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The Shabka Redefined

Discover its five defining trends

Diamond Center

Contrary to the world of fashion where literal and metaphorical seasons (and cruise shows) dictate whether a color, silhouette or aesthetic is en vogue – the realm of jewelry struts a little differently, a little slower. Encapsulating the deeply sentimental moment of matrimony in the design of one’s bridal ring set, known as the “Shabka” in the Middle East, is ultimately dictated by a combination of personal preference and bridal jewelry’s prevalent trends. Every so often, a particular cut, setting or aesthetic emerges as the “it” silhouette of its time, perching on the left hand of many a time. We discussed the deeply personal process of buying one’s bridal ring set with a selection of Egypt’s finest jewelers to gain perspective on the overarching trends defining the contemporary “Shabka.”

The Rise of Fancy Cut Diamonds vs. Brilliant Cut Diamonds

Although the brilliant cut (also known as a round cut) is, “designed to maximize the diamond’s sparkle and brilliance,” according to Phillippe Katchouni (Managing Partner, at Katchouni Jewelry), the prevalence of fancy cut diamonds (all other shape variations), have witnessed a remarkable increase in popularity as expressed by the interviewed jewelers unanimously. “The trend continues to favor fancy-shaped [diamonds] set in white gold settings…pear-shaped stones have emerged as the most sought-after choice for solitaire rings, followed closely by oval cuts. The visual appeal of these shapes, particularly among younger and modern women, surpasses that of traditional round cuts, contributing to their growing popularity. Given the enduring allure and versatility of these shapes and designs, we believe this trend will continue to captivate consumers for the foreseeable future,” explain Hussein Motawe & Ehab Saad (Founder/Chairman and Founder/CEO of The Diamond Center respectively), indicating the growing fascination with the rounded family of fancy cut diamonds. Similarly, Karim Afifi (Bulgari Egypt’s General Manager), concurs with the mesmeric rise of pear and oval cut diamonds and adds that they are usually accompanied by accent stones, predominantly baguette or marquise diamonds, to create Bulgari’s much desired three-stone bespoke solitaire ring.

The Shift to Modern Minimalism vs. Exaggerated Design

Today’s refined and muted designs that epitomize contemporary bridal jewelry preferences, were once preceded with a bygone era characterized by metal-heavy rings accommodating flamboyant diamonds. “These days clients want more dainty jewelry. However, this is a trend we have been witnessing for the past couple of years in fine jewelry overall and it is only now where the trend [is trickling into the design] of bridal rings…it’s about creating a dainty final piece whether the solitaire, the eternity band or the main [wedding] band. We are moving towards a time of simple, more to-the-point kind of jewelry than we are used to,” elaborates Varouj Vartan (Owner of Harry V Jewellers and Co-owner of Harry Vartan Jewelry). Underscoring not only the shift in aesthetic taste but also the effects of the turbulent economic time, “contemporary clients are gravitating towards more simple and sleek styles, prioritizing elegance and subtlety…this shift reflects not only evolving tastes but also a pragmatic approach to jewelry selection, where sophistication and versatility are valued alongside aesthetics. As such, the current landscape of the Shabka showcases a blend of timeless elegance and modern minimalism, catering to the preferences of today’s clientele,” reveal Motawe & Saad.

The Persistence in Solitaire Quality vs. Solitaire Size

Setting the scene to describe past purchasing trends, V. Vartan details, “the priority or the focus used to be the size of the stone, that used to be more important than the quality and the clarity of the stone itself,” a typical facet of the yesteryear. “Such preference was particularly accentuated in the selection of solitaires and diamond bands, [which] emphasized large, singular stones alongside a setting of large side stones,” highlight Motawe & Saad. Nevertheless, there is a discernible shift in quality prioritization in the “Shabka” decision-making process in recent times. “It is not about the big stone anymore,” affirms Afifi. During his longstanding experience, Afifi observed that a common theme typifying the Bulgari Shabka buyer, is a bride’s willingness to sacrifice a solitaire’s carat weight for a smaller stone of heightened quality across the remainder of the 4Cs (clarity, cut and color). Katchouni emphasizes, “ultimately, the “best” color for a diamond is subjective and depends on the individual’s preferences and budget.” When asked about diamond specifications, all jewelers interviewed agreed that popularly requested color quality ranges lie between the G and H color grades. As for clarity, jewelers’ suggested ranges that varied across VS1, VVS2 and VVS1 as the three most prevalent quality grades. A direct consequence of smaller high-quality diamonds, is the “Shabka” becoming more wearable, “previously rings were not for everyday wear, they were just worn on special occasions,” notes Afifi. The focus on quality-driven purchases has significantly combated the “classic cultural” attitude towards bridal jewelry, where people are accustomed to jewelers “selling per gram” as opposed to “selling per piece,” and the price differential that accompanies it reports Afifi, a common practice in the world of branded jewelry, including Bulgari.

Embracing the All-Around vs. 5-Stone Eternity Band

“What we are seeing as the priority is design…more than the size of the stones…design over everything,” explicates V. Vartan when describing the departure from the hyper fixation on stone size with regards to the eternity band. The posterchild of the Egyptian Shabka, the gargantuan “5-7 bigger stone [ring],” as described by Motawe & Saad, is characterized by a protruding shared prong or bar setting, that projects from the bride’s ring finger. Bidding the traditional design adieu, “the trend is defiantly going in the direction of a full diamond eternity [band] – not the five stone ring which was once popular,” according to Katchouni. At Bulgari, the demand for the all-around diamond aesthetic, too, is in full momentum. The retreat from the design that once characterized the Egyptian “Shabka” coincides with the remnants of “quiet luxury,” a polarizing trend popularized in 2023, where “money talks, wealth whispers.” Its premise alludes to inconspicuous indulgence. Perhaps, the modern eternity band embodies just that – an evenly distributed (smaller) diamond band allowing for the private enjoyment of a few concealed gemstones at the back of the ring by the wearer, versus its intentionally extravagant equivalent.

Sought-after Individuality in Wedding Bands vs. Conventional Wedding Bands

Possibly, the least attention demanding ring compared to its diamond complements within the “Shabka,” the wedding band, has recently been thrust into the limelight. As is reflected in the gravitation towards unique fancy cut diamonds, the wedding band too, yearns for a little individuality beyond the confines of a standard gold ring. At Bulgari, the MarryMe and Fedi wedding band selections cater to a classical jewelry palette. According to Afifi the Serpenti Viper range (featuring the motif of scaley serpent) and the B.zero1 collection (showcasing a band with a plunging mid-section), although less conventional, are considered to be “hotcakes” amongst the Maison’s wedding band offerings. The aforementioned rings’ “instantly recognizable” nature (and their accompanying grandiose Bulgari box), contribute a unique touch to the moment a wedding band is gifted to the bride. For V. Vartan, “it is ultimately about the design being simple and dainty.” With regards to silhouette and band thickness Motawe & Saad notice that there is, “a preference towards slimmer bands,” adding that, “a majority [of clients] go for yellow gold, however there is still interest in rose gold,” a trend that Katchouni confirms.

To conclude our intriguing discussions, the interviewed jeweler quartet collectively shared the importance of a bride’s personal connection to her chosen rings in terms of their aesthetic, and ensuring that her bridal set choice is not swayed by well-wishers. Instead, her purchase should be informed by an introspective process allowing the wearer to express her personality and style through her treasured ring triad – her “Shabka.”

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