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7 tips for the perfect engagement ring

Do you have a special woman that you’d like to gift a piece of jewellery like an engagement or anniversary ring? And you really want that piece to reflect her individuality, that certain something you know makes her unique?

If you already know exactly what would be perfect for her, you can skip this post and head straight for the jeweller…

But what if you have a secret fear you’ll make the wrong choice?
Getting a bespoke piece made for someone can be a big decision especially if you’re fretting: “What if she hates it?” Your instincts already say there’s no-one else like her – but how does that translate into something solid like a ring?

It’s stating the obvious to say you’re going to have to be a bit of a detective about this.
But even knowing what to notice isn’t always easy.

It’s not that hard if you follow these 7 steps. You’ll be able to decide just what details matter.
The pressure will be alleviated and you can get on with making tangible what you already love about her.

1. Watch, listen, take notes. What is she drawing your attention to?

Prick up your ears when she talks about stuff she likes, because that could be useful information.

When she points out something in a magazine, in a shop, or anywhere make a mental note.
Maybe casually ask her what’s so appealing about it. But don’t rush out and buy that thing.
Women aren’t really that literal – we like to allude to qualities in things rather than to the actual thing. (Unless she repeatedly points out the same thing, then you better get on it!).

2. Does she want what everyone else is having?

If you’re contemplating having something specifically designed for her, get clear how far she would want to go with ‘uniqueness’.

Is she’s the kind of woman who prefers things that are different to what you see everywhere?

Or does she need to have one of those handbags, a pair of earrings or gadgets that are the latest fashion?

Is she really the bespoke type? Or does she get excited when she sees Michael Hill ads on the telly?

Does she love it when people pay attention to what she wears? Does she go out of her way to stand out in a crowd? This is where you’ll have to zero in on the detail because how she dresses has much to say about who she sees herself to be. (By the way, we’re not talking the “I have nothing to wear” syndrome – that’s about women wanting to dress to suit a specific occasion.)

18ct gold, emerald, sapphire and diamond engagement ring
Allison’s emerald ring was inspired by the renaissance rings she loves.

3. Gather evidence.

Ah, how much easier is life with your smart phone camera within easy reach! Take photos of her – and her jewelry so you can show your bespoke jeweller.

Get photos of her in work outfits and play clothes. Shoot details like the rings already on her fingers, or her earrings. Just be subtle about it, like pretending to be goofing around with your phone…

Take photos of some her favourite things – you know that stuff she pays attention to and likes to be around. (More ideas below…)

4. Note the details about her appearance and what she’s already wearing.

If you’re thinking of getting her a coloured gemstone then the colour of her hair and skin, as well as the colours of her clothes will help you choose the right stone.

Is she a black, white, ‘angles and sharp lines’ kinda girl? Or does she love floral prints and soft fabrics? Are her clothes bright colours or neutrals? Does she prefer ‘pared back’, or are her clothes a riot of colour and texture?

Is she short or tall? Small women usually need more subtle and delicate jewellery – except in the case where she’s a bigger personality and likes to stand out in a crowd.

5. What she surrounds herself with is also important.

I’m talking about the objects she owns: paintings, furniture and decorative objects. And don’t forget to take some pics!

Perhaps she has a collection of objects from her travels around the world. Perhaps her house is completely pared back and minimalist. Does she choose to drive a distinctive car?Any of these can be super important detail when it comes to the kind of ring she’d like to wear.

Along with the clothes we wear, what we live with not only shows what we like, it helps to define the way we want the world to see us.

Also the magazines and books she reads will give you much insight into what she really craves. Does she drool over Vogue or prefer Country Style? Does she read about gardening, or health, or is she more entranced by articles on business & finance?

6. Let’s not forget what interests her.

Does she play the guitar in her downtime, or is she an avid horsewoman? A dog lover? A knitter or a craftie? A keen frequenter of art galleries – or sporting events? A voracious reader of novels, or more focused on serious non-fiction topics? Does she have an unusual job? Is she passionate about the work she does?

Put simply, is she obsessed with something?
Does she care deeply about a cause? Does she love to talk about big ideas and dreams?

Is she focused on fun, or more inclined to be serious in the way she approaches her life and what it means for her?

Platinum, diamond and sapphire engagement ring based on constellation Delphinus.
Justine’s platinum, diamond, and sapphire ring reflects the constellation Delphinus.

7. Finally, and most importantly, What’s the vision you share?

A relationship is always more than the sum of two people. So what is the future you’re shaping together?

