This Is What People Are Looking For In Engagement Rings In 2016

Photo: Courtesy of Brilliant Earth.
Despite what romantic comedies have been telling us for years, a blue box is not essential to a picture-perfect proposal. In reality, soon-to-be brides have been rewriting the script, opting for less traditional engagement rings. And thanks to the customization craze, women have expressed increased interest in designing their own diamonds. Brilliant Earth, a sustainable jewelry company that offers a create-your-own option, shared a few surprising facts with Refinery29 that might just make you reconsider everything you thought you knew about engagement rings.

The brand collected over 30,000 data points over the past year to analyze engagement-ring shopping behavior in the U.S. Firstly, Brilliant Earth found that more and more brides are choosing color when it comes to their commitment jewelry — as in, opting for colored gemstones rather than diamonds. Texan couples purchase the highest percentage of ruby rings of all the states, the report found. Women from Washington, D.C., love emeralds, while Alaskans spent the most on sapphires. "Many millennials want a distinctive engagement ring to express their personal style and values," Beth Gerstein, co-CEO of Brilliant Earth, told Refinery29 of these findings. "Choosing colored gemstones, unique design elements, or vintage rings gives these customers a chance to put a personal touch on such a meaningful purchase."

It seems alternatives to the classic cushion cut are on the rise as a whole. "Natural diamonds continue to be the most popular choice among couples," Gerstein observed, noting that it's still the most popular gemstone choice. She adds that the company has noticed more interest in lab-created diamonds (particularly in the West, and possibly connected to a rise in ethical shopping values), as well as in shaped stones, such as pear and oval cuts.

When it comes to scale, it appears the size of the stone still matters to shoppers in some states. California wins for biggest diamond purchases based on average carat size. Runners-up include Washington, D.C., Massachusetts, New York, and Nevada. The latter takes the cake for most spent per unit on engagement rings, with first runner-up going to Minnesota. Still, Gerstein noted that the amount people are willing to spend on engagement rings hasn't changed much over the years. "People generally optimize their choices within a given budget," she said. "For example, a couple might balance a lower carat weight diamond with higher quality characteristics."

This is a good time to give a refresher on the 4 Cs: carat weight, cut, color, and clarity. Despite popular opinion, carat alone does not determine the value of a diamond. There are scales based on each "C" that allow for large fluctuations in value; taken together, the diamond is priced accordingly. And apparently in Nevada, "budget" is a foreign word.

Another big engagement-ring trend that doesn't appear to be slowing down is the vintage category: Whereas the West prefers its lab-grown stones, the middle states love their "something old." Wyoming had the highest ratio of vintage sales to all ring sales, according to Brilliant Earth's report. Idaho and Arizona took second and third, favoring the royally approved style to more traditional cuts.

And now, for a less lovey-dovey statistic — what Brilliant Earth dubs its "most brokenhearted" ranking, determined by the highest percentage of engagement-ring returns. Alaska took the top spot on that list, which Gerstein credits to it being "the coldest and one of the most remote [states] in the country.” Tennessee, Missouri, Florida, and Vermont also made the list. But, who knows — perhaps the couples simply decided to go a different route and get engagement tattoos instead.

So, do these findings mean traditional rings are uncool? Not necessarily: "There is always going to be a place for the classic solitaire set with a natural round diamond," explained Gerstein. So if your dream proposal still includes a textbook princess cut, you can rest assured it'll never go out of style (though it might end up being a lab-grown diamond!).

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