Celebrity engagement rings underscore the claim that a diamond—if not a marriage—is forever. Well played, De Beers. Not that engagement rings were always about the diamond. In Roman times, brides were given a simple gold band to wear when they were out in public and an iron ring to wear at home. In New England, religious men—skeptical of fancy rings—gave thimbles to their betrothed (gee thanks, babe). Although some women would actually cut off the tops of these thimbles and wear them as rings anyway.
Fast forward to today. Modern love is almost always represented with a big, shiny gemstone. Whether it’s Elizabeth Taylor’s 33-carat diamond from Richard Burton (note: not an engagement ring), Kim Kardashian West’s 15-carat diamond, or Olivia Wilde’s gorgeous emerald from Jason Sudeikis, you don’t have to look hard to find some very impressive (and not cheap) jewelry.
Princess Diana’s engagement ring story
Princess Diana’s sapphire blue engagement ring is of the most well-known pieces of jewelry in history. That being said, not everybody loved the eye-catching blue sapphire.
Prior to her engagement, Prince Charles had presented his soon-to-be fiancée with a selection of rings from Garrard’s, the then-crown jeweler. The Princess chose the stunning 12-carat oval Ceylon sapphire surrounded by diamonds and set in white gold. The controversy was that this beautiful ring happened to be…a stock item. According to Vogue, the royal family wasn’t happy about commoners being able to access the same jewelry as the royals. Sheesh.
Princess Diana was said to have chosen this engagement ring herself, apparently because it reminded her of her own mother’s ring. According to The Daily Mail, the jeweler found inspiration from Prince Albert’s wedding present to Queen Victoria in 1840. The late prince gave the Queen a brooch with a similar diamond and sapphire design, which she wore as her “something blue” on her wedding day. In the decades since, Queen Elizabeth has repeatedly worn the same brooch at public events.
The late princess loved the ring so much that she continued to wear her engagement ring even after she and Prince Charles divorced in 1996. After her death, Prince William inherited the sapphire sparkler, eventually using it to propose to Kate Middleton in 2011.
Meghan Markle’s engagement ring
Meghan Markle’s engagement ring from Prince Harry similarly features stones from Princess Diana’s jewelry collection. The Duchess of Sussex was also gifted Diana’s famous emerald-cut Aquamarine ring from her new husband on their wedding day.
It appears that the designers of the royal ring learned from the mistakes made with Princess Diana’s engagement ring. Cleave & Company made it publicly known that no replicas of Meghan’s ring would be available after their engagement.
A closer look reveals tiny diamonds along the outside of the band. These diamonds were not there when Meghan first debuted her ring in November 2017. Harry originally worked with the jeweler Cleave & Company to design the flashy engagement ring. He chose yellow gold for the band because it is her favorite metal. The center stone is a cushion-cut diamond from Botswana, which Meghan told reporters is a “special” place for her and Harry. Two smaller round-cut diamonds from Princess Diana’s personal collection surround the impressive middle gem.
While most of us won’t be donning a ring quite as lavish as these pieces, these famous rings can serve as stylistic guidance for what you do or do not want for your own engagement ring.