While sentimental value can be imbued in a favorite pair of jeans, a signature scent, or a treasured knickknack unearthed at a thrift shop, there’s no denying that an engagement ring holds more emotional weight than any other item a person owns. Given as a promise of love, loyalty, and partnership, a bespoke engagement ring is a piece of jewelry often worn every single day to honor one’s commitment to a spouse or spouse-to-be.
Since this investment piece might feel as much a part of you as the hair on your head, having a ring design that feels authentic to you and your style is absolutely essential. That’s why creating a bespoke engagement ring is a must for many couples looking to tie the knot.
Luckily, the process of going custom has become much simpler in the modern era. Though many customizers continue to work with well-known luxury brands, local mom-and-pop stores, or retailers in the diamond districts of major cities, the age of social media has allowed many soon-to-be-engaged couples to discover unique styles of bespoke engagement ring online and connect with jewelers around the globe. Some brands, like Vrai or Brilliant Earth, allow customers to design customized rings entirely through their websites, while others provide in-person and virtual consultations with gemologists and designers to brainstorm their perfect setting.
“We have a selection of signature settings that clients frequently gravitate toward, but that doesn’t stop us from creating one-off designs with clients that have customizations in mind,” shares Nicole Wegman, founder and CEO of Ring Concierge. “We love to partner with our clients and help them create the ring of their dreams. After all, this is a moment most of our clients have thought about for quite some time and it’s important to us to bring their vision to life.”
Tradition has it that one person proposes with a ring that is a total surprise to their partner. But trends have shifted in the past few years. “Since the nature of our business is so social media-driven, often it is the girl who’s going to be wearing the ring who finds us and establishes her preferences,” explains designer Stephanie Gottlieb. “So she may be a part of the initial conversations. Then, each couple operates a little bit differently.”
Olivia Landau, founder and CEO of The Clear Cut notes that close to 90% of her customers work on designing a bespoke engagement ring as a team. “Most of the time during the first phone consultation or while picking out the diamonds, both people will work together and then one person will drop out for an element of surprise,” she shares. “A lot of couples collaborate financially, too. It’s a very involved process and something that’s super personal. You’re going to wear it on your hand forever, so you want to make sure that you love it and that you’re making the right investment.”
Start With Ring Education
Before you begin the process of designing a custom ring, you should educate yourself on the ins and outs of engagement rings. If you plan to have a diamond engagement ring, learning about the 4Cs (cut, color, clarity, and carat) is essential. This can give you a scope of the quality, size, style, and, ultimately, cost of your center stone.
“I think budget is the biggest piece that influences what the ring inevitably looks like,” notes Gottlieb. “We always want to manage expectations for a couple, we would never want them to be trying on rings that don’t suit their budget. Upfront, have a conversation about that and then figure out what that means from a carat size perspective and what types of compromises you’re willing to make on quality to get to a certain size.”
You also should consider whether you want to purchase a natural or lab-grown diamond. Some couples prefer ethically sourced natural diamonds for their time-tested value and ability to support local mining communities, while others prefer lab-grown stones due to their lower costs and more sustainable production. Certain designers work exclusively with one type of stone, so consider this when researching a jeweler to partner with.
Style is, of course, one of the most important factors in choosing your ring. Many jewelers suggest looking online and trying on a few rings to get a broader idea of what might work best for you. “Try on a bunch of styles—even ones that you don’t originally gravitate towards! Mixing shapes, carat sizes, and metal colors might pleasantly surprise you,” says Wegman. She notes that a style you fell in love with in an Instagram post might not be the right fit for your own ring finger. “Find inspo pictures of your favorite shapes and settings on someone with similar hands. Some shapes you think you’ll love may not be the most flattering for your hands.”
Since you’ll likely be wearing your engagement ring every day, you should consider your lifestyle and the longevity of the ring when brainstorming a design. “No matter what, over time, you are going to put wear on it,” shares Landau. “These are pieces that will last a lifetime and beyond as long as they are well maintained.” For slightly softer metal bands in gold, she advises pairing it with prongs in platinum (a harder metal) to ensure your center stone is secure. She also suggests opting for a band that’s at least 1.5 millimeters wide and considering thicker bezel settings if you want more security.
While you might be wearing your ring alone during the engagement period, don’t forget about how you’ll eventually pair your stone with a wedding band. “When thinking through bands, there are no rules, only suggestions,” says Wegman. “Feel free to mix and match, and you don’t need to stick to just one–having a few bands gives you the opportunity to mix and match your look.”
Decide on your bespoke engagement ring design
One of the best aspects of working with a jeweler on creating a bespoke design is the creative possibilities that come with making your dream ring. “What’s nice about bespoke is that everything we do is very custom,” shares Gottlieb. “So if the client loves what they’ve seen, but they want to add a birthstone or they want to change a little aspect of the design, those are all things that we can accommodate. Sometimes a client has no idea what they want, but they know that they’ve seen our jewelry, love the quality, and love our creativity. That’s where we get to have fun guiding them to what type of rings suits them, and understanding who they are and their lifestyle preferences. The customer gets to feel that their ring is a real reflection of who they are and who they’re marrying.”
The biggest investment in an engagement ring is the cost of the stone. A designer should be able to help you collaborate with a gemologist to find the perfect stone that fits your style and budget. Gottlieb says selecting this piece of the puzzle may take a little bit of time, but advises that it’s worth it to find the ideal fit.
It’s also possible to source a certified GIA diamond or a gemstone on your own before working with a designer, or to rework an heirloom stone from a family member’s ring. Landau, who wears an heirloom diamond herself, says determining the specs of that vintage stone is incredibly important. “A lot of the time, heirloom diamonds are not going to be certified or not have the right certifications. The first thing we can help do is get it GIA certified so we know exactly what the quality is,” she shares. This can help determine the cost of the stone and help you properly insure the ring. She adds, “If you want to get pavé diamonds, add side stones, or do anything creative, then we’re able to match the quality perfectly to your heirloom so it looks seamless.”
You should expect to have a few consultations with your jeweler to determine your perfect setting. This process should be a collaboration, integrating factors such as your personal style, your designer’s vision, and your budget. Then comes the production process. Depending on the brand, it can take anywhere from three to eight weeks to create your ring.
Once finished, be sure to talk with your jeweler about suggestions to insure your ring. “I cannot express how important it is to insure your engagement ring,” notes Wegman. “It’s often the most valuable item people own and the smallest! We always recommend taking out a separate policy on your jewelry to ensure you’re covered—make sure theft, damage, and mysterious disappearance are all included in the policy.”
Originally published in Vogue.com