...'I don't want anything too blingy'...literally every other email I received said the same thing. Although 'blingy' is a word I try to refrain from using, it does manage to conjure up images of big, flashy rocks pretty well, and I know exactly what these girls mean when they use it.
For those of us who aren't too bothered about counting carats, prefer understated fashion rather than over-the-top ostentation, Sweet Pea is the shop to visit. On a pretty, quiet street in Primrose Hill, North London, this cool little boutique has made its name for simple, elegant, delicate jewellery.
Owner Siobahn O'Neill has been making jewellery since the early 1990s, and her trademark draping fine gold chains and pops of colour with unusual gemstones have translated nicely into a delicate, easy to wear range of unusual engagement rings, eternity rings and wedding bands.
Using less traditional gemstones such as lilac, peach and teal sapphires, rose cut diamonds and rubellites, all the engagement rings feature a skinny band, and a delicately hued gemstone at the centre of the design.
A million miles away from a traditional diamond solitaire ring, these dusty, hazy colour pallettes of diamonds and sapphires are perfect for those looking for something more low-key, and are light on the finger. Best-sellers for the local clientele of rock stars, actors, and artists include this rose cut diamond ring in yellow gold, with a fitted wedding band either side to create a detached halo. A delicate and unusual ring stack creating an alternative engagement and wedding band combination.
The boutique itself is filled with cute curiosities, from vintage flea market finds to antique taxidermy, and the attentive and super knowledgeable staff allow you to browse without feeling any pressure. The bespoke engagement ring service in-store means you can customise existing designs, as well as starting completely from scratch, choosing the gemstone, gem shape and colour to design your own ring in the trademark Sweet Pea style.
If you're looking for an alternative to the traditional soitaire diamond ring, but don't want to stray too far down the 'unusual engagement ring' route, they also have thoughtfully designed single stone rings that somehow manage to avoid the design cliches of a standard diamond solitaire - using rose cuts instead of brilliant round diamonds, or soft, sweeping claws of yellow gold to hold the stone - everything feels tasteful, relaxed, stylish and carefully made by hand. The Minimalist's dream.
The calmness of the boutique, along with the relaxed staff, means that you feel as if you have plenty of time for trying whatever you feel like - there's a large selection of necklaces, rings, bracelets and earrings as well as the engagement rings - making for a relaxing, quiet experience.
This would be my first recommendation to those looking for a simple, minimalist engagement ring, as well as those who like pretty, dainty designs. The unusual diamond cuts and gemstone colours in store allow for less traditional design details, meaning you can make a statement - without making a statement. It'll make sense when you're there, trust me...
P.S. The excellent pub across the road is also a great place for all-important chats with your other half as to what you can really afford.
Sweet Pea Jewellery Boutique, 77 Gloucester Road, NW1 8LD. Visit www.sweetpeajewellery.com to see a selection of the pieces featured above.
All photos by Emma Hare Photography, www.emmahare.com.