Declaring Your State Of Independence With A Divorce Ring? These Local Jewellers Have Options

By Dan Ahwa
A divorce ring offers endless opportunities to design your ideal ring. Photo / Guy Coombes

If you like it, then you should definitely put a divorce ring on it, says Dan Ahwa.

Is there any other industry on the planet that capitalises on every human milestone like the business of jewels? The centuries-old allure of making money from bling isn’t new, and these days there’s

The gift of a gem or commemorative piece of jewellery is a keepsake to be treasured and passed down through generations.

In recent seasons, we’ve seen the local market of classic and contemporary jewellers complemented by an international onslaught of jewellery brands in New Zealand, including Bulgari, Van Cleef & Arpels and Tiffany & Co. There’s even the possibility of French behemoth Cartier arriving on our shores in the not-too-distant future.

Despite general belt-tightening in fashion lately, it’s unsurprising that a category like jewellery is still seeing steady growth. Much like a handbag or a piece of art, jewellery is an investment that can also appreciate with time. While there’s plenty of cost-per-wear to be had with a well-cut blazer or a pair of leather boots, investing in a piece of jewellery provides you with even more ways to update even the most basic outfit 365 days of the year. Seasonless, versatile and personal, the desire for jewels sees no sign of waning anytime soon. According to data platform Statista, the global jewellery market size is projected to grow from USD 232.94 billion in 2024 to USD 343.90 billion by 2032, exhibiting an annual growth rate of 4.99 per cent.

When Hailey and Justin Bieber renewed their wedding vows this month, and announced they were expecting their first child, they marked the life-changing moment with his and hers matching Tiffany & Co. Forever rings, reigniting its popularity among Gen-Z fans. Commonly known as eternity rings, these are commitment rings that follow the order of engagement and wedding rings; markers to tell the world and each other that yes, you are still in love with one another.

Jewellery is, after all, highly personal and sentimental.

While some have invested in jewels to mark their commitment, others collect jewellery after a breakup, with a growing trend for divorce rings seeing an uptick in sales both locally and internationally.

Emily Ratajkowski had her engagement ring re-purposed into two separate rings after her divorce in 2023. Photo / @Alisonlou
Emily Ratajkowski had her engagement ring re-purposed into two separate rings after her divorce in 2023. Photo / @Alisonlou

In March, model and actor Emily Ratajkowski updated her jewellery collection with a divorce ring, a symbol of newfound independence after her split from ex-husband Sebastian Bear-McClard. To mark her newly divorced status, she repurposed her former engagement ring into two new ring styles, explaining to Vogue that the rings — designed in collaboration with jeweller Alison Chemla — “represent my own personal evolution. I don’t think a woman should be stripped of her diamonds just because she’s losing a man.”

It made me consider the value of repurposing gifted pieces of jewellery into something entirely new, and how symbolic that becomes when you’re particularly in desperate need of shedding any bad juju attached to said jewellery. Divorce rings, although nothing new, might have something to offer the 7995 couples who were granted a divorce in New Zealand in the past year.

“We’ve definitely seen an increase in divorce rings over the past few years,” says Caroline Moore from Auckland-based Jewellers Workshop. “Some women will buy a new ring, but most will remodel their engagement and wedding rings.”

Much like Ratajkowski, the reasons for repurposing existing rings into a divorce ring are prompted by various reasons — some practical and others a physical reminder of moving on.

“More commonly, though, it’s an expression of self-love after a traumatic experience,” says Moore, “or a way to symbolically mark the end of one era and the beginning of the next. I think there is also often an element of asserting independence and confidence. She is now older, wiser and more self-assured. As a result, she often has a fairly clear idea of what she wants the ring to be, and it’s usually much bolder than the original wedding and engagement rings.”

The Company of Strangers Divorce Ring is a top seller for the Dunedin-based brand.
The Company of Strangers Divorce Ring is a top seller for the Dunedin-based brand.

