Finding the perfect engagement ring can be a daunting process; and the overwhelming amount of choice when you start looking online can make the problem harder rather than easier.
If you're thinking of buying a bespoke ring - commissioning a custom design that has been created only for you rather than buying one off-the-shelf - the best advice is to use a brilliant independent designer rather than going to a big name brand. This option isn't for everyone; if you or your partner has long dreamt of a Tiffany engagement ring, then by all means this is the way you should go. But for those looking for something less traditional that really represents their personal style, or, if you're someone wanting to really maximise your budget, or find an unusual or ethical gemstone, then an independent jeweller is by far the best option.
We believe the future of luxury lies in using smaller-scale businesses, where we save for and spend our money on ethically and beautifully designed products made by skilled workers who are rewarded for their expertise, over lesser quality, mass-made, cookie-cutter designs. Using an independent jewellery designer allows you to check-in with each level of the business you're buying from, making sure the materials are ethical and the quality is high, as well as getting every detail just right. The value you are getting for your budget is much, much more than a financial saving alone.
Here are my top tips for buying a bespoke engagement ring.
1. Defy convention, and be brave.
Tradition has meant that a brilliant cut, round solitaire diamond ring is considered the ultimate engagement ring style, but there are so many other options out there.
A lot of people who get in touch with me worry if certain gemstones are even ‘allowed’ in engagement rings. They feel like they don’t really know the rules of what they’re supposed to buy in order to get it right, but there really isn't only one 'right' way; I always encourage people to think outside of the traditional box, to be brave and to try and go with their instinct - and getting a ring designed from scratch really allows you to do this.
Think about what you or your partner truly like, and wear. If you know that deep down you’re just not a diamond solitaire kind of girl (like me), or that your partner doesn’t want a ring to look like everyone else’s, then you really don’t need to follow tradition and convention for the sake of it. And remember; it's the jeweller's responsibility to bring inspiration and ideas to the table, not yours. You don't need to have an exact idea of what you're looking for, and most designers are extremely adept at pulling out the right information from you to arrive at the perfect design.
2. Maximise your budget, big or small.
This is my favourite tip for buying any kind of fine jewellery. Staying away from big name fine jewellers will most definitely save you money. Most independent jewellers don’t have a traditional shop or boutique on the high street, and they work out of a studio or showroom. These studio jewellers are an incredible seam of talent running through the jewellery industry, and many have usually trained with one of the big name jewellers, meaning they have high-end, 'Bond Street' experience, but have chosen to set up their own businesses. Working from beautiful studios in sometimes quite unexpected places means that they are saving a lot of money in rent by not having a traditional retail space, and the resulting lower overheads mean a fairer mark-up on their designs than you would expect in a big name boutique.
3. Meet directly with the designer
There are lots of options online to 'design' a bespoke ring virtually by choosing from a limited number of options, like gold colour or diamond shape. But bespoke engagement rings can go so much further than that. Meeting with a designer themselves rather than clicking on a few options means you can convey exactly what you want directly to them, including everything from the width of the band to the shape of the claws holding the gemstone. Their experience interacting with clients means they will ask the most relevant and pertinent questions, revealing ideas and styles that you might not have considered, but love.
You can really get a feel of the taste and style of the designer by going to their showroom or studio, and I always recommend meeting in person if you’re buying something bespoke for this reason. Also, being independent means that the designer doesn’t need to stick to a certain style or aesthetic that a big brand might adhere to, so you will have more opportunity for something truly original.
4. Request ethical and responsibly sourced materials to make your jewellery
There are more options than just choosing a Kimberly Process certified diamond. Recycled gold, fairmined gemstones from small mines, and even Fairmined metals can be used in bespoke designs. Ask your jeweller what steps they've taken throughout the supply chain to ensure materials are responsibly sourced and workers are fairly paid - that applies to the UK as well.
5. Go with your gut
After years of helping people find their dream ring, I've noticed that most people have a lot more idea and understanding of what they want than they give themselves credit for at the beginning of the process. When it comes to choosing a diamond for example, after sitting down with three or four seemingly identical looking diamonds and having their characteristics outlined by the designer, you'll be surprised at how easy it is to choose the one that 'speaks to you' the most. It doesn't matter that you're not an expert; choosing a gemstone or a design is actually a lot easier than you think after being led through the process with a brilliant designer.
And lastly, my advice would be to go for it. Commissioning a bespoke engagement ring or piece of jewellery is exciting and rewarding, and experience that we may only be able to have once or twice in our lifetime, and nothing really compares to wearing something completely and totally unique, designed to impeccable standards by a super talented jeweller.
So be brave, find your perfect jeweller, and get started.
For some free advice or suggestions on who would be the best jeweller for you, feel free to get in touch here.
Main image; Hattie Rickards by Emma Hare