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Millennials changing the rules of engagement rings

Valentine’s Day is regularly one of the top days of the year for couples to get engaged. A report by American Express estimates that nearly 6 million couples could pop the question on any particular Valentine’s Day.

For the most part in the U.S, the big question of marriage is usually posed with a diamond ring attached. That’s been the standard for decades and hasn’t changed much. What is changing, specifically with the younger millennial generation, is what’s on the ring. Jewelers and couples getting engaged say buying a diamond ring on a gold band is no longer a “must have” option.

Between Pintrest, Instagram, and new ring making technology, most work done by many jewelers is now custom order. “I would say 70 percent of my customers bring me a picture and say can you make this,” said Rick Merrill, the owner of Main Street Diamonds in Rexburg. “So we do a lot of custom work.”

That kind of customization is very different from what used to be the norm. “I came here in 1985, and in 85 it was still pretty traditional,” Merrill said. “We had maybe 30 styles to choose from. They (the couples) would look, find a ring, find a diamond, and we’d put it together for them.”

Speaking with young couples in Rexburg about engagement rings, custom and unique were definitely the trend. “For us it made sense to go custom because their wasn’t anything that matched right out of the store that I liked,” said Sydney Decker with her husband John. “I think in general people aren’t wanting to approach life the same as their neighbor anymore.” They want to make a statement and you do that by picking a unique ring, Decker finished.

Other people Decker’s age had similar sentiments about the importance of uniqueness and having something specifically made them.

“For me, being unique was what I wanted,” said Stephanie Gibson who recently got engaged. Gibson’s ring isn’t overly expensive by engagement ring standards, but it does have a few individual customizations, like a strip of rose gold interwoven between diamonds on a white gold band. “I liked the color contrast that my ring has with the rose gold and the silver,” said Gibson.

Besides playing with the type and color of the metals used in the ring, alternative stones are becoming a more common option for people. Sometimes couples choose to use those different gem stones to accent the regular diamonds. “We did red, white, and blue. So we did diamonds, sapphires, and ruby’s,” said Sydney Decker.

Other times couples choose to forgo the diamond as the main stone completely, and use something else as their center stone. “Sapphires of any color are very popular right now,” said Merrill.

One benefit to switching out diamonds for alternative gem stones is cost. Sapphires, rubies, morganite, pearls are a lot cheaper than diamonds. It’s one way millennials are able to get bigger rings for a price they can afford. “These pictures of the ring that these couples want are often way above their budget,” he said. “So our job is to try to take that picture and make the changes necessary to fit their budget.”

For people who still want a large diamond stone, but can’t afford it, the jewelry business has an answer in the form of a lab made stone called Moissanite. It’s a clear stone that looks just like a diamond and is almost as hard as a diamond, but it’s immensely cheaper. “For example a one karat diamond would range from $4,500 to $7,000,” Merrill said. “A one karat Moissanite is between $350 and $450.”

Even with cheaper options available, some couples simply choose to forgo a fancy engagement ring altogether and choose something much simpler.

We exchanged $40 wedding bands from Amazon on our wedding day, said MJ Lafond with her husband Jacob. “They’re made of tungsten carbide so they hold up really well, which is good because I like to work with my hands,” said MJ.

Since their wedding vows, the Lafonds have bought several rings to switch out for their wedding ring when they want it, but none of their alternative rings cost very much either. “I bought this one at Walmart for like $40,” said MJ as she showed an elegant, but simple silver ring with a fake gemstone on top. “It’s for when I want to… look pretty and stuff like that,” she laughed.

A link to the Main Street Diamond website can be found HERE.

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