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15 best alternative engagement rings to say yes to

These eye-catching pieces are perfect for ‘think outside the box’ brides-to-be

<p>Consider whether your lifestyle will allow for a more fragile gem, and how it will fit together with your wedding band</p>

Consider whether your lifestyle will allow for a more fragile gem, and how it will fit together with your wedding band

Visualise an engagement ring and you might imagine a classic solitaire – a single diamond on a gold band. This has been the go-style since the 1940s, when diamond miner De Beers spearheaded a campaign to encourage men to propose with diamonds, but for modern brides-to-be seeking something a little different, an alternative engagement ring could be a more fitting choice.

So what makes an engagement ring alternative? Well, the limit is your imagination. For some, it can be a modern twist on a classic diamond solitaire – designs that use lesser-known diamond cuts such as square asschers or pointed marquise diamonds, or that favour an east-west setting that tilts the diamond at an unexpected angle.

Others might eschew diamonds altogether – after all, there’s no hard and fast rule that an engagement ring needs to have one. Rings set with a central coloured gemstone make for a beautiful alternative bridal set, and can often make for a more affordable engagement ring. That said, make sure to discuss your gem choice with your jeweller, as some stones are more fragile than others, and might not be suitable for daily wear if you have an active lifestyle.

You also don’t have to opt for a traditional bridal set of one engagement ring and one wedding band. Some couples choose to have one ring that symbolises both the engagement and the wedding; this is particularly popular in the LGBT+ community. Others seek bridal stacks offering a curated look with many delicate bands – it’s tradition to add extra rings to mark anniversaries or children, but as many couples now have children before getting married, they jump straight to the stack to ensure the whole family is represented.

There are a few things to consider when stepping away from the classic tried-and-tested solitaire engagement ring. As well as carefully picking your gems, and generally thinking about how wearable a design will be from day to day, you should also consider the wedding band. If you are planning on a separate band, you may need to ask yourself how it will fit with the engagement ring. If you want a flush look, find out if the jeweller has a matching band already, and, if not, you should consider whether you have the budget to commission a bespoke solution.

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At the heart of it, choosing an alternative engagement ring is about expressing your personality; whether that’s through colour, an unusual motif that has significance to you as a couple, or picking a dream ring from your favourite independent jewellery designer. This is a ring that you will probably wear for the rest of your life, so it should speak to who you are and delight you every day.

The best alternative engagement rings for 2022 are:

  • Best overall – Hannah Bedford whorl diamond ring: £3,300, Hannahbedford.co.uk
  • Best ethical ring – Alison Macleod gold and diamond oval catkin ring: £1,380, Alisonmacleod.com
  • Best emerald ring – Liv Luttrell emerald spear tip ring: £9,400, Livluttrell.com 
  • Best geometric ring – Shimmell and Madden three strut ring, blue tourmaline: £1,820, Shimellandmadden.com 
  • Best for arty brides – Anthony Lent emerald and diamond tiny hands ring: £1,150, Tomfoolerylondon.co.uk
  • Best budget diamond ring – Suzanne Kalan gold and diamond fireworks ring: £1,210, Net-a-porter.com
  • Best coloured gemstone ring – Rachel Boston caura ring: £2,600, Rachelboston.co.uk 
  • Best understated ring – Sorrel Bay oval rose cut diamond ring: £5,860, Sorrelbay.com 
  • Best diamond solitaire – McCaul marquise and cognac diamond and rose gold ring: £3,955, Mccaul.com
  • Best bold ring – Jacqueline Cullen galactica orb ring with champagne diamonds: £900, Jacquelinecullen.com
  • Best titanium ring – Alison Evans titanium basket ring with pale pink tourmaline: £1,400, Alsionevans.com
  • Best sapphire ring – Moritz Glik garnet and diamond regular ring: £3,931.70, Auverture.com
  • Best for soft sparkle – Jo Hayes Ward tapered hex ring with kite shaped rose cut diamond: £4,600, Johayesward.com

Hannah Bedford whorl diamond ring

Best: Overall

Rating: 10/10

London-based jewellery designer Hannah Bedford is known for her use of granulation, an ancient goldsmiths’ technique requiring dotting tiny droplets of molten gold to make textured patterns, such as those on this design.

