Somewhere, Elizabeth Taylor is smiling. Last week on a secluded beach in the Bahamas, Alex Rodriguez knelt down and proposed to Jennifer Lopez with what appeared to be a gigantic, Pepsi commercial-sized ice cube.
While ridiculously huge, the emerald cut ring is simple, unadorned by any fussy band or extra accent. But no one’s fooled by the rock J.Lo’s got—there’s nothing understated or minimalist about this chunk of diamond.
The sight of J. Lo's huge ring brought back the best memories of Taylor's lovingly accumulated jewelry collection, including the 33.19 carat Elizabeth Taylor Krupp Diamond. Taylor adored both size and sparkle.
Though Lawrence has yet to share a photo of the ring up close and personal, à la J. Lo’s tasteful ringstagram at sunset, pictures from the Dior Paris Fashion Week show confirm that Lawrence's piece is also quite sizable. Both glitzy, dramatic rings would not look out of place in Elizabeth Taylor’s jewelry box.
This glittering maximalism seems to be running against fashion. According to recent reports, millennials are buying fewer diamonds. Just a few days before J.Lo announced her engagement, the once-monolithic De Beers reported lagging sales for the start of 2019 at $990 million, the worst since 2016. Forbes cited a high stock of smaller, cheaper stones as the reason for dwindling profits.
Once steeped in tradition—and heavily marketed as a symbol of eternal, lasting love—engagement rings are being reconsidered by a new generation of women questioning the status quo.
“Engagement rings should be eliminated altogether,” a friend who works in nonprofit fundraising told me. “Who wants to be in crippling debt at such a young age? Or wants a diamond potentially mined by a 14-year-old child under terrible circumstances? Diamonds as the sole engagement stone are a response to a marketing campaign making white men richer.”
But tell those ethical arguments to a woman riding the high that comes with sliding a a golf ball-sized yellow diamond on her ring finger.
“I don’t think that everyone is going for smaller diamonds,” Mike Nekta, a jewelry designer and diamond expert at New York's Leon Diamonds, told The Daily Beast. “It’s the only purchase where you can just say ‘Look at this,’” he added, tossing out his left hand.
In fact, Nekta was surprised that J.Lo’s engagement ring was not splashier. About six months ago, a jeweler hired by A. Rod asked Nekta to send pink diamond options. “I was shocked when I realized it was a white diamond she got,” Nekta said.
According to the pro, pink diamonds are “ridiculously rare,” as they’re mined deeper in the earth than their white counterparts. “A lot of elements have to work out for the diamond to be pink,” Nekta said.
This style will get even more valuable in the years to come, as one of its most prolific producers, Australia’s Argyle Pink Mine, is set to be “completely exhausted” and is set to close by the beginning of next year.
That said, J. Lo already received a pink diamond—former fiancé Ben Affleck proposed with a $2.5 million Harry Winston number in 2003.
Less-famous shoppers can find ways to cut corners to get a bigger rock for a cheaper price. The so-called “Four C’s” of diamond characteristics are cut, clarity, color, and carat. Enlarge the carat, and you can skimp on clarity while keeping things a little more affordable.
Your thriftiness probably won’t show in any engagement photos: “You need a microscope to see lot of the differences between clarities,” Netka said. “A stone that is VVS [a high-clarity classification] versus a stone that’s SI [which is lower] will look exactly the same to the naked eye.” Of course, swapping carat for clarity will reduce the value of your diamond as an investment piece.
If sparkle is what you seek, Norayr Isler of Zela Jewels suggests opting for a cushion cut rather than J.Lo's emerald. “Cushion cut is more popular now,” Isler said. “It's like an emerald cut, but with round corners on the side rather than square [ones]. It's more shiny.”
Robert C. Friedman, a fourth-generation jeweler and owner of I. Friedman & Son, said that the current demand for high-end engagement rings runs “Big, but not big and gaudy. Big and wearable.”
The secret to wearability, in Friedman’s opinion, lies in proportions. “If somebody has a short finger, a certain size stone might be too big, because it just looks like it doesn’t go,” he explained. “When something becomes gaudy, it’s as if I went into a men’s clothing store to buy a long jacket, but the jacket is on the floor because I’m not six feet tall.”
So J.Lo, with her slender digits elongated by a pristine white manicure, can pull off the 15 carats. Nubby fingers, not so much.
Another secret to finding a tastefully gargantuan diamond ring? Pay attention to how you mount it. While the band holding up J.Lo's stone is no doubt strong, it is also unfussy, with no extra diamonds drawing attention away from the main rock.
“Mountings are, to some extent, more of a perishable style because it’s a fashion statement,” Friedman said. “When a ring is all about the diamond, not the band, it has the appearance of being more wearable. Take the extra money and put it all in a diamond rather than a mount.”
Netka believes styles should get grander with age. While pulling out a 40-karat yellow ring that costs around $2 million, the expert said, “Everyone appreciates this, but can you imagine a 22-year-old girl wearing it? No, a 60-year-old woman does. She graduated into it. They say diamonds shrink on women’s fingers, so after awhile you need something bigger, and bigger, and bigger.”
Counterpoint: this 23-year-old woman will spend the rest of the week imagining herself wearing it.