monaco and Diana, Princess of Wales, remains one of the most sought-after brands in the world.
Today, it is also the jeweller to stars. Nicole Kidman proudly wears her precious Cartier diamond ring (from husband Keith Urban), as does Mary-Kate Olsen (French banker Olivier Sarkozy proposed with a vintage Cartier engagement ring).
Say “Yes”: Signed and numbered, the signature Solitaire 1895 has been a Cartier star since 1895. Displaying optimal brilliance, it has a design that is elegant and timeless, with the centre stone held by four prongs. Another classic option is the Trinity Ruban, a reinterpretation of the Trinity ring. With a brilliant-cut diamond solitaire and a swirl of platinum paved with glittering diamonds celebrating commitment, this unique engagement ring glitters at every angle.
Say “I do”: The famous Trinity ring was originally designed for French writer, artist and filmmaker Jean Cocteau in 1924. He commissioned Cartier to create a design with three interlocking bands: one for love in pink gold, one for friendship in white gold, and one for fidelity in yellow gold. Over time, it has seen various changes, such as diamonds channel-set into the original three bands, and even a black ceramic and white gold model with diamonds.
Pictured: Trinity Ruban white gold ring with diamonds, Cartier
In 2008, the De Beers Group of Companies – whose diamond expertise dates back more than 150 years – founded Forevermark to promote its finest stones. The brand is known for having one of the most recognisable slogans of all time: A diamond is forever.
Less than one per cent of diamonds are eligible to become a Forevermark diamond. They usually come from rough diamonds responsibly obtained from countries such as South Africa, Botswana, Namibia and Canada, and mined deep below the ground. Each is hand-selected, before a master craftsman begins the process of cutting it to carefully showcase every facet of its brilliance, fire and scintillation.
Once polished, the diamond is evaluated and graded for cut, colour, clarity and carat. It is also inscribed with the Forevermark icon and a unique number, which guarantees that the diamond is beautiful, rare and responsibly sourced.
Say “Yes”: At the centre of the Forevermark Setting Circlet Pave Ring is a solitaire Forevermark diamond in a unique four-pronged mount setting. It is completely surrounded by pave diamonds, which also appear on the band.
Say “I do”: Marking the commitment between two people, the Forevermark Setting Eternity Ring also has a four-pronged mount setting, and is inspired by the shape of the Forevermark icon.
Pictured: Forevermark Black Label white gold solitaire ring with Forevermark diamonds, Forevermark
Founded in 1860 by artisan watchmaker Louis-Ulysse Chopard, this Geneva-based company began with a reputation for fine gold pocket watches. In 1943, Karl Scheufele III, owner of a German-based watch and jewellery company bearing his name, purchased the brand from the founder’s grandson, Paul-Andre Chopard. Chopard is now run by Scheufele’s children: Caroline (who oversees women’s watches and the haute joaillerie sector) and Karl-Friedrich (who is in charge of men’s watches and the complete watch movement manufacturing facility in Fleurier, Switzerland) are co-presidents.
Caroline’s first design, the Happy Diamonds Clown pendant with a tummy of moving diamonds, became the brand’s mascot. She continues to design exceptional collections, including the annual Red Carpet Collection of high jewellery for the Cannes Film Festival that is worn by many movie stars. Chopard, an official partner since 1998, also produces the famous Palme d’Or Award, which honours the best film at the festival.
Always looking towards the future, Chopard has been using 100 per cent ethical gold – acquired from sustainable sources, and verified as having met international best practice environmental and social standards – in its watch and jewellery creations (including its bridal collection) since July this year.
Say “Yes”: The aptly named engagement ring setting, Chopard For Ever, highlights the maison’s artful design heritage. What makes the Chopard For Ever Ring Pave exceptional is its pave diamond band. The 18 stones are set so closely together, the setting’s metal is barely visible.