The 18ct yellow gold ring, inspired by frothy waves, has diamonds scattered throughout. At its centre is a larger diamond – a nod to traditional engagement rings – and there are 10 more diamonds embedded within in the gold granulation.

This is a large band that can be emboldened further by a distinctive matching open wedding ring, so make sure you have the finger space to accommodate it. Also good to note is that the brand is keen on giving back. For every ring sold, it plants a tree through the Ecologi scheme, and donates a percentage of sales from the Whorl collection to the Marine Conservation Society.  

Alison Macleod gold and diamond oval catkin ring

Best: Ethical ring

Rating: 9/10

Not all engagement rings need to have a central stone, as this oval catkin design by Scottish jewellery designer Alison Macleod shows. This ring, with its scattering of 10 diamonds, is ideal for those who want a small dash of sparkle, but don’t like the big-bling look of traditional diamond rings. With no large central stone, it is easy to wear and doesn’t snag on jumpers or excitable children.

The ring has been handcrafted using 18ct Fairtrade gold. Much like bananas or coffee, this means that some of the money you spend on your ring will be invested back into artisanal mining communities.

This ring is a one-of-a-kind design, so you’ll never see another bride with the same one. One of our favourite elements is that the ring is sold in a vintage jewellery box, making for a sustainable and stylish proposal.

Liv Luttrell emerald spear tip ring

Best: Emerald ring

Rating: 9/10

For those seeking a colourful engagement ring, this spear tip style by London designer Liv Luttrell delivers a rich blast of green. Rather than a diamond, this ring has a sugarloaf emerald at its centre (the term sugarloaf refers to the emerald’s rounded, smooth shape).

The 18ct yellow gold ring has been made using responsibly sourced gold and has been carved by hand using a technique known as cire perdue. The emerald, which is held in place with four spear-tip claws, sits above a highly polished concave that bounces light back at you, creating a play of light without resorting to diamonds.

One thing to consider about wearing this design as an engagement ring is that, as it is a sizeable option, it might not work for all hands. You should also consider how careful you are likely to be while wearing it, as emeralds are delicate gemstones and can get damaged. This is not an ideal choice for clumsy brides-to-be.

To confirm the price of this ring you will need to enquire.

Shimmell and Madden three strut ring, blue tourmaline

Best: Geometric ring

Rating: 8/10

For brides who favour a geometric look, this ring by British jeweller Shimmell and Madden will set hearts racing. The structured style of the ring, which feels delicate on the finger, has been created using a technique called “open wirework”.

The 18ct yellow gold eschews the traditional high polish associated with classic engagement rings and instead has a textured finish to create an understated sparkle. At the centre is an unusual, square-cut indicolite tourmaline, a rare blue-green gem that is instantly mesmerising. It’s worth noting that the setting style for the tourmaline makes it sit high from the finger – something to consider if you have an active lifestyle.

When thinking ahead to a matching wedding band, it’s worth considering that the ring’s bands have flat squared edges, and the gold has a brushed finish, so you will need to choose a style that complements it. Luckily, Shimmell and Madden does offer several matching bands.

Anthony Lent emerald and diamond tiny hands ring

Best: For arty brides

Rating: 8/10

New York jeweller Anthony Lent is famed for creating jewels that look like miniature sculptures. This tiny hands ring is the perfect alternative engagement ring for artsy brides-to-be.

Crafted in 18ct yellow gold, this ring feels delicate when on the finger, and reminiscent of antique Victorian jewels, which used hand motifs as an artistic tool. A tiny diamond (0.04ct) and a small emerald (0.19ct) bring both sparkle and colour, and though emeralds are notoriously brittle, this design has a sturdy setting that should protect the gem during daily wear.

