Just as I love to see inside the home of a interior designer, or what a nutritionist actually eats for breakfast, laying eyes on the actual engagement rings of jewellery designers is always fascinating. Did they design it themselves? Which gemstone do they choose when they have the world's top diamond dealers on speed-dial? Do they go big and blingy or understated and minimal?
I spoke to 7 of the top independent fine jewellery designers from around the world and asked them to share the most intimate design of their career: their own engagement ring.
Solange Azagury Partridge of Solange, London, UK
"I found faceted diamonds and traditional shapes very ageing and old-fashioned" recalls Solange Azagury Partridge, the self-taught award-winning jewellery and interiors designer whose work is found in the permenant collections of the V&A in London as well as Les Arts Décoratifs at the Louvre Museum in Paris. A standard round cut solitaire diamond was definitley not in-line with the designer's style and taste, and she went on the hunt for something different.
Solange explains, "I wanted a diamond to symbolise the enduring, indestructible nature of love but it took me a while to find the one: this untampered with, natural octahedral shaped diamond felt unusual, real and earthy." The raw diamond fitted the designer's vision, and she designed it to sit off-centre, "on this big bombe shaped lump of gold. It felt strong, tough and youthful."
Her own engagement ring was the first thing she ever designed. What followed was equally as uncompromising: gobstopper gemstones, kaleidoscopic colour, neon laquer and a good dose of British humour and irony feature. With two flagship boutiques in London and New York, her signature style brought a blast of idiosyncratic balls to the fine jewellery world when she opened the doors to her London store in 1995.
"I didn’t design it with any thoughts as to how well it would age," says Solange, "I just wanted it to encapsulate my spirit at that time." And that it does - the raw, rough diamond feels bold and brave; perfect for a designer who never follows the rules.
Caitlin Mociun of Mociun, Brooklyn, New York
Sitting atop their custom-built displays in her namesake jewellery boutique in Brooklyn, New York, Caitlin Mociun's signature asymmetrical designs combine unusual and unexpected gemstones with a playful twist of colour. Highly coveted and on the top of many a fashion editor's wish list, there is nothing in Caitlin's collections that I didn't want to buy when I visited the store last year.
Working with rare diamond and gemstone cuts, her one-of-a-kind designs are unique, wearable and elegant - the kind of thing that you could never describe or know you wanted until it was right in front of you. Caitlin's own engagement ring is exactly this: and the unusual 2ct oval cut diamond was the starting point.
Caitlin and her husband, Tammer Hijazi, a furniture designer and cofounder of Bower Studios, both designed the ring together one weekend. "He picked a photo of a building that he wanted the ring to be inspired by and then I set out to find a diamond that felt like the right shape" she describes. "Once we found a diamond we sat down in our living room on a Saturday and started sketching until we hit upon the right design. I designed my engagement ring and wedding band, and an additional ring for stacking all at the same time."
The engagement ring features an incredible 2ct 'step-cut' oval diamond set in 18k yellow gold and is flanked by two white diamond tapered baguettes. It sits below a stacking ring of round, lavender coloured diamonds dotted above a channel of champagne diamond baguettes. Inspirations were not just found in architecture, she says, "as well as the building that we used as inspiration I was thinking about the photograph Larmes from 1934 by Man Ray while designing."
A surreal detail is a fitting twist to this jewellery designer's engagement ring, encapsulating the essence of her design DNA that continually surprises and delights her loyal tribe of customers.
Caitlin Mociun is taking virtual design consultations for custom pieces during the lockdown, for more information get in touch via www.mociun.com.
Rachel Boston, London, UK
"My husband and I married in Vegas about 2 months after we decided to get engaged so I didn’t have time to make a ring before the wedding" explains the London born-and-bred Rachel Boston, a jewellery designer known for her modern, deco-inspired jewellery with a refined edge. "It was about a year after the wedding that I found the diamond, and fell in love with a 2.17ct icy imperfect diamond, an unusual hexagonal rose cut."
Being one of London's most in-demand custom engagement ring designers meant that Rachel had to take any opportunity she could to find time to design the ring, and eventually started the process on the Eurostar coming back from Paris Fashion week. "I had been putting off designing it but the journey gave the perfect time to reflect and work on ideas."
The unique cut diamond was the focal point for the design. "The central stone doesn’t sparkle like a traditional white clear diamond so I added diamonds on the bands and also around the setting," Rachel explains, adding that she also mixed metals to achieve a cleaner look. "The setting is platinum to make the claws more discreet on the icy grey stone." Mixing platinum with yellow gold wasn't an issue for the designer, and she wasn't willing to bow to tradition and use a white metal. "Yellow gold is all that I wear," she adds.
