When it comes to iconic jewelry, few are quite as jaw-dropping as that of the Royal family. Dripping in jewels that are not only beautifully designed, but also hold such high esteem when it comes to the course of history, the monarchy has — for generations — produced some of the most well-known baubles ever. And
royal engagement rings are, by far, the most recognizable and most talked-about pieces they own.
Yes, while the family boasts plenty of necklaces, brooches,
tiaras, and more, it’s arguably the engagement rings worn by royal women throughout history on a daily basis that have had the largest impact on trends that spread throughout the world in waves.
Though many opted for classic diamond rings, from Queen Elizabeth II to Grace Kelly, there has been a strong trend of colored stones throughout Royal history as well. From Princess Diana’s Ceylon sapphire that now calls Duchess Kate Middleton’s finger home, to Duchess Sarah Ferguson’s similarly set ruby, the Royal family’s engagement ring collection is anything but predictable.
As such, jewelry trends are often driven by the Royal engagement rings of the moment, whether a general rise in sapphire sales after the engagement of Duchess Kate Middleton to Prince William, or a more specific spike in emerald-cut diamond baguette engagement rings in the 1950s due to Grace Kelly’s proposal by Prince Rainer III of Monaco.
Whether you’re looking for a little inspiration for your own jewels, or simply want a bit of eye-candy, read on for the most incredible Royal engagement rings in history.
Queen Victoria’s engagement ring was unlike any others in the Royal family, given to her by Prince Albert in 1839. The Queen’s ring was made of 18 carat gold and shaped like a serpent, with an open band that coiled up her finger. The head of the serpent featured rubies as eyes and diamonds for a mouth, with an additional large emerald set at the center of the head (Queen Victoria’s birth stone) and an additional diamond at the neck.
The choice of the serpent came from the ancient Roman symbol for everlasting love. Prince Albert designed the ring for Queen Victoria himself.
The Queen Mother was proposed to by the Duke of York in 1923 with a sapphire ring (pictured here), which gave rise to generations of a trend in the Windsor family. The large center stone featured diamond baguettes.
Stunning as the ring was, Queen Elizabeth actually eventually swapped it out in the 1950s for a pearl ring that was surrounded with diamonds that she wore daily as her engagement ring.
Princess Marina, Duchess of Kent
Prince George presented Princess Marina with an engagement ring in 1934, purchased at Cartier London. It was one of the first in what has now become a long Royal trend of sapphire engagement rings, as it was a platinum-set square-cut Kashmir sapphire with a baton diamond on either side.
Sapphires were reportedly a favorite of the Duchess. Not only was it quite modern to opt for a square setting, it was also forward-thinking to choose a colored stone.
In the papers at the time, Cartier described the ring, saying: “Prince George has displayed the most modern taste in his choice both of the ring and of the setting. His selection will undoubtedly make sapphires the most popular ring for engagements this year.”
In 1937, the Prince of Wales proposed to Wallis Simpson, a twice-divorced American socialite. To do so, he was forced to resign his official royal title, thus becoming the Duke of York.
For the occasion, he chose a whopping 19.77 carat emerald engagement ring, set by Cartier. It was inscribed with the words “We are ours now 27 x 36,” which stands for the day he proposed: October 27, 1936.
Though much of the Windsor family has opted for colored stones, Simpson is the only modern Windsor bride to choose an emerald.
Queen Elizabeth II Max Mumby/Indigo/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images
Prince Phillip, Duke of Edinburgh, gave Queen Elizabeth II a classic diamond engagement ring back in 1947. Commissioned by the Prince, the ring was designed by Philip Antrobus using diamonds that originated in a tiara that was given to the Prince’s mother, Princess Alice of Battenberg, by Emperor Nicholas II and Empress Alexandra of Russia for her own wedding nearly 50 years earlier.
In other words, it’s a diamond that is actually from the last Romanov Imperial couple. The platinum-set ring features a three-carat brilliant-cut diamond center stone, flanked by pavé diamonds on either side. The remaining diamonds from the tiara were used to craft a diamond bracelet, which was gifted to the Queen as her wedding present by her new husband.
