Not all engagement rings are created equal -- or created with diamonds, that is. Emeralds are a more unconventional choice of engagement stone as they are softer than diamonds and can be easily scratched or damaged with wear. Let’s explore two rebellious emerald rings of history alongside the equally rebellious women who wore (and redesigned) them.
When Jacqueline Bouvier and Senator John Kennedy announced their formal engagement to the press in June of 1953, reporters were quick to speculate as to why her finger remained bare. She simply hadn’t found a ring she liked yet, she explained.
Photo by Bachrach/Getty Images, Newport, Rhode Island, 1953.
Van Cleef & Arpels of New York ended up winning her heart (and left ring finger) with an unconventional bypass beauty, featuring a 2.84-carat emerald-cut emerald and a 2.88-carat emerald-cut diamond. The stunning centerpiece stones were framed on each side with a sleek band of baguette-cut diamonds and emeralds.
Photo by Bill Chaplis/AP Photo, Newport, Rhode Island, 1953.
Later on, during her time as First Lady, Jackie decided to start two major revival projects: renovating the White House and redesigning her engagement ring. She updated her ring to a fancier style, with a lot more carats and a new band -- dripping with diamonds. Her redesigned piece remained true to its original bypass-style setting but upgraded to a more formal band. A wreath of marquise-shaped diamonds replaced the old baguettes between the two center stones and the rest of the band was frosted with two rows of round brilliant-cut diamonds.
Fine Art America: Jackie Kennedy Engagement Ring J F K, painting by Diana Van, c. 2018.
Fittingly enough, just a few decades earlier, in October of 1936 when King Edwards VIII rocked the royal establishment in with his marriage proposal to the not once, but twice-divorced American socialite Wallis Simpson, he proposed with a radiant 19.77-carat rectangular emerald. Jacques Cartier himself traced the jewel’s lineage to an enormous emerald that had once belonged to a Grand Mogul. That stone was later cut down into two smaller emeralds, one of which became Simpson’s engagement ring.
Photo by John Rawlings/Getty Images.
The classic platinum band was set with diamond baguettes that flanked the center emerald, and was engraved with “We are ours now 27 X 36,” the date and year of his proposal. This date just happened to coincide with the start of Simpson’s divorce proceedings from her previous husband.
Photo by Getty Images.
When the public, the press, and Parliament learned of the King’s hope to marry Simpson, a national crisis ensued. Two months later, in an address to the nation of December 11, 1936, King Edward VIII decided to abdicate the throne. “I have found it impossible to carry the heavy burden of responsibility and to discharge my duties as king as I would wish to do without the help and support of the woman I love,” he stated simply.
Photo by Getty Images, June 1937.
Twenty years later, Wallis and Edward -- who had become the Duke and Duchess of Windsor following their wedding -- decided to celebrate their anniversary by reviving the ring. Cartier completely redesigned and remounted the ring, though Simpson requested the keep the original mounting which she held on to for the rest of her life. The lavish new setting was updated in the contemporary mid-century style, with a gold and platinum raised setting and dazzling round diamonds encircling the base of the emerald.
Rendering courtesy of Cartier.
Both revivals go to show -- beautiful gems are timeless -- and paradoxically, as these stones age, they somehow take on more life, more meaning, more energy, more power, and more intrinsic value. While engagement ring styles may ebb and flow over the ages, a gem will last forever, and sometimes, all your heirloom needs is a little revival to become the ring you, too, will love forever (or at least until its next revival).