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How to Propose to a Jewellery Designer

Proposing to a jewellery designer...the pressure, the pressure. Fortunately (and unfortunately) convention and tradition are no longer as important as they once were when it comes to buying an engagement ring. The set of rules that once guided people in one direction - diamond, solitaire, platinum, etc etc - have definitely loosened over the years; meaning that women get to wear something that feels inherently more 'them' than a standard diamond engagement ring. But this relaxing of convention brings with it an added stress; an almost infinite choice, a chance to be different or 'express yourself' through something that you're planning to wear every day for ever. Gulp.

Add to that the pressure of presenting a piece of extremely meaningful jewellery to someone whose job it is to design and make such creations for other people, and that's when the fear really sets it. It's like me proposing to my actor boyfriend through the medium of interpretive dance. So this post is dedicated to the brave and the bold; the fiancés and now husbands of London's top jewellery designers, who faced the fear and popped the question anyway, with imaginative and non-conventional alternatives that somehow convinced their fiercely talented and wildly creative girlfriends to say 'yes'.

Hannah Martin, Creative Director, HANNAH MARTIN LONDON: Hannah's super-sleuth husband Max visited Hannah's own gemstone suppliers to find the perfect uncut rough emerald...romantic and wily.

Before and After: the rough emerald that London jeweller Hannah Martin's partner proposed with.

Did your partner propose with a ring?

He proposed with an uncut emerald, and a Haribo jelly ring!

Can you tell me a little bit about your ring? Did you design it yourself? 

I designed the ring myself – Max, my husband, knew there would be no other option than this! What was great though is that the ring form grew from the stone he proposed with. When I took the uncut stone to my stone cutter I asked him to allow the stone itself to lead the shape of the cut. All stones have natural crystal structures and inclusions, and until you start cutting the ‘windows’ you don't really know what is happening inside. My emerald ended up being a natural fan-like shape, with an incredible colour to it, which I was delighted about.

Once the stone had been cut I started to work on designs that were led by the shape of the cut. I have never been one to shy away from large, sculptural rings, so my engagement ring is no exception. I added a generous smattering of channel set sapphires, to compliment the emerald. The ring is half white gold, half rose gold, and then of course the central fan-cut emerald is the star of the show.

How did you go about designing your perfect ring? How did you balance practicality (as you use your hands so much in your job) vs show-stopping beauty? 

I would never have been happy if someone else had the design job for my ring! I also have to come clean and say practicality took a back seat when it came to this piece. I wanted show-stopper, something that I would never tire of. I wear big rings all day everyday anyway, so size wasn’t really a barrier for me.

I wanted to get in all the design elements that I love, and are part of my style, into this piece.

It was important for me that it was very sculptural, and had lots of different views, as you look at it from different angles. This is always a strong theme in my work – jewellery should be as 3-dimensional as possible, as our bodies are always moving, revealing the piece in numerous different ways. I also wanted to capture the juxtaposition of hard, graphic lines, with soft, sensual curves – again another strong theme in my work.

On top of all this the ring had to be something that would keep me interested for a very long time!

Did it feel like your dream commission or was it daunting having yourself as the client? 

To begin with it was a little daunting, to create what should be my ‘ultimate’ ring. But as soon as I started it was amazing. I have to admit I am a fairly selfish designer anyway – I design to my own taste and style, and what I believe looks best. This of course was the ultimate in selfish design, and I revelled in it. The process wasn’t really any different to any other design project, as I constantly question myself and my work from beginning to end of the process – making sure what I am doing is the best possible way I believe I can do it. This ring wasn’t really any different to that, but with the added joy of being able to wear it at the end!

Do you think your partner felt any added pressure proposing to a jewellery designer?

Without a doubt. Not only am I a jewellery designer, but an unbelievably picky one at that! He actually roped my business partner into the whole process, which was a great idea, as it meant he could visit our stone dealers and have access to the best possible stones he could get. I don't think he could have come up with a better way to propose than with the uncut Gemfield’s emerald – he hit the nail on the head!

www.hannahmartinlondon.com

 

Lito Karakostanaglou, Designer and Creative director, LITO: Lito's boyfriend decided that 'sexy' and 'lightly possessive' was the way to demonstrate his intentions. 

