Wedding Bells Lead to Wedding Bands

03 Feb 2020

What’s trending in the rings that bind?

By Crissy Neville  »  Photos by Mollie Tobias

New Year’s Eve might be the time to pop the ‘ole cork on the bubbly, but November through February is the traditional time to pop the question, followed by the foot pop after she says yes, with the seal-the-deal kiss. At least that’s what happens in the movies! Here in real life, let’s look closer at what’s really happening, starting with an all-important question: What’s in the box?

The hallmark of the engagement season is the engagement ring, and while many things in the modern age have changed, from who gets married to where weddings happen, some things never change, or at least not so much. Engagement rings and wedding sets fall in this realm. That’s great news for your Pinterest site or inspiration board. From the first-time young bride in her 20s or 30s to the one finding love later in life, brides, with some exceptions, still love the classic look and elegance in wedding jewelry designs. That goes for grooms, too.

That’s according to Leann Parker, owner of WhitLauter, Purveyor, Buyer & Appraiser of Fine and Estate Jewelry in downtown Southern Pines. The salon-style venue specializes in handmade, custom designs, estate pieces and South Sea pearls. Leann who partners with her daughter Whitney takes pride in offering personalized service and custom work in the classics.

A designer for over 40 years, Leann says, “If someone comes in and has something unique in mind, I can help. I can get anything done. Many clients come in with pictures and ideas, and that is a starting point. Whitney is great at design and begins the process of building a custom piece from an initial idea. Our benchmen and setters in New York City are the best of the best. Our diamond dealer is the same one I have worked with for all 40 years.”

The classics at WhitLauter include custom work in the precious metals of platinum, 18-carat yellow gold, and 18-carat white gold. Designs incorporate diamonds, sapphires, emeralds and rubies and occasionally, a Victorian-inspired aquamarine, of typically larger stones of 1-5 carats. Classic modern cuts include round brilliants, which account for most diamonds sold today; ovals; Cushion and Royal Asscher; while trending are the old European and old mine cuts. The engagement rings could be set with a center stone, three-stones across, trillion-cut diamonds on the sides, or in a custom-form. Bands sold are often eternity bands for brides and classic 18-carat or platinum bands for grooms.

WhitLauter also offers jewelry design and repurposing, increasingly popular in this age of eco-friendliness. This might mean reusing the stones out of a grandmother’s ring or from other family pieces, an estate item available for purchase in the store, or a previously worn ring from another marriage. Whatever the case, Leann is sensitive to the need to preserve the past and to the client’s wants and needs.

Reusing jewelry is also popular, hence the desire for beautiful estate pieces from the past, particularly the Art Deco era or signature pieces from the famous houses of Fabergé, Cartier or Van Cleef. WhitLauter buys and sells such luxury items privately and is yet another option.

Gemologist and designer Lisa Anderson of Gemma Gallery in Pinehurst boasts classically contemporary jewelry in a full-service retail setting. Like WhitLauter, she sees the classics as timeless, with the precious metals of white and yellow gold, or a mix of both, popular, but claims platinum as her favorite for brides due to its “superior strength, 95% purity, and color stay-fastness over time.” Anderson notes that often customers prefer to wear “one WOW ring, not two”.

Noting diamonds as still being a girl’s best friend, Anderson said while natural diamonds are always in style, she has also sold some laboratory-grown varieties in her store. With halos strong in the ring style, she shared, trending now in gemstones are sapphires.

“Think Diana and Kate! Sapphires come in every color except red (that makes it a ruby, same species) so not only blue but pink, yellow, orange, green, purple, and they even have a hardness of nine compared to the diamond hardness of 10.”

Anderson likes to design jewelry for her customers that are “a step away from traditional but classic enough not to look dated,” asking for samples of favorite styles from clients so she can sketch ideas, make changes, create a CAD rendering from all angles, and build a custom piece. She notes that Gemma Gallery also stands out for its repurposing techniques, including gold recycling and, new for 2020, engraving services offered in personal handwriting. has been designing fine jewelry for over 30 years. With a wide collection of diamond, precious and semi-precious gems, Hawkins and his wife, Liz, create unique pieces to suit a variety of tastes. They also offer a large selection of ready-to-buy showcase items of handmade gold and silver jewelry and have extensive estate jewelry offerings of vintage pieces from fine designers, including Tiffany & Company, Cassis, David Yurman and John Hardy. Additionally, able to recycle and repurpose old jewelry into new creations, Hawkins and Hawkins is game-on when it comes to engagement season, a service he sees as personalized to everyone.

“The trend in wedding jewelry right now is to get it any way you want it. There are enough people making jewelry,” he explains, “that you don’t have to buy anything off a shelf. You can get your ring, band, or set made any way you want.”

Whereas in the past couples matched their rings or a 1980s bride wore yellow gold because that was the must-have style of the time, today, according to Hawkins, anything goes.

“The classics — diamonds, sapphires and rubies — are still traditional wedding rings, but people are embracing more than just these. I made an engagement ring out of moonstone recently, and morganite. Younger couples are discovering lots of gemstones and incorporating them. Also, Citrine. They go for varying colors now, too. Couples are choosing different colors of gold — yellow, rose and white — all three are popular. Some are choosing lab-grown diamonds as a new technology, while others like the old, vintage pieces. Some men like textured bands with some hammering, sanding or with a two-tone or satin finish — it’s like holes in jeans, some like them, some don’t. We can engrave rings, inside and out. There are so many choices.”

He concurs with the other jewelers that platinum is a top seller, noting that the younger set has become aware of the metal recently even though their grandmother probably wore it for years.

“It is always a matter of personal taste,” he said. “My job as a designer is to give them all the options and see what works best.”

So rest assured to those planning to wed, the bling is here in the Sandhills and the glam great. Up next: Champagne and cake!

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