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Why marrying millennials are giving the finger to diamond rings

The Guardian logo The Guardian 13/03/2017 Emine Saner

It may not be as glittery or romantic, but saving for a house together or putting money aside to cover future parental-leave shortfall does signify a deeper level of commitment than the traditional diamond ring. That’s a possible explanation as to why among millennials – the generation in full marital swing – cheaper gemstones seem to be an increasingly attractive choice.

They’re also more fashionable, particularly in art-deco-style jewellery. “About five years ago, there was a massive reappraisal of coloured stones; a recognition they could be just as beautiful,” says John Benjamin, an expert in antique jewellery. For years, coloured stones were under-appreciated and undervalued. “The prices have absolutely skyrocketed in recent years. In auction, we’re seeing prices that we never saw before, it is a very different sort of marketplace from the old days when coloured stones could be bought, frankly, very cheaply in auction.”

That isn’t to say diamonds, particularly among younger people, are over – a 2016 report into the market by De Beers found that millennials spent $26bn on new diamond jewellery in its four key markets – more than any other generation. But jewellers are reporting that younger customers are starting to look for something less traditional than the white sparkler. An article in style journal the Gentlewoman this month even suggested that some women are opting for “silent” rings – fingers left naked as a mark of independence.

The internet – and specifically Pinterest and Instagram – has opened up options, says Nikolay Piriankov, founder of Taylor & Hart, which specialises in custom-made rings. “Before, it was very much driven by what jewellers could stock, and, if it wasn’t in your local shop, you wouldn’t know it was possible. And from a value perspective, you can get a larger gem for a lower price point, that’s one of the main drivers.”

The other main impetus, says Piriankov, is the style for self-expression and a story, rather than traditional status symbols. A popular trend among his younger customers is to choose a “birthstone” (different stones represent different months) to mark the time the couple met. “It’s more personal, rather than the ego thing of showing everyone how big your diamond is.” By that reckoning, January is a good month (garnets are one of the most inexpensive gems) and you might want to stay off Tinder in April if you’re looking for an excuse not to have a diamond ring.

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