How did your partner propose?

He proposed with a bracelet, but I had already told him which bracelet I wanted! He is also a jewellery designer, but whenever he designs something for me I always change it, so he didn't want to risk it with the proposal ring!

What's the bracelet like?

The bracelet is 18ct white gold with diamonds and by KOVA - it looks like a handcuff, so I liked the connotation behind it! We have also been together for almost 13 years (with a few 'interruptions') so I liked the symbolism of the handcuff after all that time...

www.lito-jewelry.com

 

Ana De Costa, Creative Cirector, ANA DE COSTA LONDON: Ana's partner proposed with a giant 2ct diamond she had been given in exchange for some design work for a diamond mine in South Africa.

How did your boyfriend propose?

Andrew proposed in a hot air balloon with a loose huge 2ct diamond!

Can you tell me a little bit about your ring? Did you design it yourself? 

Yes, I designed it myself although I didn't make it. It's a classic art deco design aimed to show-off the magnificent centre stone (E colour and VVS clarity), with stepped baguette cut diamond shoulders on either side. 

How did you approach designing your own engagement ring?

I designed the ring with the centre stone as the main focus. A very good friend actually made my ring as I didn't want to make it myself! I didn't really worry about the practical side of things as I know I can always re-polish the platinum or replace the shank if I trash it too much, it's pretty knackered now. My little boy now likes to wear it and shouts "more diamonds!" quite a lot..... A jeweller in the making!

  Do you think your partner felt any added pressure proposing to a jewellery designer?

I don't think Andrew felt any pressure, as I already had the massive centre stone so it was quite easy for him really! He's quite a confident chap and he knew I would figure out a design I liked.

www.anadecosta.com

 

Jessica Poole, Owner of Jessica Poole Jewellery: Her jewellery designer boyfriend merged their tastes together and made her beautiful ring with his own hands. That's romance right there. 

 Did your partner propose with a ring?

He did, we were on holiday in Vietnam and it was a surprise. However I had dropped hints about a ring that I liked of his. I love both white and yellow metal so when we had spoke of it in the past I left that choice very much up to him 

Can you tell me a little bit about your ring? 

It's made from quite classic materials; diamond and platinum, which I like as it very much says "engagement" ring, but I feel it's still very contemporary and simple enough that I won't tire of it, plus the rub-over settings and platinum metal means I never have to take it off as it's hard wearing and very secure. It's very much a mixture of both our styles; clean, soft lines with a symmetric organic feel. 

Did you design the ring yourself?

Dave chose the design and surprised me with it which I liked both for the romantic gesture but also it took the pressure off me making my own ring! When it's someone else's design I think it's easier to love it for what it is. I can be very critical of my own work and so I'm not sure if left up to me I would every be happy with my own design. I'm lucky in that my husband is a jeweller so I not only have the pleasure of a ring designed just for me but also made by the man I love. 

Do you think your partner felt any added pressure proposing to a jewellery designer?

Ha! This is a funny question as we are both jewellers. I have been making jewellery since I was 14 yrs old, so before I met Dave no boyfriend had ever even tried to buy me jewellery. It's lovely to have this one piece, and arguably the most important piece, made for me. I know Dave did feel quite a bit of pressure when making my ring as he knows I have a very clear idea of what I like and don't like, but he got it bang on - it is a nice mix of both Dave's and my styles, we just need to get round to making the wedding band now! 

www.jessicapoole.co.uk / www.mc-caul.com 

 

Hattie Rickards, Creative Director, HATTIE RICKARDS LONDON: Her partner cunningly utilised her contacts and they all worked behind her back to create the perfect proposal ring. The only time when this combination of stealth, lies and secrecy is OK.

Did your partner propose with a ring?