Gracy Kelly was actually proposed to by Prince Rainer III of Monaco in 1955 with a ring that is
not the one currently considered her engagement ring. The Prince asked Kelly to marry him over the Christmas holiday, which was only the second time the pair had met in person.
During that time, he presented her with a diamond and ruby band from Cartier. It was, as quoted in the press at the time, a ring “which the Prince had ordered fashioned from two family heirlooms, in the form of a diamond circlet and ruby circlet intertwined.”
The second ring (pictured here) only showed up during the filming of
High Society, during which Kelly had reportedly been given a prop ring, which prompted her fiancé to offer her the real thing — for life and for screen.
That second ring was truly fit for a Hollywood style icon. It was also designed by Cartier and featured a 10.48 carat emerald-cut diamond that was flanked by two diamond baguettes. It was set on a classic platinum band.
Not only was Kelly rarely seen without the doorknocker, but she wore it in both MGM publicity photos as well as throughout her final film,
High Society, only aiding in making it one of the most famous engagement rings of all time.
It was also worn in Kelly’s revamp of the film
Philadelphia Story. It gave rise to a spike in the style during the 1950s and ‘60s, where it solidified its place in jewelry history. Princess Margaret
Princess Margaret was proposed to by Antony Armstrong-Jones, 1
st Earl of Snowdon, in 1960. He presented the Princess with a ruby ring that was designed to look like a flower to reflect her middle name, Rose.
The center stone is surrounded by round-cut diamonds that were meant to represent petals. It was purchased from the jeweler S.J. Philips, reportedly retailing for around £250 in 1960. That’s roughly $7,900 today.
Though much of Margaret’s estate was sold by Christie’s in 2006, this ring was not part of the collection, suggesting that the late Princess’ ruby engagement ring is currently in the possession of one of her children.
Katharine, Duchess of Kent
The Duchess of Kent was engaged to Prince Edward, Duke of Kent, in 1961. To mark the occasion, he presented her with a sapphire and diamond ring that featured an oval-cut sapphire center stone flanked by two round-cut diamonds. She, too, became another in the longstanding trend of Kent women and sapphire engagement rings.
Princess Alexandra, The Honorable Lady Ogilvy
Princess Alexandra was proposed to in 1962 by Sir Angus Ogilvy. For the occasion, she was presented with yet another Royal Kent bride sapphire, this time by way of a giant cabochon sapphire set of a yellow gold band. The sapphire is flanked by a diamond on either side.
Princess Anne has been married twice and, both times, chose a sapphire engagement ring. In 1973, Mark Phillips proposed with a Garrard ring that featured a sapphire center stone, flanked by a pair of diamonds.
In 1992, Tim Laurence proposed, offering a delicate Cabochon sapphire with three small round-cut diamonds on either side of the stone (pictured here).
Princess Michael of Kent
Princess Michael was another Royal to choose a sapphire ring for her engagement. Proposed to in 1978 by Prince Michael, the Princess was presented with a sapphire and diamond ring that was quite modern — even now.
The sapphire and diamonds were set side-by-side on a yellow gold band. Both stones belonged to the Prince’s mother, Princess Marina of Greece and Denmark.
Princess Diana was famously given her choice of engagement rings when preparing for her wedding to Prince Charles in 1981. Given the option of both new as well as Royal Family archive jewels, Princess Di landed on a sapphire and diamond style.
Unlike Queen Elizabeth, Kate Middleton, and Meghan Markle's rings, Princess Diana's engagement ring was totally new with no family stones, designed by the then-Crown Jeweler, Garrard. It cost £28,500 at the time, which is nearly $150,000 today.
The ring features a center Ceylon sapphire that is estimated between 9 and 12 carats in size. It is surrounded by 14 round diamonds and set in white gold. After her death, it was famously given to Duchess Kate Middleton upon her engagement to Prince William.
Duchess Sarah Ferguson
Ferguson was a huge fan of rubies, which was apt considering her bright red hair that perfectly complemented the style. In their
engagement interview, Prince Andrew stated, “We came to the mutual conclusion that red was probably the best color for Sarah. That's how we came to the choice of the ruby.”
