Of a Kind

Black Diamond Bar Necklace by Aili for Of a Kind

BUY / 35 of a kind / $255

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Go Way Back: Engagement Rings

A symbol of true love? Eh, not so much. The history behind the exchange of a ring to celebrate an engagement is a little more, well, mercenary. Read on to find out how a simple band of metal evolved from a contract-sealer to whole industry. —bea kochimage

The Origin: This one goes waaaay back, folks. Rumor has it that the Egyptians wore gold or silver rings on the third finger of their left hand because they believed it was connected directly to the heart by the vena amoris—vein of love, in case you don’t speak Latin. But the first documented use of an engagement ring goes to Pope Nicolas I in 866 BC. Pope Nicolas was all about the sanctity of marriage, and he wrote that when a man becomes engaged to a woman, he gives her a “ring of faith,” like the 4th century Roman one pictured above.

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The Evolution: In 1477, Archduke Maximilian of Austria totally changed the game, giving his betrothed, Mary of Burgundy, an engagement ring in the shape of an M. But what was really revolutionary was his choice of stone: That M was made out of flattened diamonds. The marriage was obviously a productive one, as the family portrait, circa 1515, above clearly demonstrates.

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In the 17th century, poesy rings—named for the short, romantic verses inscribed on the inside of the band—became popular. They were exchanged by, as Lil Jon would say, lovers and friends. This example, from the British Museum, reads, “Many are the stars I see but in my eye no star like thee.”

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After diamonds were discovered in South Africa in 1866, diamond engagement rings became increasingly popular. But the Victorians were a sentimental lot, so they were also into personalized jewelry. Prince Albert gave Victoria, pictured up there, a intertwined snake ring for their engagement, and she loved it so much that she was buried with it.

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The demand for diamond engagement rings took a serious hit after the Great Depression. So in 1938, De Beers made it its business to make diamonds cool again.

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The campaign was a huge-time success, thanks in large part to a woman named Frances Gerety. You might not know her name, but you are definitely familiar with her work: She coined “A Diamond is Forever” in 1947, and Advertising Age named it the slogan of the century (eat it, Nike) in 1999.

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Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton’s love story = an epic tale. And though he gifted her plenty of gems through the years, nothing comes close to the ring he gave her in 1968: 33.19 carats that even had a name, the Krupp diamond.

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In the eighties, De Beers did it again, this time with an ad campaign telling men just how much they oughta be spending—a benchmark that is still used today.

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Before Brangelina, there was, of course, Brad and Jen. In 2001, Brad famously sues Dalmani International for replicating the ring he designed for his first wifey.

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In 2008, Beyoncé makes “putting a ring on it” a thing, and the following January, Obama is caught on camera doing the signature hand flip.

imageThe Right Now: After a courtship (and pregnancy) played out as publicly as possible„ Kimye makes it official! And Kanye does it up crazy, renting out the San Francisco Giants stadium and giving Kim a self-designed ring with a 15-carat whopper of a diamond.

Waaay more back stories this way.

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Of a Kind

Raw Double Diamond Necklace by Erica Weiner for Of a Kind

BUY / 100 of a kind / $208

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Get a Load of the Stones That Are Most Key to Giantlion

Behold: the designer’s fave five.

“I am such a magpie! I have so many sparkly things in my studio—so many African beads and stones and metal castings, and they all sit in their designated Tupperware,” says Caroline Whittington Young of the fresher-than-fresh line Giantlion. So, of all of this goodness, what’s she drawn to the most? Here, her five top stones right now. —genevieve ang

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Quartz
“It is such a common stone and is so easy to find—but it can take on so many different personalities based on it’s shapes. I usually work with clear quartz—it can be raw and rustic, but refined as well. My Of a Kind edition is actually made from a really rare diamond quartz—so it’s extra-sparkly!”

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Aquamarine
“It’s my birthstone. When I started working with these stones, I started collecting them in a more raw state because I hadn’t seen raw aquamarine in a lot of jewelry. The color is one of my absolute favorites—it’s very elegant, bright, and just darn beautiful.”

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Pyrite
“One of my very first designs was a pyrite cube ring, which has been hugely popular. I usually buy stones that speak to me and hoard them for a while until the right design comes along—not every stone I get will be perfect for a specific design, but it might lend itself nicely to another design down the road.”

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Diamonds
“I never thought of myself as a diamond girl until I got engaged! I like using a lot of very small diamonds in a pave style. I like using diamonds more as a subtle accent piece.”

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Turquoise
“A lot of my turquoise is from the U.S., from Arizona. The stones I buy are from the Sleeping Beauty Mine and are totally natural, which is really special because a lot of turquoise out there now is dyed. I’ve been using turquoise in its round state—a very simple bezel with just the stone. I don’t want to hide it with anything else.”

Caroline made some quartz beauties that we think you’re gonna love.

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Of a Kind

Esther Knuckle Ring by Bande des Quatres for Of a Kind 

BUY / 50 of a kind / $163

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Of a Kind

White Diamond Pharos Ring by Steven Shein for Of a Kind

BUY / 50 of a kind / $195

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Of a Kind

Black Diamond Square Earrings by Mociun for Of a Kind

BUY / 65 of a kind / $260

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Of a Kind

Cognac Diamond Spike Earrings by K/LLER Collection for Of a Kind

BUY / 34 of a kind / $335

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Watch the K/LLER Gals Craft Their (Diamond!) Of a Kind Edition

Don’t worry: It still has plenty of fierceness.

“We have been asked for awhile if we would ever use diamonds in the collection, and we’ve always been hesitant since neither of us are blingy girls,” says Katie deGuzman, half of the team behind the rad line K/LLER, which just entered the fine-jewelry fold. The solution? Taking a graphic, minimalist approach that doesn’t feel too glitzy. “You still get the tough K/LLER aesthetic with a bit of sparkle—the dark clashing with the sweet,” notes Michael Miller. “Just the way we like it.” And then there’s the name of their first fancified collection: K/LLER Stoned—further proof they aren’t getting too lofty. Here, see how one of their newest pieces—their Of a Kind edition!—came to be. alisha prakash

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“This is a pile of the raw castings of the sterling silver pave earrings before we clean them.”

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First we saw off the sprues, which is an excess piece of metal from the casting process.”

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“We use a variety of different grinding wheels, burs, and polishing wheels to clean the surface of the casting.”

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“The next step is to solder a post to the back of the earring.”

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“Once we have all the castings cleaned and ready to go, they are now prepared for the diamonds!”

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“We work with a wonderful jeweler, Ara, who sets our stones.”

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“We use three different sizes of cognac diamonds in this earring. Each stone is carefully selected and placed in a setting.”

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“A setting bur is then used to push the metal around the stone to secure each one.”

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“Once all the diamonds have been set, the earrings are passed over with a lapping wheel, which removes the marks created during the stone setting process.”

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“They are then polished to a high shine.”

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“Finally, they get a little steam clean to get rid of the polishing compound, and we send them off to get plated in rose gold.”

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“Voila!”

You saw how they made ‘em, now get your hands on these diamond beauties!

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Of a Kind

Brigid Knuckle Ring by Workhorse Jewelry for Of a Kind

BUY / 60 of a kind / $195

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