An engagement ring is probably one of the most important pieces of jewelry you can ever purchase. Not only does it stand for commitment and unconditional love, but it’s something your partner-to-be is going to have (and wear!) forever. So, you better make sure she loves it!

Sometimes the perfect engagement ring is right there sitting in a shop case, and you just know it’s the right one. But there are other times when the right ring is something one of a kind, perfectly personalized for the very person you love so dearly. When the latter is right for you, that’s when you seek out a jewelry designer to help bring your vision to life. Recently I was contacted by a family friend—let’s call him Joe—who wanted me to design a custom engagement ring using diamonds from his grandmother’s ring. I was stoked to do the piece for him and couldn’t wait to get started. The diamonds I was given to work with were beautiful and Joe was open to anything, even some extra sparkly! A designer’s dream! Yay!

But not so fast… Open to anything? That can be a scary prospect when you are designing for something as permanent and long-term as an engagement ring. Not to mention that I have never met his girlfriend. So he and I had to break it down together. His girlfriend surely had a style preference, specific needs, etc., and since the ring was going to be a total surprise, Joe needed to go on a little investigation. Lucky for me, he was a good detective!

First thing’s first: Determine her style.

Charlie - Eng Ring

Whether she loves modern architecture or whimsical paintings, don’t be afraid to add some personal influences into you design choices. It often makes for a deeply personal and unique piece of jewelry.

As when buying any jewelry for someone else, the most important thing is to get their style right. So we started off just chatting about his girlfriend, what her likes and dislikes were, and what kind of activities they like to do together. This basic conversation can give a designer a great sense of who the recipient is and what kind of lifestyle you and your significant other lead. We also needed to know what sort of jewelry she wears, so I sent Joe on a covert mission to peek in his girlfriend’s jewelry box and report back. I knew that if he found a lot of jewelry from Tiffany’s, which is typically classic and sleek, that she would want something very traditional, like a solitaire setting or a diamond surround. But if he said, “I don’t know, everything in here seems kind of funky to me,” as he did, then score! I could design something more unique and whimsical.

Second: Determine her needs.

Once you and a designer have the general style down, he or she then needs to know a few personal details. For example, I needed to know her ring size and what type of metal she preferred—silver, platinum, gold, white gold. Joe was able to get me her size by sneaking one of her favorite rings to a local jeweler to have it measured. He also knew that she would want a white metal, either platinum or white gold. That covered the basic physical needs, but then I needed to know what she did for a living. This is important because a woman will most likely wear her ring to work for the rest of her life so a jeweler needs to ensure that it can withstand the right amount of daily wear and tear. In Joe’s case, his girlfriend was a nurse, so this told me that the ring need to be strong and sturdy, while still maintaining a delicate look. I instantly knew I should set the center diamond low, too, to help protect it throughout the years while she works and lives as an active person.

Tip: If you want to sneakily figure out your partner’s ring size by taking a piece to the jeweler like Joe did, there are two main things to remember:

1. Make sure the ring you have tested is one she actually wears on her ring finger. Any other finger will not do!

2. Make sure the ring is of a similar thickness and width to what her engagement ring will be. If the ring used to find the size is super wide, the engagement ring will end up being too big. If its super, super thin, the engagement ring will be too small.

Now we can design.

Since Joe gave me complete freedom with the design, it made sense to give him a number of styles to choose from. I started off by sketching some modern renditions of traditional settings, then slowly moved to more unique and unusual styles, drawing inspiration from antique and filigree-styled jewelry. In the end, I presented him with six designs. To my surprise, he chose the most unique design. I was a tad nervous about this, to be honest, and since I had some freedom and a bit of time, I made him sit on it for a week or so while I came up with three more versions of the design.

Tip: It’s important that whoever your jewelry designer is takes the time to give you options, especially if you aren’t exactly sure what you want. Talk to them first about how this part of the process will go so you can ensure you’ll be happy with the finished product and that it will be completed within your desired timeframe!

After some time passed and he saw the newer versions, he knew for sure that he had picked the right design the first time around: it was just as unique and beautiful as she is. It’s a good thing he went with his gut, too, because I am happy to report that she said yes and absolutely loves her ring. Maybe I’m a romantic but a surprise engagement ring, designed so personally, with that much heart, love, trust, and family history behind it is an amazing thing. And doing it the right way, like Joe did, with open communication with your designer and taking the time to be sure it’s just what you want, will be well worth it in the end.


Jess the Jeweler