When I create engagement rings for people it’s always as much about meaning as it is about making something beautiful and unique. It can be the distillation of something essential or magical about the woman you love, and it can also be about the essence of the vision you two share.

And if it’s an anniversary ring you’re seeking then there’s an opportunity to distil something of what you already are, as a couple, into this piece of jewellery.

Imagery or symbols you both love can help shape the design of the ring. It’s not even necessary to know what a symbol means to you in order for it to continue to resonate with who you are, together.

One couple who were clients of mine had a mutual fascination for the constellation Delphinus and asked that he asked that I map the pattern in sapphires. Another of my clients and his wife-to-be shared an interest in alchemical symbolism and roses leading to a very unique design. Yet another client wanted to transform her mother’s engagement ring into a modern talisman for themselves as a couple.

Rings have a rich and ancient symbolism. It makes perfect sense that you want her to have the kind of ring no one else is having. And, by the way, it doesn’t even have to involve diamonds.

Long before DeBeers trained everyone to believe ‘a diamond is forever’, and thus the only choice for engagements, people had been exchanging betrothal rings as signs of dedication and future promise.

Much of this information, that you’re on a mission to collect, you probably take for granted. But it’s what shows she’s unique. And it’s not like all of it can be incorporated into a ring, but it can very useful intel that helps your bespoke jeweller to zero in on the perfect jewel for your lady.

 

rubies, diamonds and white gold engagement ring
Amy’s Ourobourus Ring: 18ct white gold with diamonds & rubies

 

So now you can feel confident on how to get that dream ring into a solid form rather than it just being a fancy idea in your head.

The next step is to find the perfect jeweller to create your masterpiece – and you’ll find tips on how to find that person over here.

 

P.S. Ring sizing tip: you want the ring to be a surprise but the size needs to be accurate? Here’s some ways to do it. Try her rings on your fingers and make notes about how these fit you – sometimes it may be a case of ‘second knuckle, pinkie finger’. You can also put one of her existing rings on a piece of paper and draw around the inside (and outside) with a sharp pencil. Take note of what finger she wears it on too. It’s not the most accurate of methods, but can be used as supplementary information. The best way of course is to sneak out a ring that she already wears on one of her ring fingers and present it to the jeweller for sizing.

5 steps to your perfect custom-design jewel

So you’ve been looking for a very special ring but nothing you’ve seen is really grabbing you and screaming ‘I’m the one!’

Or perhaps you have just decided that you deserve that fabulous piece of jewellery you’ve been promising yourself for a while.

And yet, you’re feeling less than excited about all the prospects that have presented themselves as you’ve browsed shops and websites and galleries and anywhere else looking for that piece that will precisely express all the deliciousness and value that you really want to express about yourself.

It could be that you have inherited a pile of rings and things from your grandmother, and its just not quite your style. Or you snapped up gold when your saw it in antique and pawn shops because you love the idea of wearing it, but the designs are less than exciting.

Any of these symptoms are a sign that you need a bespoke jeweller who is going to transform your ideas, your intuition, even just the scent of what you’re wanting, into a piece of jewelry that is perfect just for you, totally unique and it just ‘feels’ right.

But imaybe you’re wondering just how you go about finding someone who can translate your idea, your inkling, maybe even your Frank-Gehry-style-sketches-on-a-serviette into a divine jewel that you feel is “you”.

So how to find the right jeweller? And how to communicate this vision in your head into something tangible so that they can create it for you?

You see, while I make jewellery, I’m not saying that I’m the one for you. That’s up to your intuition.

But I’ve got some suggestions about how you can be sure you get what you want, when you find the ‘one’.

1. Get clear for yourself on the outcome you really want.

I don’t mean that you need a design sketch or a photo of what it should look like. Maybe it’s about the way you feel when you wear it. Or the impact you want to have when others see it. Maybe it’s a metaphor: “like a galaxy of stars”, or “a renaissance princess ring”.

If you are thinking: “I don’t know what I want but I will know it when I see it” you will greatly increase your chances of getting the result you’re after if you can clarify some things for yourself first.

Some questions to help you brainstorm:
How do you want to feel when you wear this piece of jewellery?
“Special”, “powerful”, “loved” are useful descriptions, but try to get inside these sensations as well: what exactly will make you feel that way? Your bespoke jeweller may not ask you these questions but if you work through these yourself you can clarify some things before you even start to look for a jeweller.