Her engagement ring from Prince Andrew in 1986 featured a Burmese ruby that was surrounded by 10 small pear-shaped diamonds. It is very similar in design to Princess Diana’s (and, too, designed by then-Crown Jeweler Garrard), which perhaps gives a nod to the fact that the couple was actually introduced at a party to one another by Princess Di herself.
Though there is no documented cost of the ring, it is rumored that the stone alone cost the Prince £25,000, which is roughly $100,000 today. Though Ferguson divorced the Prince in 1996, she held onto the ring in her personal collection.
Prince Edward proposed to Sophie Rhys-Jones in 1999, choosing a more traditional engagement ring for his bride-to-be. The white gold ring featured a 2-carat oval-cut diamond that was flanked by two small diamonds on either side. It is currently valued at roughly $150,000.
Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall Peter Byrne - PA Images/PA Images/Getty Images
Duchess Camilla Parker Bowles went classic when it came to her engagement ring from Prince Charles in 2005. The platinum-set ring is designed in an art-deco style, with a large emerald-cut diamond center stone, flanked by three graduated baguettes on either side.
The ring itself was a family heirloom, belonging to the Queen Mother. It was originally a gift to her from King George VI upon the birth of Queen Elizabeth II in 1926. Though the Queen inherited all of her mother’s jewelry, specific pieces were set aside specifically for the Prince — many of which are now gifts of Parker Bowles.
Peter Phillips, Princess Anne’s Son, proposed to his now-wife Autumn Kelly in 2007. Her traditional platinum-set ring featured an oval-cut diamond center-stone with flanking smaller diamonds and diamond baguettes on either side. It was reportedly worth £80,000 in 2007, which is roughly $152,000 today.
Duchess Kate Middleton
Duchess Kate was famously proposed to by Prince William in 2010 with the late Princess Diana’s iconic engagement ring from her marriage to Prince Charles. The Garrard ring is set in white gold and boasts a center Ceylon sapphire estimated to be between 9 and 12 carats, with 14 surrounding round-cut diamonds.
engagement interview, William said of the ring, “It’s very special to me. As Kate’s very special to me now, it was right to put the two together. It was my way of making sure my mother didn’t miss out on today, and the excitement, and the fact that we’re going to spend the rest of our lives together.” Zara Phillips
Zara Phillips was proposed to in 2010 by Mike Tindall. Her engagement ring was very trend-driven for the time, featuring a single round-cut diamond center stone that is set on a double pavé band.
Princess Eugenie was proposed to by Jack Brooksbank in 2018 with a ring that largely resembled the one her father, Prince Andrew, presented to her mother, Duchess Sarah Ferguson, upon their own engagement more than 30 years earlier.
The ring was crafted of a piece of Welsh gold that was a gift from Queen Elizabeth II. It features an oval coral colored Padparadscha sapphire, surrounded by diamonds. Though not a ruby, like her mothers, it not only falls in the same color family, but also boasts a similar halo-set design.
In the couple’s
official engagement interview, Brooksbank shared, “Why I loved it so much is it changes color from every different angle that you look at it, which is what I think of Eugenie, that she changes color, and it's just so amazing.” Meghan Markle
When Prince Harry proposed to Meghan Markle in 2017, he had a ring specially designed for his bride-to-be by Court Jewelers Cleave and Company. Set in yellow gold, it was a classic three-stone diamond ring, featuring a large center-stone that was sourced from Botswana, as well as two smaller flanking stones that were from Princess Diana’s personal collection (pictured here).
In their official
engagement interview, Harry shared that using his mother’s diamonds was “to make sure that she's with us on this crazy journey together.” In 2019, however, Markle re-designed the ring. It was re-set by Lorraine Schwartz and now boasts a diamond micro pavé band instead of the old solid gold one. Princess Beatrice
The latest royal engagement in the lineup is between Princess Beatrice and Edoardo Mapelli Mozzi, who proposed in 2019. Her ring was an art deco style and designed by Shaun Leane. It boasts a round-cut diamond center-stone flanked by a series of diamonds down each side of the band.
Closest to the center stone are two round-cut diamonds on each side, set side-by-side to one another, then a baguette cut, following a line of five round-cut diamonds that travel downwards.
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This article was originally published on
Jan. 6, 2021