With some good ideas and the help of a talented jeweller, you can create unique wedding bands that you’ll have for the rest of your life – without breaking the bank.
Ann Russell tells us how
If you’re wearing a beautiful engagement ring, chosen by your new fiancé – happy days! Chances are you’ll absolutely love the ring, but it’s unlikely you’ll have had much influence over the selection process. As your big day approaches, this is your chance to get creative as we explore the world of customised wedding rings. We asked three jewellery experts to explain how the bespoke ring design process works, from first consultation to final product.
SKETCH IT OUT
The world of custom-made wedding rings might seem like tricky territory that you’re afraid to enter, but choosing the right ring is much simpler than you might think. Most professional jewellers will be guided by your ideas, and if you’re struggling for inspiration they’ll be happy to help. “We offer a relaxed one-hour consultation with our in-house designer Sarah, who’ll discuss ring options with you over a glass of bubbly,” says Richard Laing, director of Laing Edinburgh (laingthejeweller.com). “She’ll sketch a few drawings during this first conversation to ensure we have an understanding of your ideas. By the end of the appoint-ment we’ll have five or six design variations to help you reach a decision.”
SHOW ME THE MONEY
Don’t be embarrassed to disclose your ring budget during this first appointment. A bespoke jeweller can create almost any metal-and-stone combination, so it’s important for them to know your limits. “We ask couples about their budget fairly quickly because the diamonds and gems we source vary significantly in price depending on their colour, cut and clarity,” explains Stuart McGill of James Brown & Partners (jamesbrownjewellers.co.uk). “Costs vary hugely but usually range from around £2500 to £5000. This allows you to choose from a whole range of bands and stones to create rings that suit your personal tastes.”
CLEANSE AND POLISH
When it comes to wedding bands, the design is largely determined by the style of your engagement ring. Jewellers typically design bands to fit snugly beside or underneath the setting of your ring’s central stone. “Ladies don’t want a gap between their engagement ring and their wedding ring, so we ensure the two fit well together,” says Richard. “Recently we’ve found diamond-set bands are more popular than plain metal ones. It means that when your engagement ring is ‘having a spa treatment’ – being cleaned, polished and the diamonds checked to make sure they’re secure – you’ll still have a bit of bling on your finger.”
When it comes to men’s rings, less is often more, with the strongest metal proving most practical for day-to-day life. “It’s really important to consider whether the ring suits your job,” warns Stuart. “If the groom works in a manual environment, his ring is likely to get scratched and scraped, so should be made of a very strong metal. In this case he should avoid nine-carat white gold and go for platinum or palladium. Women in a similar situation should choose a six-claw setting rather than a standard four-claw to ensure their diamonds remain secure.
“Most women can picture their ideal ring style while men often find our box of sample wedding bands useful,” he goes on. “Men who aren’t used to wearing jewellery really enjoy the chance to try on various band styles and hold a tangible product in their hand. We also show the couple different finishes – two parallel tram lines is a popular finish for men’s rings, with a matte interior and polished exterior.”
Richard thinks men are becoming more adventurous, with many opting for unusual metals and more fashionable finishes. “We’ve seen a combination of palladium and rose gold become more popular for men,” he explains. “Palladium is as strong as platinum but it’s around a quarter of the price. The band itself is palladium but along one edge there’s a very thin strip of rose gold, which adds colour and interest. It works particularly well against white skin, creating a softer tone, and isn’t as harsh as yellow gold”.
Whether you love or loathe a family heirloom, it’s possible to make it your own through subtle adjustments to its shape or size. You could, for example, take a diamond from a family ring and have a whole new ring designed using it as the central stone, explains Francesca Flynn of The Ringmaker (theringmaker.co.uk), “Family rings always have sentimental value but might not be to your taste, so we can melt down the metal or reuse the stones to create something that’s more in keeping with your style,” she says. “Lots of brides prefer to design their engagement ring with their fiancé because they have a particular type of ring in mind. It’s quite popular for engagement and wedding rings to be designed at the same time, incorporating old and new metal.”
Some couples say it on a post-it, others write it in an email, but nothing can compete with a hand-carved love note. Have the inside of your wedding band engraved with a few personal words or your initials as a reminder of your special day. Stuart is happy to play Cupid: “We offer a secret message service where the couple send us separate emails with the text they’d like engraved on their partners’ ring. When they pick up their rings we ask them not to look inside, so they can read the engraving on the wedding day itself.”
For Richard, too, engraving is the best way to personalise a traditional wedding band: “I can’t remember the last time I sold wedding bands that weren’t engraved,” he says. “There have been so many develop-ments recently in the world of engraving – initials and the wedding date are still popular choices, but now you can have your signature engraved or even a fingerprint.”
TAKE A RISK
Think beyond traditional ring design and let your imagination run riot. From giant gem clusters to animal-inspired shapes, nothing is beyond the realms of possibility, according to Francesca: “We’re completely open to any ideas, no matter how unusual. We created an octopus-inspired ring recently and another that featured swans’ heads and wings. Unusual gemstones are growing in popularity and we even had a request for an engagement ring featuring a stone that changed from one colour in daylight to another in candlelight.”
During your wedding planning journey you’ll discover that time accelerates. With this in mind, it’s important to think about wedding rings sooner rather than later. “We advise couples not to have their consultation too close to the wedding day itself,” warns Francesca. “We take around four to eight weeks to make a bespoke ring, so bear that in mind during your wedding planning. Some customers have rings made a year before the wedding, but we’ve had rush orders from couples needing rings at short notice which doesn’t give much room for manoeuvre.”
PEACE OF MIND
Committing to a bespoke ring is a huge decision that requires conviction and a decent amount of imagination. Above all else, have confidence in your jeweller and be sure to communicate your ideas clearly before paying a deposit. “The bride and groom should share their thoughts on our drawings immediately so we can alter them in person,” says Francesca. “We discuss all the finer details of the ring design face-to-face before you commit to the order. The process is so exact in the early stages that there’s little room for error, and surprises are highly unlikely. We rely on personal recommendations and want you to leave feeling proud of the rings, so we’ll go the extra mile to make you happy.”