Photo courtesy of Engage Diamond Studio Image by: Photo courtesy of Engage Diamond Studio
Now more than ever, men and women want their engagement rings and wedding bands to be unique and speak to their personalities. “Ten to 15 years ago, people typically went to a store to pick up a style that was already there, but now it’s quite the opposite,” says Ji Song, owner of Engage Diamond Studio in Toronto. We chatted with him all about engagement rings (random fact: at least 80 percent of his clients shop as couples!) and got tips on how to create the perfect custom design.
1. Don't stress
“A lot of people get apprehensive because they’re not ‘design people,’” says Song. “I tell them that it’s an evolutionary process.” The design will go through many steps, and an expert will be there to help all along the way. Before you buy, you’ll get to see computer renderings and possibly even prototypes in wax, resin or metal.
2. Get inspired
Though an expert can help you create a ring from scratch, it’s a good idea to do some preliminary research on you own. Surf Pinterest and build a board of all your faves, or window shop on jewellery sites. You’ll start to get a better idea of your personal style—classic, retro, quirky, feminine—and the metals and stones you prefer. The more ideas and images you bring to your design appointments, the easier it is for the designer to understand your needs.
3. Try rings on
Looking at photos is a great start, but you won’t know for sure if you like a style until you’ve slipped it on your finger. “A lot of people will come in with pictures of designs that they think they like, but then on their hand it might look different,” says Song.
4. Read the fine print
Engage Diamond Studios requires a 20 percent deposit upfront, another 20 percent when the client approves the design, and the remaining 60 percent when s/he approves the final product. “If they’re not happy with it, we just scrap it and start from scratch,” says Song. At other custom design studios, a customer will lose the deposit if s/he doesn’t want to purchase the final product. Be sure you understand your designer’s policy before making a payment, and ask about financing options, if necessary.
5. Consider your budget
The old adage that a man should shell out two months’ salary for his gal’s engagement ring no longer stands. Only pay what you are comfortable with and can afford. Surprisingly, a custom ring could be more affordable than a ready-made ring, because the studio doesn’t need to mark up the ring’s price to pay for retail overhead. The key to meeting your budget expectations: Shop around.
6. Know the trends, but don't be a slave to them
At the moment, vintage styles,rose gold and mixed-metal rings are trending. Halo designs—a centre stone surrounded by smaller stones—are also big right now. Because these styles are trendy, it’s likely you’ll see them in many stores and online. But just because you see a design everywhere doesn’t mean it’s right for you.
7. Think outside the box
The sky’s the limit when it comes to designing a ring (though there are practical requirements that need to be met).
Engraving is a common addition to a custom ring, especially for wedding bands. “The most common engravings are related to a date or a special message,” says Jong. “I’ve done a secret message in Elvish. I had two physicists put a formula on the inside of the band.”
It’s also possible to symbolically match your ring to your partner’s design, even if you have different tastes. “My wife has three thin bands, one white gold, one rose gold and the other yellow gold,” says Song. “I made mine yellow gold on the inside, white gold on the outside and added an infinity symbol in rose gold.” He has also placed partners’ birth stones on the inside of bands. For example, if a woman’s birth stone is ruby, the husband could ask for a small ruby on the inside of his band.
Also keep in mind that an engagement ring doesn’t have to include diamonds: Consider pearls, opals and sapphires (which come in every colour of the rainbow).
8. Know your stones
It’s important to choose a designer that can educate you on cut, colour, clarity and carat, and who can explain why one stone costs $1,000 and another costs $4,000, even though the two look similar.
9. Know your metals
Just because a metal is expensive doesn’t mean it is the best. White gold, palladium and platinum look almost identical, but platinum is a lot heavier. Since precious metals are sold by weight, Platinum is quite expensive, though not necessarily “better.” Palladium is similar in price to white (which is actually yellow gold mixed with a white metal such as nickel), rose (yellow gold mixed with copper) and yellow gold.
10. Plan six weeks ahead
Though it’s possible to create a custom ring—from the first appointment to the final product—in a week, a typical time frame is three to six weeks.