How long do bespoke ring commissions take? How fast can engraving be done? Scottish makers give Olivia Simpson their insights on the wedding jewellery timeline
Engagement and wedding rings are things you only buy once and, since they’ll be worn forever, this is not a decision to be rushed. But how long should you expect it to take? Three Scottish jewellers talk us through the process…
Choosing a surprise engagement ring for your partner can feel overwhelming, so Charlie McManus from Broughty Ferry-based jewellery maker Circinn recommends breaking it down into two elements: style and size. “When thinking about the style, ask yourself these questions: Does it fit in with their overall aesthetic? Will it look dated in a few years? And – be honest with yourself – are you the best person to choose the style for them?” he says. “Consider enlisting the help of a co-conspirator – someone close to your partner who you can trust to keep a secret and act as a sounding board for your choices.”
Once you’ve settled on a style, it’s time to think about sizing. “Size can be an equally tricky issue,” Charlie warns. “Maintaining the element of surprise after measuring a ring finger ‘just because’ isn’t going to fly. We provide a sheet on our website that you can match an existing ring against to get an idea of what size you need. If you get it wrong, the ring can be sized up or down, but this might mean that the gemstones need to be reset.”
With so much to consider, it’s best to give yourself a good amount of time, with most jewellers recommending around six weeks if shopping off the peg and up to ten weeks for bespoke pieces. If your preferred proposal date (such as an anniversary or birthday) is fast approaching, consider going for a placeholder proposal ring, which some jewellers will offer as part of their packages. This will take off some of the pressure and ensure that you’re choosing the ring for the right reasons.
If you’re enjoying a long engagement, you’ll probably have more time to choose your wedding ring, but Charlie has a cautionary tale for all those likely to cut it fine: “Back when I was getting married, we went to a jeweller and chose a beautiful matching set of Celtic wedding rings in 18ct gold, and were told they’d be ready in six weeks – the weekend before the wedding. Fast forward to that weekend, and we arrive at the store, only to be met with blank looks. The assistant had forgotten to forward our order to the jeweller!” Yikes!
“It’s something I think about every time we receive a wedding ring order,” he continues. “I can still remember the stress headache I had when dealing with the apologetic store manager who offered us ‘loaners’ for the ceremony. Your wedding rings are a physical embodiment of the vow you’re making to each other, so give yourself plenty of time to choose them, and pick them up well in advance of the ceremony. Your future self with thank you for saving them a headache.”
Sarah Brown, an Islay-based jewellery designer, recommends ordering rings four to six weeks in advance if they are reproduction pieces, although she points out that often these can be made quicker than this if required. Bespoke styles will, of course, take longer, so if you’d prefer a custom design, allow yourself at least six to eight weeks. If purchasing from Sarah, you can expect one to two Zoom consultations followed up by a number of emails. “Please also bear in mind that if a selected stone has to be ordered from overseas, that could add three or four weeks to the lead time,” she warns. “If you know what you want and you’re able to do so, I would always encourage you to organise as early as possible.”
Make it personal
Your engagement and wedding rings are always going to be deeply treasured, but opting for some customisations will add even more meaning. “If you would like to have your rings engraved, this will be completed within the proposed making and shipping time of the piece,” shares Orkney jewellery designer Sheila Fleet. “If you order online, the engraving will be completed within the approximate three- to four-week making and shipping time. Alternatively, if you buy in one of our retail stores (in Orkney, Glasgow, Edinburgh and St Andrews), our helpful staff will guide you on when your order will be finished.”
If you’re looking for a more elaborate personalisation, Charlie has a high-tech suggestion: “A popular option right now is having your fingerprints engraved on the inside of each other’s bands. This is a specialist service, typically done with a laser by one of our partners. For this kind of personalisation, you should expect to add seven to ten days to the wait time. For a simpler engraving, a day or so should suffice.”
Once the big-ticket items are sorted, you can focus on the additional pieces that will complete your look. “We would recommend ordering wedding jewellery a few months before, although it could be left until four weeks before the date at a push,” says Sheila. “For those looking to customise, we offer uniqueness through our enamels and precious and semi-precious stones. Many of our enamel colours are complementary to classic wedding schemes. However, if you’d like an even closer match to your wedding colours, and are happy to supply a fabric sample as a colour guide, a special enamel combination can be made just for you. Alternatively, many pieces can be set in an array of coloured stones. For this kind of design, timescales can vary depending on each request, so please get in touch.”
For Charlie, there’s one more thing to consider when ordering your jewellery: the date of your final fittings. “Try, if you can, to have the item for one of your dress, kilt or suit fittings. That way, you’ll get the full effect and can check everything works together.”
He has also had clients ordering bespoke pieces with which to thank the bridal party and groomsmen. “Incorporating a bridesmaid’s birthstone is a simple way to make a necklace or pair of earrings personal without having to put too much thought, effort or time into the purchase,” he suggests. “Another popular customisation at the moment is family crest cufflinks, and while this is most commonly done for the groom, we’re also seeing these being gifted to the best man. They typically take a couple of weeks to produce.”
Ready to shine
Chances are you’ll be setting time aside in the last few weeks of wed prep for some primping and preening to help you look your best on the day, so why not give your engagement rings some TLC too? “We would recommend visiting one of our retail stores two weeks before the wedding to have your rings sent to our Orkney workshop for polishing,” Sheila tells us. “Afterwards, we’d suggest getting your rings refurbished and cleaned every three to five years, although this will vary depending on how you wear your rings.”
If time is running short, give your pieces a last-minute touch-up by following Sarah’s advice: “A handy tip for cleaning rings is to pop them in a bowl of warm soapy water, then give them a scrub with a toothbrush followed by a good rinse. This can be done as often as you like.”
To any perpetually last-minute people out there, or to anyone planning a whirlwind day in record time, I can only apologise if this article has you panicking and picturing yourself exchanging vows wearing a Haribo ring. Last-minute purchases are not advisable when it comes to wedding rings (we’re talking about a lot of money here, so it’s always best to avoid a rushed decision) but they are possible, as Sheila explains: “If time and location allow, we would recommend you visit one of our stores and speak to a consultant – they’ll do all they can to help you find what you’re looking for in the time available. Alternatively, we can advise over the phone and get the desired jewellery made as quickly as possible.
“We like to pull out all the stops to ensure you’re ready for that spur-of-the-moment, last-minute, special wedding day!” she promises.