You’ll be wearing your rings for ever, so why not make it personal? Bespoke makers tell Natasha Radmehr about customising the gems, metal, design and more to create something unique
We all have these pieces of jewellery, don’t we? The ones we never take off and feel naked without. And if you’re planning a wedding, you’ll soon have a few more. Your engagement and wedding rings will become some of your most treasured and admired possessions, imbued with deep emotional significance. So how about having them custom designed to make them even more personal to you?
Especially for you
“A bespoke ring means that everything is tailored towards your needs, right down to the final design and budget,” says Karen Pirie of McCalls Jewellers in Aberdeen. “It’s your chance to create something unique that reflects your personality and style, resulting in a piece you will love forever.”
The custom route is for you if you have a vision of how you’d like your ring to look, but can’t find anything in the shops that quite matches up to the idea in your head. It’s also a great option for anyone who wants to repurpose family heirlooms – perhaps you’d like to incorporate precious stones from your granny’s wedding ring into your own. Plus, contrary to popular belief, going bespoke can actually be more cost-effective than buying an off-the-shelf design.
“I think that’s what is so important about the bespoke process: you get to mix and match different elements in a way that can fit with your budget and your needs,” says Sarah Raffel of Brazen Studios in Glasgow.
“So perhaps if you want a particular stone that is quite expensive, you can have a 9ct gold band instead of 18ct to balance out the cost. And the fact that a piece of you has gone into the process of making your ring gives it added value.”
Sold on the idea? Look for a jewellery designer whose style reflects your own. While most talented jewellers are versatile and able to work to any brief, you’ll notice that they tend to have a signature look. Choose someone with the aesthetic you’re generally drawn to and it’ll make the process all the smoother.
Once you’ve picked your designer, you’ll have a first appointment with them to chat about what it is you’re looking for. Although rings usually take around six weeks to make on average, you should allow at least a three-month window to account for the decision-making and design process.
Do some research before your initial consultation by looking through magazines and jewellers’ social media accounts to get inspiration and an idea of costs, but don’t worry about having it all sussed out. “I actually think it’s good not to have it totally nailed down before you go,” says Sarah of Brazen Studios. “It’s exciting to retain that element of wonder so that you feel you’re going to really explore your options.”
During your first meeting, you’ll discuss your personal style, the stones and metals you like, your lifestyle and budget (although Sarah says that if your partner is paying and doesn’t want to discuss money, that’s fine too). Your designer will be able to show you examples of different gemstones and metals as well as other rings they’ve made so that you can get a feel for what’s available. This will usually be a no-obligation meeting – you won’t be under pressure to make a decision there and then.
“I do like to give couples a feeling at this stage of what the design could look like, though, so I’ll work with a Computer-Aided Design package in front of them so they can see some ideas,” says Gareth Mundie of Glasgow jeweller Ian Mundie & Son.
“We can then discuss what they think of each one and even take a look at some of the jewellery in the showroom to find out the elements they like and what they’re less keen on.”
Don’t be surprised if your jewellery designer chats to you during these early stages about your wedding ring, as you may want to factor this into the design of your engagement ring. A wed-fit band, for example, contains raised settings so that your wedding ring can sit snugly beside it. This could be a practical option for you if you’re going for a ring that has an unusual shape.
Time to refine
When you have an idea of the direction you’d like to go in, you’ll get into the finer details of the design. You’ll already have discussed roughly what you intend to spend with your designer, and now you’ll firm this up by selecting your gemstones and metals and emailing back and forth about the specifics of the design.
Karen at McCalls Jewellers says that the size of your diamonds (if that’s what you’re going for) and the complexity of the design are the two factors that contribute most to the total cost, and that it’s possible to save money by streamlining the ring so that less metal is used, or by compromising on the colour or clarity of the stones. “It doesn’t always have to be diamonds; there are so many beautiful precious stones that are a fraction of the price, so be open-minded,” she adds.
One of the perks of going bespoke is that you discover the sheer variety of stone and metal combinations available. “I had a customer recently who had an emerald and diamond ring made in 18ct pink gold – that’s a pairing you wouldn’t generally be able to get off the shelf,” says Gareth at Ian Mundie & Son. “You can also get different colours of gold, such as green gold, which is more of a citrusy yellow than an orange-yellow.”
You won’t often see salt-and-pepper diamonds on display at a jeweller’s, either, but Sarah at Brazen Studios says they are one of her favourite stones to work with. “They have so many different shades of grey with different natural inclusions, so they look almost like you’ve captured a storm inside them,” she smiles.
There are several ways in which you can boost the sentimental value of your ring. “If there has been any family jewellery passed down, we can reuse the stones, so the client still has a connection with their past while creating something for the future,” says Karen Pirie, who also points out that, at McCalls Jewellers, the value of the precious metals can contribute towards the cost of your new commission.
Engravings inside the band are a sweet way to nod to a pet name, the co-ordinates of where you first met or, indeed, the date of your wedding. “In broader wedding bands, we can even use the customer’s handwriting for the inscription,” says Gareth at Ian Mundie & Son.
You may also want a ring that reflects your values, and your jeweller can help with ensuring it’s as ethical as possible. “We use recycled metal in the majority of our bespoke pieces, which just means that we have not mined more to get it,” explains Gareth.
“I’m also noticing a rise in customers asking for diamonds from Botswana. There’s a mine there where every single employee, including all the miners, is female. This is a country where women traditionally don’t have the opportunity to work, so buying from it is a chance to support a business that is doing things as ethically as it possibly can.”
Signed and sealed
Once you’ve decided on every aspect of your ring, you’ll sign off on the final design before it goes into production. “Normally, people will pay in three instalments,” says Sarah of Brazen Studios. “There’s an initial design deposit, a production deposit and then a final balance.”
If the proposal hasn’t taken place yet, it might be a while before you see the finished result, even if it has only taken a few weeks to make, and you might find yourself desperate to have a wee peek. But resist if you can. Good things come to those who wait – and it’s a small price to pay for something that will bring you a lifetime of comfort and joy.