Say “I do”: The Timeless Wedding Band, with brilliant-cut diamonds totalling approximately 1.45 carats, is a sparkling reminder that love is forever. Then, there’s the Chopard Ice Cube White Gold Geometric Diamond Band Ring, which is made up of perfect cubes with embedded diamonds, adding a contemporary edge to a classic band design.
Pictured (from top): Ice Cube rose, yellow, and white gold rings with diamonds, Chopard
Since its founding by English jeweller Laurence Graff in 1960, the brand has produced jewellery featuring some of the most significant diamonds in the world.
In fact, Graff owns several of the most celebrated rocks in the world, including the 47.39-carat emerald-cut yellow Star of Bombay; The Imperial Blue, one of the largest (39.31 carats) and rarest blue diamonds on earth; and the 550-carat Letseng Star rough diamond, from which came 28 exceptional pear-shaped beauties (all Type IIa and D colour) totalling 169.76 carats– a world first.
Each stone is hand-picked by a Graff family member, then impeccably cut and polished by master jewellers to achieve its fullest brilliance and sparkle, before it is precisely positioned by a master ring mounter, to ensure that the optimum amount of light is reflected off its facets. What’s more, all the diamonds are laser-inscribed on the girdle with the Graff logo and a unique Gemological Institute of America (GIA) identification number.
Say “Yes”: All its engagement rings are crafted by hand to cradle a diamond’s silhouette, and there is a wide range of settings and cuts to choose from. The Flame Setting, for instance, complements the radiance of the central diamond. Then there’s the Laurence Graff Signature setting, which is inspired by the intricate facets of a brilliant-cut diamond and celebrates a diamond’s natural beauty. Stones come in round brilliant, emerald, marquise, pear, oval, heart, and cushion cuts.
Say “I do”: The slender Laurence Graff Signature Pave wedding band features the brand’s signature facet style, elegantly enhanced with pave diamonds. Or go for the Emerald Cut Diamond Eternity band, which reflects its wearer’s personality with remarkable brilliance.
Pictured: Classic White Diamond rings, Graff
As a schoolboy, Harry Winston, the son of a jewellery store owner, knew more about diamonds than others decades older than him. In 1932, he opened the first Harry Winston store in New York City. It has since become the go-to boutique for women who are searching for their dream ring.
In 1943, Winston became the first jeweller to loan his creations to Hollywood stars in exchange for brand exposure and publicity. The brand was famously immortalised in the song Diamonds Are A Girl’s Best Friend from the movie Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1949).
The difference between a Harry Winston diamond and others? Its workshop team studies the uniqueness of every diamond and creates the band according to each stone, instead of using a standard template. This highlights each stone’s raw beauty, and allows the artisans to complement it with unique touches, such as the brand’s iconic split-prong setting, with eight ultra-fine prongs that blend into the ring’s design. Plus, it only uses diamonds of D, E or F colour with a clarity of VS2 or higher.
Say “Yes”: The One Micropave Diamond Engagement Ring is an ultra-feminine design with a brilliant centre stone (cushion- or emerald-cut, round or oval) framed by smaller diamonds on the band.
Say “I do”: The Prong-Set Round Brilliant Diamond Wedding Band is a classic featuring round brilliant diamonds in a shared-prong platinum setting that gives each diamond more sparkle. Or go for the Channel-set Baguette-cut Diamond Wedding Band, which features a full circle of baguette diamonds channel-set in platinum.
Pictured (from top): Prong-set Round Brilliant Diamond platinum wedding band, and The One Micropave Diamond platinum engagement ring, Harry Winston
In 1893, founder Kokichi Mikimoto created the world’s first cultured pearls. Since then, his dream of “adorning the necks of all women around the world with pearls” has lived on through Mikimoto, a company dedicated to the pursuit of beauty for over a century.
