This one has got to be perfect.
It’s one of the few purchases you’ll make in your life that is intended to last for the rest of it. Not even houses come into that category.
Okay, I have to admit that I’ve made two for my wife. The original I made in the first few months of launching the business, in the phase known as ‘learning how to make jewellery’. The ring took several days and went wrong numerous times but in the end there was something there that I (and, luckily, my fiance) was happy with: a fine gold ring with very small square diamonds flanking a rectangular sapphire. Then, five years later, I decided that it was time for an upgrade and so I made her another. Bigger, better, more in keeping with what she liked at that stage. Ideally, I’d have liked to have got it right the first time and that’s what I’d like to help you to do.
So, the considerations:
Three month’s salary? I don’t think so. That’s just an arbitrary figure dreamed up by a company that wants your money and is happy to specify just how much of it you should hand over.
I’ve made engagement rings for a few hundred and for ten thousand pounds. Everyone has their own idea of what they want to spend and their own financial limits (let’s face it, there’s a wedding looming and those things are not cheap).
As it happens, the average spend in 2016 in the UK was £573.00. You may not want to intended to know how much you’ve spent but make sure that you agree on the priorities so that you know that she’s happy to have an amazing ring but no wedding dress, reception or honeymoon. Remember also that the ring is symbolic and it will still be the same ring if you were to put a larger diamond into it at some stage in the future.
There are fashions in jewellery as well as everything else. The current fashion is for white metals and large diamonds. Possibly, just possibly, this is dictated by the industry along with more or less every other fashion trend. You probably wouldn’t want to wear your mother’s engagement ring (especially if you’re her son) and maybe she’s wishing herself that she had something a bit more up to date now. I would suggest that you tend towards styles that are simple and classic in the hope that you will still enjoy looking at it through your reading glasses at the age of 80. Which brings me onto …
The diamond solitaire
This little number has been around for a while and it probably isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. Basically, it’s all about the rock. The bigger, the sparklier the better and, traditionally, it’s been hoisted off the finger an inch or two in order to help you to poke it in the face of your envious admirers. It’s a classic, so how do you make it special? How do you make it unlike everyone else’s? There are several options:
1. Join the arms race
Get the biggest stone you can. This is possibly a counsel of despair as there will always be someone out there who’s parents have sold the second Bentley in order that ‘Tristan can buy Francesca the ring that she deserves.’ If second best is not good enough for you then you might have to reconsider. If you are going for big then don’t cut corners. I’ve seen some huge stones of shocking quality in engagement rings that have come my way. Big is not always beautiful but, on the other hand, there are degrees of quality that, for most people, are just not worth the extra money. I would urge you to find a balance between size and quality that will allow you to enjoy your ring as a thing of beauty rather than just a symbol of wealth. If you’re thinking of diamonds then please read my Diamonds page for an introduction to the things to look out for.
2. Choose a more interesting stone
Choose something other than a round stone. You could opt for a square Princess Cut or you could go completely off piste and look at what are known in the trade as ‘Fancy cuts’. These include Marquise, Pears, Ovals, Trillions, Hearts (Ahhhh), Baguettes, Emerald cuts, even Half Moon diamonds. If you choose one of these then the design of the ring is likely to be a little more interesting to boot.
Fancy cuts tend to be cut from better material so you may have to spend a little more on the stone but that will mean that it ‘performs’ better, which is no bad thing. There’s more about cuts on my Diamonds page but one thing to mention here is that Baguette and Emerald cuts have parallel facets and fewer of them so they don’t sparkle like the more frantically faceted Brilliant and Princess cuts. A ring set with Emerald or Baguette cut stones will have more of an antique, classic look.
3. Focus on design
The traditional Solitaire is a straight shank with a simple, high, claw set round diamond. My own approach would always be towards creating something a little different and a design that is beautiful in itself rather than just being a means of wiring the stone to your finger.
You don’t want to go mad here because we’re looking for something that will stand the test of time, but there is plenty of scope within the broad category of ‘classic’ for you to find or conceive of something a little different. Remember that you can use different metals to make your ring more distinctive. I’ve made many rings combining yellow and white gold and even platinum with rose gold accents.
There are some examples of the design led approach among my gold rings. Xena, shown below, uses a round, brilliant cut diamond but with a mix of white and yellow gold and some unconventional styling. Celeste is very popular as an engagement ring and is a little more unusual. Calypso takes it a bit further and is, in fact, a little crazy, but still has clean lines that will ride out the waves of changing fashions.
One more thing to think about;
If you’re going for an unusual design don’t forget that you’re going to want to put a wedding ring next to it. My Celeste and Calypso rings have wedding bands designed to fit in and follow the curves, and over the years, I’ve made many rings to bend and twist around unusual engagement rings. It can be done but it can sometimes look a bit odd so please take this into consideration when you choose or design your engagement ring.
To buy or to commission?
I generally advise that if you can find exactly what you want, ‘on the shelf’ then you should probably buy it. The large companies can buy diamonds in bulk and at very good prices. Their manufacture is often large scale and off-shore and these factors allow then to bring a ring to market at a very competitive price. If I’m making a ring from scratch, I can generally match that price but, if what you want is out there anyway then what would be the point?
Be careful though: Last year I had an expensive engagement ring passed to me so that I could make a wedding ring to match. The stone had a huge and ugly inclusion right in the middle of the table facet. The cutter had put in a little rosette of extra facets around the culet (the point at the bottom of the stone) in order to try and hide it. This sort of thing is not uncommon and, for anything over 1/3 carat, I would insist on a certified stone. If you ask me, or any other jeweller, to design and make you a ring then you should know exactly what you’re getting and where it’s come from.
I’m becoming increasingly aware of the ethical issues that surround the jewellery trade. As with any large and lucrative industry, there is exploitation and environmental damage tied up in the supply chain. The diamond on your finger is a symbol of fidelity and commitment. You do not want its purchase to have helped to fund a brutal war in an African state. The wedding band that you intend to wear for life should be a pure symbol of love. You do not want the gold in it to have been mined by a 14 year old, unable to attend school and suffering from the effects of mercury poisoning. It’s time that we all insisted on knowing where the things we buy have come from and who has benefited or suffered in their production. I am committed to buying as much of my materials as possible from genuine ethical sources so that your ring can mean something to the people who helped to make it as well as to you and your partner.
Ready to start?
If you’d think you’d like to commission me to make a ring for you then please start by reading the Commissions page and then contact me to talk about the details. There are no commitments and no up-front costs. You’ll only start parting with money when we get to the stage when you’re happy with the design and I need to start buying materials. I would hope to be able to make you exactly what you want and at a very competitive price.