For Dunedin-based designer Sara Munro and her fashion and accessories label Company of Strangers, the inclusion of divorce ring options comes from her personal experience, with the brand’s signature Divorce Ring the second ever made in 2007, and remains one of its top three sellers.

“The Divorce Ring came about second to The Till Death Do Us Part Ring. This ring was made from my paternal and maternal grandmother’s rings framing a smaller pearl ring I found in a department store floor when I was a child,” says Munro. “It was returned to me after I handed it to the police station as nobody claimed it. We waxed and molded these three rings. They symbolised the relationship between the two families coming together.

“I cast the new version in silver or gold so the gemstones were there and took on a modern take, but kept the nostalgia of the original rings. However, to put a cynical (and realistic) viewpoint on it, my parents divorced, splitting the family into two again — so I wanted to show this by literally cutting the Til Death Do Us Part ring in half. Each ring is still to this day sawn in half to make a divorce ring.”

Familial connections are also part of what makes a divorce ring a unique proposition for someone looking to make a fresh start after a bad marriage.

“Divorce rings can also take on new meaning when there are children from the relationship,” says Moore. “We’ve added birthstones or other symbolic elements to represent children. We had one lady convert her engagement ring into a right-hand ring, and remodel her wedding ring into earrings for her daughter.”

At the Jeweller’s Workshop in Auckland, the Toi et Moi ring features an original diamond paired with a new, coloured stone.
At the Jeweller’s Workshop in Auckland, the Toi et Moi ring features an original diamond paired with a new, coloured stone.

“Our Mara Ring has inspired a few divorce rings — the design allows the diamond from a solitaire engagement ring to be showcased, while clearly not being a traditional engagement ring. Another popular design is a Toi et Moi where the original diamond is paired with a new, coloured stone.”

Auckland-based jeweller Nick Von K’s whimsical jewellery designs have been worn by everyone from Rita Ora to Vinnie Bennett, and he agrees that the divorce ring’s promise of optimism offers an endless opportunity to create something uniquely individual.

“I have one client who is going through a divorce currently and she has had a number of custom pieces made with me during this time. She tells me that each piece feels like a talisman in the crystallisation of her new life,” he says. “Sometimes she tells me with tears in her eyes how important these pieces are to her as she puts together her emancipation. It’s been a really special process to have been a part of.”

Nick Von K offers a bespoke service for custom ring orders. Photo / Nick Von K
Nick Von K offers a bespoke service for custom ring orders. Photo / Nick Von K

“I have a number of clients who have entered a new phase of life, their kids have left home, and with that the realisation of themselves as a singular entity again. Jewellery is such a great way to reward oneself for this and set a pathway to the future. Just as engagement and wedding rings can be a beautiful celebration and focus of new love and life, so too can divorce rings or ‘self rings’. Especially as we get to look at rings all day on our hands, and be reminded of our commitment to what it signifies.”

For Rachel Sloane, co-founder of Naveya & Sloane, the idea of reinterpreting old jewellery and giving new meaning to them is something that still excites her creatively.

“We have always offered a remodeling service where clients can bring in their meaningful pieces to be redesigned and crafted into something new” she says. “This has typically been associated with heirloom pieces, pieced handed down that we will redesign with the client to ensure we are capturing that special meaning and honouring the stones that have been gifted from one generation to the next.”

“We’ve worked with clients who have redesigned their engagement rings completely, or taken their beautiful diamond and had it re-set into a treasured pendant for instance. It is a chance to embrace the past and wrap new light around a piece of jewellery, bringing new meaning to it and creating something that you can proudly hand down to the next generation with its own story and legacy.”

What a divorce ring truly represents is transformation and the promise of a new life. Whether it’s a unique custom-made creation or one ready to shop off the rack, one thing is certain: jewellers will always be ready when you are.

Dan Ahwa is Viva’s fashion and creative director and a senior premium lifestyle journalist for the New Zealand Herald, specialising in fashion, luxury, arts and culture. He is also an award-winning stylist with more than 17 years of experience, and is a co-author and co-curator of The New Zealand Fashion Museum’s Moana Currents: Dressing Aotearoa Now.

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