How Meghan Markle's "Socially Relevant" Engagement Ring Could Influence Brides-to-Be
Experts predict the details of the ring, including how it was sourced, could drive trends.
When Prince Harry and Meghan Markle announced their engagement Monday, the sparkle on Markle’s finger quickly became one of the most scrutinized pieces of jewelry on the planet. After all, if the coat the Suits actress was wearing could sell out so quickly, how might her engagement ring inspire brides-to-be?
One only has to remember the 6.1 carat pink diamond that Ben Affleck gave then-squeeze Jennifer Lopez and the $4 million purple diamond Kobe Bryant gave to wife Vanessa back in the early aughts to know the power of celebrity jewelry styles. Those high-profile rings fueled a craze for colored stones that surged again when Ryan Reynolds proposed to Blake Lively before their 2012 wedding with a 12-carat, oval-cut light pink diamond set in rose gold with a diamond-pavé band.
Jewelry experts predict that Markle's ring — a cushion-cut diamond Prince Harry sourced from Botswana, flanked by two round diamonds from the personal jewelry collection of his late mother, Princess Diana, all set in a yellow gold band — could play a role in choices made by couples, from sustainable sourcing practices to throwback vintage touches.
“Millennials tend to be more conscious about sourcing and responsibility and care for the earth, so chain of custody and provenance of a diamond easily could become an important part of the conversation,” says Elizabeth Brehmer of the Carlsbad, Calif.-based Gemology Institute of America. “They also tend to be very personalized in their choices, and they like diamond cuts that are more unique. That diamond, which appears to be a lovely cushion cut, fits right in with that idea.”
“[Harry] made a very socially conscious choice, which is amazing, but it’s also what you would expect from him,” notes L.A.-based designer Neil Lane, who often traveled to Botswana when he worked with De Beers, which has partnered with the country for more than five decades to ensure diamonds are ethically mined. “Harry knows the country, he knows the people, and he wants to make a statement that’s socially relevant.” (Earlier this year, Harry whisked Meghan away to spend her 36th birthday on a wildlife safari in Botswana, a country he has called his second home and in which he has worked on wildlife conservation efforts.)
“If he bought the stone in Botswana, then it’s likely a De Beers diamond, and they take responsible sourcing to a whole other level,” agrees New York-based designer Marisa Perry, who uses the company’s Forevermark diamonds in her work, which included making the engagement ring Ben Foster gave Laura Prepon in 2016. “It’s not just about conflict-free diamonds. For every hectare devoted to mining, De Beers will allocate seven hectares to wildlife preservation, and when a mine is closed, they’ll replant all the indigenous trees. They hire all locals, build schools and lift up entire communities.”
Lane and Perry estimated the cushion-cut center stone at between 3.5 and 4.5 carats, while Lane sizes up the round diamonds on each side at between half and three-quarter carats each. “We have had customers over the years who have wanted to include their mother's or their grandmother’s diamonds as part of their ring, but it’s increasingly less common,” Perry says, adding that could change now. “It’s really endearing that he wanted to include that element.”
The three-stone styling is also a throwback, more commonly found in vintage rings — “during the early turn of the century, it was common to have round side stones with a colored center stone,” Brehmer says. Indeed, Lane supplied Jessica Simpson’s engagement ring, a 1910 Tiffany & Co. design of two diamonds flanking a ruby, before her 2014 wedding to Eric Johnson, while more recently he was the go-to jeweler for John Stamos, who in late October presented fiancee Caitlin McHugh with a vintage ring of three diamonds set in platinum.
Perry believes the design could become “a hot topic: For the first time in 15 years, I’ve had a lot of requests for three-stone rings,” she says. “Most rings I get requests for have baguette side stones, or they might do two round diamonds with a pear-shaped center stone. [The Prince Harry-Meghan Markle ring] is unique as a cushion with two rounds.”
Beverly Hills-based Martin Katz likewise approves of the three-stone design, calling it “a great balance of style to offset the center stone.” Speaking of which, why a cushion cut? “There’s a very classic and old-world feel about that cut,” Katz notes. “There’s also a very nice softness about a cushion cut, and you get a little more scintillation out of the center with the faceting. And for a stone that size, it feels very graceful.” Angela Bassett’s engagement ring from Courtney B. Vance includes a cushion-cut diamond, Katz adds: “That was one of my early ones; they must be married for 20 years now.” (Katz knows his stuff: The couple celebrated their 20th anniversary on Oct. 12.)
The royal engagement ring boasts one other uncommon element: The three white diamonds are set in white-gold baskets, which are positioned on a yellow-gold band. “Yellow gold may feel a little more casual, but it was commonly used in Victorian designs,” Katz notes, while Perry terms yellow gold “more on the cutting edge,” and says it may be making a comeback in engagement rings. In a televised interview on Monday afternoon, Harry explained that he chose the metal because he knew it was Markle’s favorite.
“He had to know she wanted yellow gold, proving she had some bit of input in the ring’s design,” Katz adds. Indeed, a groom designing or selecting an engagement ring without any input from the bride is rare these days, though Katz admits that some element of the unexpected is still desired. “It’s pretty common that a couple will narrow it down to two or three selections, and from there the bride will say, ‘I want it to be your choice now.’ Then it’s still a surprise,” he says.
For a royal ring, a thick layer of secrecy also accompanies that element of surprise. Cleave & Company Limited, which is located just steps from Buckingham Palace and holds a Royal Warrant as a Court Jeweler and Medalist to Queen Elizabeth, worked with Prince Harry on the design. “Cleave & Company are greatly honored to have been of service, and we wish Prince Henry and his fiancee the very best. We have no further comments,” director Stephen Connelly said in a statement. Such an attitude is likewise not uncommon when an engagement ring finds its way onto a celebrity’s finger, regardless of whether she’s destined to marry a prince. “I let them have their privacy, and if they want to tell people where they got the ring, that’s great,” Perry says of her celebrity clientele.
Lane agrees. “It makes sense that [Cleave & Company] wouldn’t comment,” he says. “Ultimately Harry and Meghan really are just like any other couple: When they’re getting engaged, they want the most beautiful ring in the world. How and when they want to tell the story of that ring, that’s their choice and nobody else’s.”