However, the unusual shape of the low-hanging emerald or diamond (it looks good worn either way) will make finding a matching wedding band difficult, and you might have to order a bespoke made-to-measure ring.

Suzanne Kalan gold and diamond fireworks ring

Best: Budget diamond ring

Rating: 9/10

This is a beautiful alternative engagement ring by Los Angeles-based jeweller Suzanne Kalan for someone who loves diamonds but is on a budget. As well as being more affordable, it offers a more subtle take on diamonds, rather than just one large central stone.

The 18ct yellow gold ring has a band of undulating baguette-cut diamonds. Suzanne Kalan has its diamonds custom cut and only works with high-quality diamonds (minimum G colour and VS quality), which means that even though they are small, they will deliver a big sparkle.

The shape of this ring will make it easy to stack with others, such as wedding bands and eternity rings, and is a very wearable size – a great solution if you don’t have the longest of fingers or you prefer a minimalist look.

Rachel Boston caura ring

Best: Coloured gemstone ring

Rating: 9/10

Coloured gemstones have been a growing trend for engagement rings, and this caura ring by London-based jewellery designer Rachel Boston stars a marquise-cut pink sapphire. The central stone is flanked by two triangular, trillion-cut diamonds that offer a brilliant sparkle.

Rachel Boston is known for unusual engagement rings with a contemporary style, and this ring ticks all the boxes: colour, unusual gem cuts, a beautiful 18ct yellow gold band with knife-edge detailing, and a design that lends itself well to a variety of wedding bands.

This sophisticated and very wearable ring is perfect for those who love the colour pink, and the light shade of the sapphire means it doesn’t tip into being too sickly sweet. The elongated marquise shape of the sapphire also has the bonus of making your finger look longer and more elegant.

The ring may appear to be out of stock, but it’s actually a custom order piece that can be made on request. Simply enquire to find out more.

Sorrel Bay oval rose cut diamond ring

Best: Understated ring

Rating: 8/10

When it comes to diamonds, we’re taught to look for clarity, but sometimes there is beauty to be found in imperfection. The central diamond in this Sorrel Bay engagement ring celebrates this with its dark spots, a feature that might make other more classic diamonds less desirable.

Sometimes referred to as a “salt and pepper” diamond, it has an oval shape but has been faceted across the top with a rose-cut pattern. This is an ancient diamond cut that delivers flashes of light rather than strong sparkle, making it ideal for a bride looking for understated luxury.

Sorrel Bay is first and foremost an ethical jewellery brand, so the gems, including the strip of round brilliant diamonds on the shoulders, have been sustainably sourced. The 18ct yellow gold is Fairtrade certified so your ring will go towards helping artisanal miners earn a fair wage.

McCaul marquise and cognac diamond and rose gold ring

Best: Diamond solitaire

Rating: 8/10

This is a diamond solitaire, but not as you know it. McCaul, which has a workshop in Dublin and a showroom in London’s Exmouth market, has chosen an unusual brown diamond for this design – or to use its more flamboyant name, cognac.

The marquise-cut diamond, which weighs just less than 1ct, has been set in an alternative east-west setting (traditionally marquise diamonds would be set lengthways). The diamond is looped in brushed 18ct rose gold and set just apart from the band, allowing for two looks, depending on whether you want to wear it with the diamond at the top or the bottom.

One consideration with this design is the brushed gold. This technique adds a beautiful texture to the gold but it does wear away with use, so daily wear could mean it requires regular maintenance unless you are happy for it to gradually take on a more shiny appearance.

Jacqueline Cullen galactica orb ring with champagne diamonds

Best: Bold ring

Rating: 8/10

For a truly alternative take, this galactica orb design by British jeweller Jacqueline Cullen is a bold choice. While the shape of the ring mimics a solitaire, rather than a diamond jutting out from the gold band, you also have a sphere of grey agate, which is a gem tough enough for daily wear. It’s hard to keep your hands off its pleasingly smooth spherical shape, and if you believe in the healing power of gemstones, agate is said to bring stability and emotional harmony – ideal attributes for a long and happy marriage.

