My Black Engagement Ring Embodies My Style As Much As My Love Story

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Photo: Courtesy of Frances Sola-Santiago.

This summer, my now-fiancé proposed to me. The engagement ring wasn’t a single-set oval diamond or a round moissanite. Instead, it was a black emerald-shaped onyx with a lab-grown diamond halo. It was classic yet edgy, traditional yet unconventional. The ring looked and felt like me. 

My fiancé and I had been dating for four years and had discussed the possibility of getting married since the early days of our relationship. We had even looked at engagement rings together at a mall jewelry store, where the options were all cookie-cutter versions of the same rings I had seen around for years. Afterward, my fiancé asked me to put together a Pinterest board with rings I liked so he wouldn’t get me something I wouldn’t enjoy wearing (What can I say? He’s a Virgo). 


It was no easy task. For starters, I had never been the type of person who dreamed of getting married. One of my first-ever published articles was a (truly embarrassing) essay on how I never wished to marry. I was 20 then and going through a painful breakup that, after watching too many episodes of Sex and the City to cope, convinced me that I was missing the “bride gene,” as Carrie Bradshaw put it. There were also the antiquated rules that made me think that marriage was not for me: marry in white and wear “something old, something borrowed and something blue” among them. Like a wedding, a ring was also never in my plan because, when it comes to getting engaged, diamond companies have likewise done a fine job of making it seem like the clear diamond is the only fitting choice to mark the occasion.

Nine years later, I changed my mind: I wanted to get married and I wanted to put on a ring, albeit one that felt like the embodiment of my personality, a reminder that I could enter the institution and make it my own. 

Largely thanks to the pandemic and the economic fallout that followed, more people have opted for elopements and micro-weddings, shifting the idea of what a wedding should look like. The idea of an engagement ring  — a tradition so old it dates back to the Roman Empire — is also expanding beyond hetero relationships and embracing new symbols like engagement watches.


On the stylistic front, engagement rings have also gotten more interesting and more innovative. Toi et moi rings, for example, have grown in popularity, while other design choices like asymmetrical bands, open-wrap styles, and chunky jewelry have knocked down some of the traditional solitaire style’s popularity. 

Photo: Courtesy of Frances Sola-Santiago.

When I first saw a black onyx engagement ring on Pinterest, there was nothing cookie-cutter about it. It was dark and elegant. I instantly knew that I wanted a black gemstone, instead of a diamond or another clear gemstone like a moissanite. (To be fair, I opted out of a black diamond only because it didn’t look dark enough for my taste.) 

Yes, black is usually a color reserved for funerals and often associated with evil, but it’s always brought me calmness and peace. I wear black most days — no matter the season — because it gives me a sense of empowerment and confidence. So, why would I ever pass on that feeling when headed toward the altar? (I also plan to marry in black but more on that later.)

It was the right choice. Since getting engaged, people have stopped me on the street to ask about the ring, while my friends and family have said that it looks just like me. Although I was never one to wear rings before getting engaged, it feels like a piece that’s been in my jewelry box for ages. And when I wear it, I get the same sense of empowerment and confidence that I’ve long felt when sporting black clothing.

While an engagement ring symbolizes love and commitment, for me, it’s a daily reminder that I get to make the rules of my life and will never do anything else but be myself. 

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