These engagement rings are a cut above the rest

In Los Angeles, sporting a standard solitaire is about as desirable as driving a Honda.

Says jeweler Neil Lane, “What might be appropriate in Des Moines doesn’t fly in Hollywood.”

As a result, engagement rings in this town contain their own unique form of anxiety. Would-be grooms find themselves on a quest for unusual cuts, out-of-the-way stores and serious one-upmanship.

“We’re all jaded by this nonsense,” says Ron Rosenblum of the family-owned XIV Karats boutique on Beverly Drive. “What looks big today doesn’t look as big in two years. Even a 10-carat ring doesn’t look as big after a while.”

But it’s not just size that matters.

Taking cues from Lane clients like Kate Hudson and Sandra Bullock, buyers are looking for pricier and more intricate cuts. Hudson wears an Old European-inspired Asscher-cut solitaire that has a square shape and dramatic beveled corners; Bullock sports a custom-made cushion-cut diamond, named for its pillow-like shape.

“It’s not so much the woman who’s competing, but the guy,” says Kurt Rothner of Excalibur, who specializes in Edwardian and Art Deco antique rings and operates just steps from Lane’s shop in the Antiquarian emporium. “He wants to show how successful he is.”

And while Rothner says he won’t put the squeeze on his clients, he recognizes the vulnerability of the male ego. “It’s easy to embarrass a guy into spending more than he wants to on a ring.”

Men with thinner wallets, however, can make up the difference with sentiment.

International distributor JB Diamonds Group recently launched SoulMate wedding bands, which feature a single natural stone sheared into two; husband and wife each get half.

The diamond-embedded rings, which are kept together through the entire formation process, start at $400 for an 8-point (.08-carat) gem.

Still, Lane believes nuptials aren’t the time to skimp.

“Stretch the budget,” he says. “A guy should feel a little pain in his wallet.”

Neil Lane
8840 Beverly Blvd.
West Hollywood
(310) 275-5015
What’s hot: Cushion-cut diamonds in tulip-design settings and diamond-encrusted rings with floral patterns
Expect to drop: $30,000-$50,000 for 3 carats

XIV Karats
314 S. Beverly Dr.
Beverly Hills
(310) 551-1212
What’s hot: Any cushion- or Asscher-cut diamond
Expect to drop: $10,000-$25,000 for 1½-2 carats

8840 Beverly Blvd.
West Hollywood
(310) 859-2320
What’s hot: Cushion-cut diamonds in Edwardian platinum settings
Expect to drop: Starts at $2,500 for ½-¾ carat

Romano’s Jewelers
510 W. 6th St.
Los Angeles
(323) 838-1242
What’s hot: A pair of SoulMate diamond wedding bands mounted in white gold
Expect to drop: Up to $799 per ring for 12 points (.12 carats)

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