Discover more of Rachel Boston's bespoke engagement ring designs at www.rachelboston.co.uk
One of the original designers to champion true 'alternative bridal' in her engagement ring offering, Anna Sheffield has been making engagement rings for bohemian, soulful jewellery lovers in Greenwich village and beyond for many years.
Her own engagement ring came about in an equally alternative way; after no real proposal and a mutual decision not to get an actual engagement ring. Interestingly a ring that Anna wears on a daily basis became more significant to them both, as Anna explains. "The serpent ring symbolises both transformation and fertility, and I felt like it was the right symbol for then and now," she tells me. "The serpent ring has been my daily wear for at least 5 years, and it stacks with all of my favorite nesting bands so I can change the look in how I style it, from simple to diamond encrusted."
The romantic and sentimental act of collecting and stacking meaningful pieces felt right to her, with her fingers stacked with rings that "feel like tree rings, like an expression of time passing and memories collected."
Opting for matching wedding bands to commemorate the day, Anna and her husband both wear rings from the Celestine collection, his studded with 5 red spinels, and hers with 5 clusters of diamonds. "The five stone clusters are at the points of a star, if you drew one inside the circle, which feels emblematic of fate to me. Like we are all star dust, and here we are together in this life."
To explore the Anna Sheffield Bridal collection, visit: Annasheffield.com.
Brent Neale Winston of Brent Neale, New York City, USA
New York based jewellery designer Brent Neale Winston is having a moment. Her signature 'gypsy set' series of rings send her 25k followers on instagram into a frenzy every time she posts a new design, with the smooth, simple silhouette and mega gemstones, they set the ideal balance between wearable and statement - the perfect formula for a cult piece.
"My engagement ring was originally set in a platinum prong setting" explains Brent from her New York home. "When my husband proposed he told me that if I ever wanted to change it he would never be offended, and had really just wanted to get the nicest stones he could because he knew I could design my own setting."
She wore as it was originally given to her for a while, before deciding to use the incredible Asscher-cut central diamond and two step-cut side diamonds to create one of her signature designs about 4 years ago. The results are the perfect showcase for her trademark style; inspiring women who feel their own engagement ring could do with a contemporary update (as long as their husbands are as understanding as Brent's).
Hannah Martin, London, UK
Hannah Martin is a London based jewellery designer with a crystal clear vision and a loyal tribe of followers. Based in London's Clerkenwell in a beautiful, luxury space hidden down a cobbled alleyway, her work is uncompromising and bold, an aesthetic she represented in its most undiluted state for her own engagement ring.
"Practicality and scale was not a barrier to me when designing my ring" explains the designer of her own engagement ring. "I have never been one to shy away from large, sculptural rings, so my engagement ring is no exception." Her boyfriend proposed with an uncut emerald, wise to the fact that Hannah wouldn't be happy with anyone else designing something so important to her.
Taking the stone to her gem cutter, they explored the natural crystal structure of the stone and allowed its internal state to lead the shape of the stone. She was thrilled with the resulting fan shape - unique and resonating with deep green hues.
"I wanted to get in all the design elements that I love, and are part of my style, into this piece" Hannah explains. Known for her smooth, sculptural pieces imbued with a subtle androgyny, an elegant edge and a masculine punch, Hannah made sure her own engagement ring was an intoxicating mix of all of the above. "The ring is half white gold, half rose gold, and the central fan-cut emerald is the star of the show. I added a generous smattering of channel set sapphires, to compliment the emerald."
Despite no longer being married, Hannah wears her engagement ring regularly, a true statement of her disregard of convention. This showstopper won't be sitting in a drawer gathering dust.
Explore Hannah Martin's world at www.hannahmartinlondon.com.
Kirsty Stone of Retrouvai, Los Angeles, USA
Founder of LA-based jewellery label Retrouvai, the aptly-named Kirsty Stone is one of a small group of jewellers working today who have succeeded in creating a truly unique aesthetic in the jewellery world. Unique, tactile talismans with a simple yet recognisable signature styling, Kirsty's work feels substantial, heirloom-worthy and playful.
She recalls stumbling across the diamond when it landed on her desk one day, and was immediately smitten. "The diamond had come out of an antique setting and was uncertified," Kirsty explains. "I don't work much with antique stones but I fell in love with the chunky romantic faceting." As most good jewellers will tell you, a good diamond speaks to you almost instantly, and Kirsty snapped it up "without a project in mind."
Set in a style taken from her Modern Love capsule collection, "the diamond now lives in this heavy signature ring setting that I love to wear everyday" she explains. "It would make a gorgeous forever piece for someone looking for something a little off the beaten path."
See more from Retrouvai: www.retrouvai.com.
All the designers featured are taking virtual appointments for custom designs, bespoke projects or heirloom redesigns.
If you'd like to create your own dream engagement ring, or start a redesign using inherited or existing diamonds or gemstones, please get in touch for a free consultation.