Unique and beautiful, cultured pearls have become a popular choice of wedding day jewellery for wearers who want something other than diamond rings. Each creation is produced by an in-house team of designers. Before making it to the store, a design begins with dozens of rough, hand-drawn drafts. The few selected sketches are transformed into finely detailed illustrations produced with fine-point brushes and traditional Japanese ink, then filled in with watercolour paints and coloured pencils, before the chosen one is presented to the craftsmen tasked with bringing the designers’ ideas to life.
Say “Yes”: Engagement rings with pearls are thought to symbolise faith, charity, innocence, integrity, loyalty, harmony, perfection and purity. This Day & Night 18K White Gold Akoya Cultured Pearl Diamond Ring is a sophisticated attention-grabber.
Say “I do”: As the ultimate symbol of love and purity, pearls are said to bring happiness to your marriage. With its vines of pave diamonds that cradle the pearl, the Embrace Akoya Cultured Pearl and Diamond Ring White Gold will have you smiling every time you look at it. Also check out the Morning Dew Akoya Cultured Pearl 18K White Gold Ring with diamonds, which mimics the subtle glimmer of nature’s dewdrops.
Pictured: 18k white gold ring with Akoya peaerl and diamonds, Mikimoto
While it continues to be exclusively distributed by Lee Hwa Jewellery, which first introduced the brand to Singapore, Niessing has also introduced its first mono-brand Asian flagship store – complete with a dedicated wedding corner and a wide selection of the finest contemporary handcrafted jewellery.
The brand – established in Vreden, Germany, in 1873 by Hermann Niessing, a classically trained jeweller who apprenticed in Italy – has been manufacturing jewellery for 145 years. Under the leadership of Ursula Niessing Exner and Fritz Exner, who took over in 1914, and following the launch of a seamless wedding ring forged from a solid piece of metal, it became one of Germany’s leading producers of avant-garde jewellery design. Thanks to skilled craftsmanship combined with cutting edge technology, its collections marry the classical with the experimental.
In the 1970s, Ursula Niessing Exner and Walter Wittek, a sculptor and silversmith, created the striking, award-winning Tension Ring, also known as The Niessing Ring, with a “floating” diamond held in place by nothing more than the pressure of the precious metal around it. It is said to be the most significant aesthetic and technical innovation in diamond setting in recent times.
Fast forward to present day: The brand has a new addition to the Niessing Ring range, unconventional ring shapes, and other designs that are meant to evolve with and tell a couple’s love story. All are exclusively available at the flagship boutique.
Say “Yes”: A ring doesn’t have to be round. Inspired by love, the Niessing Square boasts an unconventional shape for well-loved designs such as the Amatis and Satellite. Crafted from a single bar of precious metal, the band has a four-pronged setting that makes an intricate clasp for the precious diamond.
Say “I do”: Providing maximum comfort for the wearer, the Niessing Square diamond wedding ring is as slender as can be. A specifically developed high-precision technique allows the brand to set the diamonds extremely close to each other.
Pictured (from left): Square platinum rings with and without diamonds, and Square platinum engagement ring with Amatis diamond setting, Niessing
See also: CAN’T DECIDE ON YOUR WEDDING RINGS?
In 1874, the 19-year-old Georges-Edouard Piaget started his first workshop on his family’s farm in the small village of La Cote-aux-Fees, Switzerland, where he made components and high-precision movements for the pocket watches he built during the winter for, well, pocket money. Little did he realise then that he was laying the foundation for what would later become a company for fine watchmaking when his son Timothee took over in 1911. His grandsons, Gerald and Valentin, trademarked the Piaget brand in 1943, and the first Salon Piaget opened in Geneva in 1959.
In the 1960s, the brand expanded into fine jewellery. Since then, every stone used in its jewellery has been precisely cut, polished, and set by hand in the workshop attached to the salon. Its artisans work only with diamonds rated D to G in colour (colourless or near colourless) and IF to VVS (Internally Flawless or Very, Very Slightly Included) in clarity, so when you buy Piaget bridal jewellery, you know you’re getting the best.
Say “Yes”: The Jardin Secret Engagement Ring features a gorgeous pear-cut diamond solitaire supported by a double-loop platinum band set with round brilliant-cut diamonds.
