Spoilers ahead for the Crazy Rich Asians movie and book. It's not often that proposing to someone after being turned down leads to an engagement, but Crazy Rich Asians' love story is anything but typical. And the ring in the Crazy Rich Asians' proposal has a backstory that most fans probably didn't expect.
When Nick follows Rachel and her mom onto a plane, his second proposal says so much about their relationship and their future. Nick proposes not with the engagement ring he bought for Rachel, as he did the first time, but with his mother Eleanor's ring. The scene of Nick opening the jewelry box to reveal the stunning emerald says more than words ever could. Without either of them mentioning it, Rachel understands that Eleanor has approved her relationship with Nick. (Of course, the two of them didn't need her approval, per se, but Rachel couldn't live with the idea of Nick giving up his entire inheritance and family for her.)
But it turns out there's even more to the emerald ring than fans might have realized. Director Jon M. Chu shared with Vulture that the ring wasn't purchased or borrowed by the movie's costume department — it was actually actor Michelle Yeoh's own ring. Apparently, Yeoh didn't approve of the ring the costume department had designed, so she suggested a piece of her own jewelry be featured in the movie instead. "She pulls it out, and I was like, 'Oh my gosh, that's our ring," Chu told Vulture.
Still, even before Yeoh offered the ring from her personal collection, Chu always wanted Eleanor's ring to feature an emerald. Crazy Rich Asians costume designer Mary E. Vogt told The Knot that Chu saw green as "a very regal color," so he wanted Eleanor to have an emerald ring. Vogt also told the magazine that before Yeoh volunteered her own custom-designed ring, Chu had wanted to have a ring modeled after one John F. Kennedy had made for Jackie Kennedy.
"It was very important for it to be real. And Eleanor was a character who knew what she wore had to be flawless," Yeoh told The Knot. The actor also pointed out the significance of her character giving Rachel her ring. Yeoh told The Knot of her character, "Her [own] mother-in-law did not approve and did not give her the family ring at the end of the day… so that ring had to be very special."
Eleanor mentions to Rachel early on in the movie that her husband had the ring made for their engagement. Su Yi didn't approve of her son's decision, so she declined to give him her own ring to propose to Eleanor. By passing on that ring, Eleanor is going against her own engagement experience, as well as sharing her blessing.
During his conversation with Vulture, Chu also revealed that he changed the proposal scene a number of times before settling on the airplane setting. There was a potential scene where Nick proposes to Rachel in New York, for example, but Chu decided the proposal should happen before the couple leaves Singapore.
Fans of Kevin Kwan's novel will remember that Nick and Rachel's engagement in the movie varies drastically from what happens in the book. In the novel, Eleanor takes much longer to warm up to Rachel. In fact, she ends up crashing the couple's wedding by helicopter after not being invited. Still, the way the movie ended made sense for a film, and the tension between her and Rachel, as well as between her and Su Yi, was still very much there.
Crazy Rich Asians was always going to be a strong movie, but it sounds like Chu and his team did everything they could to make it the best version of the film that they could. Between depicting Rachel and Eleanor as strong women and showing Astrid's independence during her split from Michael, the movie gives incredible nuance to its characters. It's clear from Chu's recent comments that he gave tons of consideration to every part of Crazy Rich Asians, and his dedication to detail is clear in the movie.