Iconic engagement rings of the 20th century

Iconic engagement rings of the 20th century

From royal unions to high-profile celebrity proposals, many 20th-century engagements garnered worldwide interest – sometimes primarily due to the ring on the finger. These individual symbols of love and commitment came to represent much more on the international stage, from the glamour of old Hollywood to the concept of diamonds being a girl’s best friend. 

Whether you’re about to tie the knot or not, these unparalleled pieces of jewellery are sure to take your breath away. Explore four iconic engagement rings that captured the public’s imagination and continue to inspire designs for modern engagement rings to this day.

1. The Tiffany Setting

Although not strictly 20th-century, you can’t talk about iconic engagement rings without discussing The Tiffany Setting. Introduced by Tiffany & Co. in 1886, this design features a solitaire diamond held by six prongs which lift the stone above the band to maximise its brilliance. 

This setting revolutionised engagement ring design by enhancing the diamond’s sparkle and remains the quintessential symbol of classic elegance and luxury.

2. Grace Kelly's Cartier ring

Grace Kelly's engagement ring from Prince Rainier III of Monaco is a masterpiece by Cartier, featuring a 10.48-carat emerald-cut diamond flanked by two baguette diamonds, set in platinum. This ring has inspired countless imitations and remains a benchmark for opulent and sophisticated engagement rings.

Thanks to similarly lavish diamond rings such as Marilyn Monroe’s 36-stone eternity band and the De Beers campaign that a diamond is forever, this gemstone fast earned its reputation as girls’ best friend through the second half of the 20th century.

3. Elizabeth Taylor's Krupp diamond

The most famous diamond ring of the last 100 years – and perhaps for the next as well – is the Krupp Diamond given to renowned actress Elizabeth Taylor by Richard Burton, her husband of two times. Now named the Elizabeth Taylor diamond, this is an enormous 33.19-carat Asscher-cut stone, set in a platinum ring. 

Elizabeth Taylor's love for extravagant jewellery has made this ring an enduring symbol of the glamour, excess, and romance of old Hollywood. Now bearing her name, the diamond also became a testament to her enduring legacy.

4. Princess Diana's splendid sapphire

Last but certainly not least is a ring that’s become one of the most recognisable in the world. This piece is unique in many ways, most notably because the main stone is not a diamond.  

Princess Diana's engagement ring, now worn by Kate Middleton, features a 12-carat oval blue sapphire surrounded by 14 solitaire diamonds, set in 18-karat white gold. This non-traditional choice for a royal engagement ring highlighted Diana's individuality and modernity – the irony being that, due to her huge impact on women worldwide, it has become one of the most replicated engagement rings in the world.

Iconic engagement rings of the 20th century
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