If you say ‘I want to feel sexy and sensual when I wear it’, how does that translate for you? For one person ‘sexy’ is burlesque glamour, while for another it can be a particular texture or form. Perhaps red is your favourite colour and when you wear it you feel powerful. Or maybe you will feel the love between you and your sweetheart if you have have matching bands, or have the ring engraved with symbols that are deeply meaningful to you.

What materials appeal to you?
Do you want diamonds for your engagement ring, or something different? Are you interested in the properties of different kinds of gemstones? Do you want precious materials? Or perhaps you love the idea of something made from wood, or from steel.

What about colours, textures, shapes? Start to collect imagery. These might be imagery of existing jewels – you like a bit of this one, or a bit of that one. Or perhaps something more abstract – a photograph, a piece of fabric, a pattern.

Are there particular symbols or visions which you’d like to incorporate?
One of my clients requested a ring where the stones were set in the pattern of a particular constellation of stars that held real significance for her and her husband-to-be.

Collect visual information, of jewellery, or anything else that relates to what you want. This way, when you meet with the jeweller you’ll immediately give them a sense of where you’re wanting to go.

2. Find a jeweller that fits your vision.

Got some clarity? Its time to find a jeweller. Even if you don’t feel your vision is really clear, recognise that you’ve set your intention in motion by teasing some definites out from daydreams. This will greatly help any jeweller who is going to translate these ideas into a piece of jewelry.

Do your research.
Try word of mouth – like someone’s jewellery? Ask where they got it.

Spend a bit of time googling jewellery websites until you find the jewellery that sings to you.

Visit jewellery galleries and single out the pieces that appeal. The gallery can tell you if the jeweller will custom-make pieces to order, and may even organise this process.

Or just collect names everywhere you go, then head for the internet and research what the person does, what people are saying about them, etc.

Be endlessly curious until you find someone whose aesthetic and skills feel like a good fit.

A word of caution: DO make sure the person has experience with custom-design work.

Look for a jeweller who has a portfolio that already appeals to you – or a track record (again here’s where personal testimonials help).

3. Don’t ask your bespoke jeweller to copy something.

I can tell you from experience that “Tiffany’s without the price tag” is an awful brief! Do you really want a cheap imitation?

However, you can offer references to a bespoke jeweller: “something like this” or “a bit of this ring, and a bit of that ring” to give them some starting points.

Working from reference points helps, but when you’ve done you’re homework, and allow the jeweler space for their own imagination you’re on the path to something unique.

4. Get clear on the process your bespoke jeweller uses to translate your ideas into reality.

Expect more than one consultation where he or she will ask lots of questions, show you examples of their skills, discuss their techniques and the design ideas. If you come to them with some clarity (see point no 1) that increases the chance of you getting a jewel that’s perfect for you.

Expect to see design drawings, and perhaps a model of the work in progress. ,
Or a jeweller may use other techniques to communicate to you a clear idea of how the finished piece will look.

If you’re not sure ask for more clarification.
Don’t go forward with the piece until you feel confident that you’ll be very happy with the end result.

Most importantly, if you’re feeling any doubts about the design, how willing is the jeweller to keep working through the issues with you?
You need to feel confident about the outcome. If not, perhaps the 2 of you aren’t a good fit, and its best to know that before you progress further.

5. Get clear on the contractual details – even if there is no formal written contract.

Each jeweller has a different approach, and depending on how complex the piece is you may get an initial quote or ‘ballpark’. This will be close to the final price with a few provisos: eg: market fluctuations with metal prices, a given number of design consultations before arriving at the final design, etc.

Or save yourself the worry and tell them your budget upfront.

If in doubt, like the design, first rule is to ask for clarification.
After the design elements are finalised and before the production starts you should be told the final price.

Check the jeweller’s guarantee and after care.
Is your satisfaction guaranteed? If you’re not happy with the outcome, what’s your recourse?
Will the jeweller work with you until you are satisfied?
Be aware that once you’ve given your consent on viewing final drawings, you may be committed to the pay the balance.

Once you have the jewel – do you know how to look after it properly?
Have you been given care instructions for the lifetime of the piece? Can you bring it back to the jeweller to have it checked and cleaned?

A custom-design jewel can be a significant investment, but the experience should be exciting not scary.

If you follow these tips you can be pretty confident you’ll get what you really want.

And if you have any tips to share from custom-design experiences I’d love to know – leave me a comment.

Interested in my custom-design process? Find out more on the custom design page.