Though it’s innocuous in size, weighs very little and is infuriatingly fleeting and easily lost, choosing an engagement ring is one of the biggest decisions you will face. While small in stature, this little piece of jewellery has one hell of a message to convey; of love, of memories, and of the future. Perhaps it’s the fact they never go out of fashion, or maybe it’s a faith in a more dated form of romance, but many people are turning their attention to old school wedding rings as a means to declare their love. Here’s our IDEAL guide to retro wedding rings. 

ALWAYS IN FASHION 

Let’s first get a defintion out the way, as the term can be suggestive of a couple of different things. ‘Retro’ is used to highlight both items that were designed in the recent past, or items that are designed to deliberately imitate that look. Essentially, it’s a style that can be ‘authentically’ from a given time period, or a modern reproduction of that coveted older design. 

It’s important when talking about jewellery in retro terms to consider the issue of antique jewellery and retro jewellery; very different things though elements certainly overlap. It’s sometimes difficult to separate the idea of retro and antique aesthetically, but the easiest definition is that antique items are over 100 years old. Retro is, generally, from the more recent past — think 70s, 80s, and 90s designs. So, let’s dive into those decades.

THE ‘70S: THE BIGGER, THE BETTER

With cluster rings and an excess of diamonds, engagement rings in the 70s certainly represented an ushering in of bigger and bolder designs. These styles weren’t just eye-catching; they demanded to be noticed. With the time period famous for fabulously eccentric fashion choices, jewellery had to work hard to stand out. 

Large, chunky designs dripping in diamonds and gemstones were part of the 70s vibe and fit perfectly with the style of wedding gown so popular at the time. Of course, for those still holding their heart out for a more minimal style, engagement rings with a single, standout stone suited the more subtly-fashioned. 

In terms of shape, one of the most popular choices for 70s brides was the classic flower of gemstones. A huge spread of petals wrought from glittering gems surrounding a centre-stage stunner, or other cluster-style designs — what’s not to love?  These rings take up a substantial amount of space on the hand, so if your heart is set on a 70s-style engagement ring, keep in mind that it might not be the best for everyday wear. Of course, it will still light up the room on those special occasions when you do wear it. Quality not quantity here, we think.

THE ‘80S: BACK TO BASICS

If you’re not fond of the extravagance of the 70s look, then hop forward to the 80s. This decade preferred the much more simplistic charm of solitaire and twist rings. There was also a huge amount of popularity for the timeless trilogy ring. 

The trilogy in particular has continued to be a popular choice, and it’s easy to see why. The three diamonds sitting side-by-side on the ring band have been linked to all kinds of romantic symbolism — the past, present, and future of the couple; milestones in a relationship; and even accomplishments. Their flexibility in both the wearability and interpretation of the meaning is part of their charm. 

Of course, if you’re looking for the most classic of rings, solitaires have stood the test of time. Their popularity enjoys surges, but you’ll never go wrong if you pick this 80s staple. The iconic design isn’t as clunky to wear as some of the extravagant designs of the decade prior and will fit alongside your other jewellery choices should you be at an event which requires you to be particularly bling heavy.

There’s nothing wrong with preferring a little more glamour and glitter, of course. Indeed, some brides-to-be weren’t ready to get rid of the glam of the 70s and so cluster rings remained a hot choice in the 80s too; who could forget the gorgeous sapphire and diamond cluster ring that served as Princess Diana’s engagement piece in 1981?

For something not-so-simple, but not-so-excessive, take a look at twist rings. These were all the rage in the 1980s, with their curious design seeing gemstones binding a band that separated into two paths, one going up and one going down. 

THE ‘90S: TAKING CENTRE STAGE

After a perhaps more reserved decade on the engagement ring design front, the 90s began to yearn for bolder designs once more. Cluster rings in this decade featured a larger centre stone and eternity rings — last seen in prominence back in the 50s — became increasingly popular. The twist ring design of the 80s also remained, but again, adapted to take centre stage with larger stones. 

Basically, the 90s were all about those glamorous, large centre gemstones and beautiful accented shoulders. As they were such a highlight of the piece, these stones were cut in a ‘cleaner’ look than previous decade — think baguette and emerald cuts. This helped the larger rings stay streamlined despite their size.