Engagement Rings: Custom Design 101
While browsing jewellery stores, do you think everything looks exactly the same? If you crave something as unique that’s as your love and packed with personal significance, or if you have the stone, but not the setting consider having her (and/or his!) engagement ring custom designed. Here’s how to do it.
Get a Clue
Inspect the jewellery that she or he wears to get a sense of your beloved’s ring personality. Decide if you want the ring to incorporate an element of cultural significance or to have a certain sensibility (to look Asian or antique, for instance) to help narrow your quest. Also be sure to scope out rings people are wearing at work or as you go about your daily life; when you see one you like, ask who designed it or where it was purchased.
Next, prowl jewellery stores and galleries to really home in on what you like, or hate, which can be an easier place to start. Take notes and make sketches of elements that catch your eye, an “invisible” tension setting, different shades of gold, or multicolored gems, and research designers whose work you admire. Nick Cerrone from Cerrone says, ‘We recommend to our clients to research and to try on different styles of rings beforehand to see what styles suits both their lifestyle and personal taste. Other factors to consider is how your engagement and wedding band will compliment each other and which metal best suits your skin tone’.
If you want to create something totally original, the toughest part is pinpointing what you want the ring to ‘say’. It can be tough for a non-artist to translate emotions into a nonliteral, concrete form. Work with what you know: Try writing a paragraph or a list of adjectives that describes how your mate makes you feel or traits she or he has that inspire you. If words elude you, look for graphic imagery that does the job: a Mondrian painting, a soft romantic coverlet, earthy waves, or stars. Reference the list or image when browsing.
Sydney jeweller, Zoe Pook says, ‘I always encourage clients to be honest with me during the design process, it’s an important decision and it needs to be right. If you want a beautiful classic style, say so, or if you want a bonkers ornate sparkler speak up. It’s not the jewellers ring, it’s yours’.
Keep the Wedding Band in Mind
The whole point of this engagement ring thing? There will soon be a wedding band to keep it company! Two options: Go wild and commission a ring that stands alone (she will wear it on her right hand after the wedding band moves in), or design something that looks beautiful alone but truly becomes complete with the addition of a coordinating custom-designed or store-bought band.
Expect a Higher Price Tag
In most cases custom designed rings have a heftier price tag than their ‘off the rack’ counterparts, but it may not be as much as you think. ‘Often bespoke jewellers will be smaller operators who don’t have to cover the high overheads of multiple outlets’ says Zoe Pook, ‘So they can pass on these savings to customers’.
Custom rings are more labour- and time-intensive since they must be hand-assembled from many different pieces, but ‘the beauty of a custom made ring is that with the guidance of our expert consultant the jeweller can recommend lots of designs and options to suit your budget’, says Cerrone, meaning you may end up getting more bang for your buck.
Start the process early, ‘it usually takes three to four weeks however sometimes sooner if requested’ says Cerrone’s Nick Cerrone. Not only will you need time for ring research and/or to find a designer you like and trust, but finalizing the ring’s specs may require some back and forth communication, not to mention the extra time it takes to hand-assemble a ring and to inscribe the inside, if desired. If you are pressed for time look for a jewellery store with an on-site staff to save time.
An engagement ring being handcrafted in the Sydney Cerrone workshop
Find Your Soulmate Designer
If you found a designer’s work at a jewellery store, a store salesperson will work as your liaison with the designer. Otherwise, get referrals for designers or shops from friends and family or let your fingers do the walking.
If you’re cold-calling a designer, ask about their style, their professional affiliations, where you can see their work (a store or their website), and how long they’ve been in business. If they pass the phone test, visit the store and be sure to handle the rings. Is the ring you’re considering carefully and skillfully constructed?
When you speak with the designer or salesperson, make sure you will feel comfortable and confident working with them. Stand by your ideas but heed their input: They know what doesn’t work on a ring, no matter how amazing it looks in your imagination.
Taking the customisation approach can be a very rewarding experience for both you and your jeweller, ‘For us and the client, the experience is much more special and significant as the ring reflects not only their love together but also their individual style’ says Nick Cerrone. What Zoe Pook enjoys most about working with couples to create their perfect piece? ‘The romance of it all. It’s so lovely to be in a job where I am surrounded by romance!’.
If you’re working directly with a designer, ask what guarantees are offered on the work and get everything in writing. For example, to help ensure that the final piece matches what you envisioned, have the designer sign a piece of paper that lists the elements you agreed would be included (purity of metal, details of setting, and any other specifics), delivery date, and price. If the designer is supplying the stone, make sure it is accompanied by a quality grading report or have it appraised before being set. Make sure your ring’s appraisal report (which you’ll need to get it insured) notes that the ring is custom designed and by whom. This will affect the replacement value set by your insurance company.