He did indeed, but not this ring! There was no way he was going to risk getting a ring commissioned when his fiancée was a jewellery designer! More than anything else he knew I’d want the once in a lifetime opportunity to design my own ring. But it still needed to be a special and thoughtful proposal. At the time we were both researching 3D printing as a business opportunity, so Toby taught himself some basic 3D CAD and drew a variation on one of the largest diamond engagement rings in the world (which belonged to Elizabeth Taylor), then got a company in the Netherlands to 3D print it.   He even secretly got in touch with my packaging supplier in Pakistan, designed a bespoke ring box with a personalised logo on the lid ready for the proposal!

Can you tell me a little bit about your ring? Did you design it yourself?

The ring is handmade here in the UK out of 18ct Ecological yellow gold with tapering round white diamonds and custom cut rubies and blue sapphires.

It was a very odd feeling when I ended up being given the opportunity to design my very own engagement ring. Mainly because I had been so used to thinking about other peoples engagement rings, that I had never thought about my own! I was overwhelmed and under pressure from my friends as this was their first question – “what are you having for your ring?!”

I had never thought I would wear a large diamond on my finger and I wanted some colour, but most importantly, I knew that I wanted to include memories of my late Mother into my own ring. So I unset the diamonds from her engagement ring re-worked them into my own design adding the rubies and sapphires.

How did you go about designing your perfect ring? How did you balance practicality (as you use your hands so much in your job) vs show-stopping beauty? Or did you offload the responsibility to someone else? 

I had to keep reining my thoughts in as some of the designs got a little wild! I probably went through 20 design variations… I was a little indecisive! I had to really think hard about what my favourite shapes, styles and cuts were. Then I just had to be my own client – asking myself what is going to be the most timeless design and materials for me, what would suit my fingers? What do I want to be looking down at when I’m 80yrs old? However, it also had to be something special – it is now one of my most important marketing tools… every potential client gets to see it and hold it.

Did it feel like your dream commission or was it hard having yourself as the client? 

The project did keep being shoved to the bottom of the pile as my other clients got priority so my ring took longer than usual! Making the final decision on the design was a real challenge – I guess because I hadn’t been dreaming about the design for a long time prior, I felt even more pressure to make sure it was correct so I had to rely a lot on my gut instinct. It taught me a huge amount about what the client feels when I am working with them.

Do you think your partner felt any added pressure proposing to a jewellery designer?

I think he had to work hard on making the proposal special (and he succeeded!) – otherwise it would have felt like a cop-out. Once I got started on the design he was involved and consulted from start to finish, giving his input on all the design elements. We worked well as team… hopefully that bodes well!

www.hattierickards.com

 

Daisy Knights, Creative Director, DAISY KNIGHTS: The laid back surfer proposal...

Did your partner propose with a ring?

Yes, in my studio in the Cotswolds. He surprised me by just turning up unexpectedly!

Can you tell me a little bit about your ring? 

My ring is an Edwardian ring from my husband's family, it previously belonged to his great great grandmother whose husband bought it for her with the profit from their first tea export. It is old mine cut diamonds and platinum.

Luckily neither John nor I didn't have to design my ring! We had been friends for years before we got together and I saw the ring then and said jokingly if we ever get married I want that ring please! I can't imagine having any other design. The ring was so old and wobbly that I did remake the whole thing from scratch but to an identical design. That way it will live on for generations!

 

So, it seems the key to proposing to a jeweller, or indeed anyone working in a creative design industry, is to use as many of their contacts as possible, or go down the sentimental route. It's best to know whether your partner is the type to want to be involved, or just to have the final ring presented to them (we're busy enough as it is, thanks).

In the end, it's all about the question and the motivation behind it...and on that note, here's my engagement ring. Bought on the spur of the moment (and secretly) by my boyfriend whilst we were travelling around New Zealand this winter, from the tiniest shop in the tiniest town in the middle of nowhere. It's a bit art nouveau, a bit 70s, is hugely significant to me now for many reasons, looks nothing like an engagement ring, and I absolutely love it.

 

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Behind the Designs: Jewellery Designer Fernando Jorge
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