Say “I do”: First introduced in 1990, Piaget’s iconic and audacious Possession ring, which is defined by its rotating rings, is not just stylish but comfortable.
Pictured (from top): Possession 18k pink gold ring with 74 brilliant-cut diamonds, 18k white gold ring with 46 brilliant-cut diamonds, and 18k pink gold ring with 36 brilliant-cut diamonds, Piaget
Designer Paloma Picasso, who joined Tiffany & Co. in 1979, once said: “Anybody can walk into Tiffany’s and be treated like a queen.” The thousands who have visited the brand’s flagship New York store, which opened on Oct 21, 1940, would surely agree.
The jewellery house was founded in 1837 by Charles Lewis Tiffany and John B. Young, and officially named Tiffany & Company by the former when he took over the company in 1853. Since 1886, the brand and its Tiffany Blue Box – the shade of a robin’s egg, and now known officially as Pantone 1837 – has been synonymous with romance, proposals and marriage.
The flagship store is also home to the Tiffany Diamond, one of the largest yellow diamonds ever discovered. It was found in a South African diamond mine in 1878 as a 287.42-carat rough stone, then cut in Paris into a cushion shape of 128.54 carats (about 25g). The canary yellow stone’s 82 facets maximise its fire rather than its size.
In 1961, it became the star of designer Jean Schlumberger’s Ribbon Rosette necklace, made with yellow gold, platinum and over 1,000 white diamonds for another star – Audrey Hepburn, who wore it in publicity photographs for her film Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Today, it is on permanent display on the Fifth Avenue store’s main floor.
Say “Yes”: Pick an engagement ring with the brand’s signature Tiffany Setting, which was first introduced in 1886: A brilliant-cut round diamond is lifted above the band, and elevated with six prongs designed with V-shaped scoops, giving the diamond maximum visibility. In 2016, the brand celebrated its 130th anniversary with the launch of the Pave Tiffany Setting ring, with pave diamonds wrapped around the band.
Say “I do”: This matching platinum band with pave diamonds complements the Pave Tiffany Setting’s simple elegance and stunning shine.
Pictured (from top): Jean Schlumberger rings and Tiffany Setting solitaire gold ring, Tiffany & Co.
This brand has been linked to love and romance from the day that Alfred Van Cleef, the son of a diamond cutter, fell in love with Estelle Arpels, the daughter of a precious stones dealer. They shared a passion for precious gems, and the desire to create something that would last.
The couple married 1895, and a year later, Van Cleef and Estelle’s father, Salomon Arpels, formed Van Cleef & Arpels. After Arpels died in 1903, Van Cleef worked with his brothers-in-law, Charles and Julien, and they opened the first Van Cleef & Arpels boutique at 22 Place Vendome, Paris, in 1906. From then, the family worked hard to create cleverly crafted pieces embellished with diamonds and precious gems, and gained a reputation for innovations. The most notable of these was the Mystery Setting, which was patented in 1933. It allows stones to be set in such a way that none of the prongs are visible.
Today, Van Cleef & Arpels’ enduring passion for diamonds combined with master craftsmanship has ensured that its bridal collections remain nothing short of exceptional.
Say “Yes”: The Couture solitaire adds an elegant twist to one of the maison’s main sources of inspiration – the love story of Estelle Arpels and Alfred Van Cleef. It features an asymmetrical composition and buttonhole motif, with the central stone clasped by a platinum loop of pave diamonds.
Say “I do”: The Couture wedding band’s handmade, graceful design takes its cue from the world of high fashion. The platinum band is set with two rows of round diamonds, all firmly secured by the exceptional craftsmanship that has been the maison’s hallmark since the very beginning.
Pictured (from left): Solitaire Couture- Alliance Romance band and matching ring, SOlitaire Icone ring, and Perlee ring, all in white gold with diamonds, Van Cleef & Arpels.