Set into the agate sphere are tiny champagne diamonds to bring sparkle to the opaque gemstone. More of these diamonds, which have a slight yellow-brown tone, are set into the 18ct yellow gold band. The gold has also been textured to create what Jacqueline Cullen refers to as a “frosted” finish.

Alison Evans titanium basket ring with pale pink tourmaline

Best: Titanium ring

Rating: 8/10

Just as you don’t need to opt for a diamond when shopping for an alternative engagement ring, you also don’t need to go for gold. There are many alternatives out there, such as platinum, palladium and silver, or in the case of this Alison Evans ring, titanium.

Though not a precious metal – and, as such, does not carry a hallmark – titanium is becoming a popular metal in luxury jewellery collections, as it is strong and very light. Alison Evans has used titanium links to create a modern chain, which is comfortable on the finger, easy to wear and highly tactile.

At the centre of the basket ring, named in reference to the weaving of the titanium links, is an oval pale-pink tourmaline in an 18ct gold setting. This is a sizeable ring, so do consider whether you have the finger real estate to pull it off. It might be a good choice for those who don’t plan to wear an additional wedding ring.

Sam Ham solid solitaire platinum engagement ring with gold wedding band

Best: Style statement

Rating: 8/10

This engagement ring in itself isn’t far off being a traditional solitaire, apart from the curved band and offset placing of the diamond. But when paired with its matching wedding ring, it becomes not only a style statement but a commentary on gender.

London-based Irish jeweller Sam Ham is well-known for playing with this narrative, and the debut bridal offering from the brand combines a symbol of femininity – the diamond solitaire – with a typically masculine piece of jewellery, a signet ring, which the wedding band mimics.

Crafted in platinum, this engagement ring has a pleasing heft to it, and once slotted into the 14ct yellow gold wedding ring, it becomes a large ring that fills the finger. For a slightly more delicate look, Sam Ham does offer a semi-circle signet, which allows for the additional stacking of a diamond eternity band.

Moritz Glik garnet and diamond regular ring

Best: Sapphire ring

Rating: 8/10

To really shake up your conception of engagement rings, take a look at this design by New York-based jeweller Moritz Glik. Rather than relying on a central diamond to dazzle, it has 0.6ct of loose diamonds locked within a sapphire crystal frame that shimmy and shake as you move.

The diamonds are trapped securely within two sheets of white sapphire and mounted in 18ct rose gold. On either side of this unusual centrepiece are two purple pyrope almandine garnets, a nod to classic trilogy rings that represent the past, present and future. The large central gem is likely to eclipse any wedding ring beneath, so this is the best choice for those happy with a plain band. This is a fun piece that will bring joy and interest for years to come.

Jo Hayes Ward tapered hex ring with kite shaped rose cut diamond

Best: For soft sparkle

Rating: 9/10

Alternative diamond cuts are a great way to introduce individual flair to your engagement ring, and this design by British jeweller Jo Hayes Ward uses a kite-shaped diamond with rose-cut faceting to create softer flashes of light rather than a sharp sparkle.

And the band of this engagement ring is just as unusual as its diamond – the 18ct yellow gold band has been faceted by the designer to create tiny hexagon shapes that bounce back the light when you turn it on your finger, while two small hidden diamonds in this pattern add even more sparkle.

When on the finger it feels smooth, and despite its striking looks, it’s a good choice for busy hands. The flat rose-cut kite-shaped diamond sits low which means it will be less likely to disrupt daily tasks.

The verdict: Alternative engagement rings

Hannah Bedford’s whorl ring is our best buy. The wave-inspired granulation, and the option to amp up the design even further with a matching wedding band, brings an alternative edge, while the solitaire diamond nods to tradition. Plus, the price point is great, especially when you consider the level of craftsmanship involved.

For those on a tighter budget, we’d recommend Jacqueline Cullen’s galactic orb ring, as it packs a huge design punch for less than £1,000. 

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