A Century of British Royal Engagement Rings
We’re all fascinated by royal engagement rings, and it’s easy to see why. Coming from families of wealth and power, with hundreds of years of British history and tradition on their shoulders, royal engagement rings tend to be rare, expensive and uniquely beautiful. They also capture so much of the romance associated with fairytale weddings; these are the rings of queens and princesses after all.
Let’s take a look at 10 of our favourite royal engagement rings over the last century…
1. Princess Diana
One of the most famous engagement rings, Princess Diana’s was unusual and exquisitely beautiful because of its enormous Sapphire. An oval 12 carat Ceylon Sapphire, it was surrounded by Diamonds and rumoured to have been chosen to match the Princess’ blue eyes. The designer was the House of Garrard, a London-based designer of fine and intricate jewellery.
The marriage may not have lasted - Charles and Diana divorced in 1996 just a year before her tragic death - however, this stunning ring has had a second life, on the elegant hand of Kate Middleton – now the Duchess of Cambridge. Presented to her by Princess Diana’s eldest son Prince William, the ring featured heavily in photos of Kate in the run-up to her wedding. It’s safe to say that a nation fell in love with it all over again.
2. Queen Elizabeth II
Although it is the epitome of a classic diamond engagement ring, Queen Elizabeth II’s ring actually started life as a tiara. The tiara belonged to her then-fiance Prince Philip’s mother, Princess Andrew of Greece. It was designed by Prince Philip himself, who has a surprising eye for jewellery. The couple got engaged in 1947 and our current monarch has worn this beautiful engagement ring ever since.
3. Meghan Markle
While other royals may prefer more traditional or ornate styles or treasured family heirlooms, one of the British royal family’s newest members wore a modern engagement ring. Prince Harry presented the American actress with the three-stone ring that he’d designed himself.
In a touching personal detail, the centre stone – a slightly elongated cushion-cut – was from Botswana, a country that the couple had visited early in their relationship and which obviously held special memories for them both. To make the ring even more special, the little diamonds surrounding it are from Princess Diana's jewellery collection.
The ring is yellow gold, believed to be the new Duchess of Sussex’s favourite.
4. Princess Eugenie
Princess Eugenie’s engagement ring is an extremely pretty and unusual pink padparadscha sapphire ring. The main gem, a salmon-pink stone which seems to change colour when viewed from different angles, is framed by a halo of white diamonds and set in yellow gold. The couple designed the ring together following Eugenie’s fiance Jack Brooksbank’s proposal in Nicaragua in January 2018. Jack had bought the gem beforehand but wanted the couple to create a ring with it together. Princess Eugenie of York and Jack Brooksbank married in October 2018 in Windsor Castle.
5. Princess Margaret
When photographer Antony Armstrong-Jones proposed to Princess Margaret in 1960, he did so with a mesmerising ruby engagement ring that he’d designed himself. The ruby and its surrounding diamonds were specially designed to look like a rosebud in honour of Margaret, Queen Elizabeth II’s only sibling, as the Princess’ middle name was Rose. The ring may have been beautiful but sadly the marriage didn’t last, as the couple divorced in 1978.
6. Sarah Ferguson
Another ruby engagement ring but in a very different style, the Duchess of York’s engagement ring from Prince Andrew was designed with one inspiration in mind – Sarah Ferguson’s vibrant red hair. He chose an orange-tinged ruby surrounded by 10 pear-cut diamonds in a pretty flower shape, all set in yellow gold. The couple were engaged in 1986 but divorced in 1996.
7. Camilla Parker-Bowles
The Duchess of Cornwall received a five-carat diamond engagement ring from Prince Charles when he proposed to his second wife Camilla in 2005. The ring actually belonged to his grandmother, the Queen Mother, and is in an attractive Art Deco style. It features an emerald-cut white diamond surrounded by six baguettes and set in platinum, which has a striking metallic effect in certain lights and when viewed from certain angles. It may not necessarily look it, but the Duchess of Cornwall’s engagement ring is believed to be one of the most valuable pieces in the royal family’s jewellery collection.
8. Princess Anne
The Queen’s daughter Princess Anne received a classic cabochon Sapphire engagement ring when Mark Philips popped the question in 1973. The Princess Royal’s gemstone was set between two large Diamonds and was often photographed with a unique purple-blue appearance.
The marriage ended in 1992, but Princess Anne also received a sapphire ring from her second husband Timothy Laurence – suggesting that the royal had a penchant for the distinctive stone.
9. Sophie Rhys-Jones
Early in 1999, the engagement of Sophie Rhys-Jones and the Queen’s youngest son Prince Edward was announced. Along with the announcement came photographs of the beautiful engagement ring, designed by Garrard just like Princess Diana and many other royals’ engagement and wedding jewellery. The Countess of Wessex’s ring featured two heart-shaped gemstones along with a 2-carat oval Diamond.
10. Zara Phillips
Princess Anne’s daughter Zara Phillips became engaged to England rugby star Mike Tindall in 2010 and was seen sporting an elegant engagement ring featuring an exceptionally pretty single solitaire diamond. The ring also has two rows of pave set diamonds and was designed by the groom-to-be himself.
Looking for the perfect engagement ring? Check out our guide to choosing vintage engagement rings.