by Ann Covode
You’ve fallen in love and you want to spend the rest of your life with your mate. You want to make the next step. How do you approach finding something special to pop the question? How do you go about finding a ring that she will want to wear for the rest of her life?
Building a relationship with a jeweler can better inform the buying process and save you time and money. The guidance of an experienced trusted jeweler is very valuable and can’t be replaced with a few weeks of online education. Most consumers don’t realize that a relationship with a good jeweler will last for many years.
Navigating the world of high-priced stones takes patience, knowledge and assistance, but thankfully you can spot issues before they arise if you know what mistakes to look out for and how to plan around them. Choosing an engagement ring without the help of someone who either knows your beloved well or, just as importantly, understands her needs might be a mistake. “You need to find a retailer who can be your partner in the process,” offers Anna-Mieke Anderson, founder of a Portland-based bridal jewelry line. “You want to feel like they are working on your behalf and are your advocate for finding the best quality and design at the best price.”
Eve Alfillé has some tips for couples hoping to tie the knot. She has been designing engagement and wedding rings for over 30 years. Many women come in to scout out the styles of rings they want. She may come in with her girlfriends just to try things on. It takes time to try things out. “It is a good idea to narrow your choices to 2 or 3 options”, states Eve. “Men are traditionally hunters more than gatherers so need a little guidance.”
Things to consider are choices of style and design and the color of metal. She adds “To preserve an element of surprise and fun…leave a few choices undecided so your mate can have a say too.” Suggests Eve. “Some men are very visual and like to be part of the design process.”
In Eve’s studio, she has many design models you can choose from. You can try on the models and even insert stones to test out the effect.
“A very important question to ask is…Do you like symmetry or asymmetry? This is a good starting point.”, she muses. “Another question for the wearer would be … how do you use your hands? “ she adds. Eve wants to create a ring that will last. “For instance, if she is a gardener, you might not want her to have too thin of a band. Does your girlfriend swim often? In this case you might want to choose 18 karat gold over 14 karat because of the chlorine.” She suggests. Jewelry metals are not hard. As a comparison, she notes that diamonds have a hardness level of 10 while steel’s level is 6 and pearls are 3. Gold, platinum and silver range from 2 ½ to 3.
Another important question is what type of metal does your partner prefers? Do they like yellow or white metals? Blond gold is a special alloy that Eve has designed to enhance the look of old diamonds. Another special alloy is Blush gold, a trademark of Eve’s, that is a lavender shade. It harmonizes well with platinum and looks really good on most skin tones. Whereas, Rose Gold, is more coppery with an orange hew.
Comfort is also a big consideration. If a ring is not comfortable you will want to take if off when you get home. “Our rings do not have sharp inside edges and feature a soft square shape that mimics the actual shape of the fingers while not being noticeable from the top.” She adds. “Gravity causes the ring to slide around the finger and we want to avoid that.” She states.
Stone choice is a very important design element as well. Eve has some suggestions for that as well. Since the Renaissance, diamonds have been the stones of choice. Other gems are close in hardness like sapphires, garnets and beryls. Sapphires come in many colors including red, yellow, green, and pink. The best known of the beryls; aquamarine will also give good wear. Another choice would be a colored diamond. Yellow diamonds are distinct but can be very costly. Champagne and cognac colors are another interesting possibility. Since the Argyle mine in Australia was mined, these have become more popular.
Eve recommends getting a better quality diamond versus size. Clarity and color are more important than size. Cuts also make a difference. The faceting can make a visual difference, as can the proportions. There are subtle differences in the cuts.
What if your family has a gem that they would like to give you? Both families may come with stones that they would be delighted to have you use. “I would try to use some from each family,” states Eve. One of Eve’s trademarks is a secret stone in the back of the ring that only the wearer can see. Perhaps you could incorporate your grandmother’s sapphire there? “A nice thing that some couples do is to give back to their relative the setting with a less costly gem.” She adds.
Another important design question is if she will be wearing the wedding band on the same finger? The design of that should be considered at the same time as the engagement ring. Does she want a straight or curved wedding band?
If you want to surprise your mate, how do you find the right size? A well-prepared man will try to figure that out. Eve recommends, “Ask a sister or mother. Women can find that information for you. Or steal a ring from her jewelry case and bring it to the jeweler. It is important to know which finger she wears it on and on which hand.” The right hand tends to be a ½ size larger than the left. She also suggests, “Plan a dinner and do a blindfold fitting at the shop.”
Eve recommends starting out with the design. Once you have that narrowed down, choose your stone and your metal. Eve will give you an estimate for different types of metals or stones for different budgets. Sometimes stones of odd sizes are more economical but still have high quality. When the ring has been carved you will have a look at it just to see the shape. A nice romantic touch would be to add an inscription inside the engagement ring. This can be as personal as you wish…. maybe words to a favorite song? In the wedding band, it is traditional to inscribe the couple’s initials and the wedding date.
Generally plan for around 6 weeks from the time you design the ring to include viewing the wax fitting and see the final design.
Newlywed Vine: This design is popular with younger couples.
Eve designed this beautiful, bright engagement ring for one of her customers using a 2 carat yellow diamond in 4 double prongs in 18 karat yellow gold. She added 5 red rubies curving in the top on each side, and a half-moon window. A square ruby secret stone with two tiny diamonds hides at the bottom for the pleasure of the wearer. This yellow diamond oval is nicely complemented on the underside with small rubies.
This one-carat diamond ring in 18k white gold features two smaller diamonds on the sides from Eve’s “Antiquities” series. Leaves play in the design and are an ancient symbol of fidelity. Eve used a bezel set in this ring as she was designing for an active person. The complementary band features 20 diamonds to represent 20 years of marriage. Diamonds radiate their light from the top so a bezel set does not hide any of the light from the ring.
This custom-made engagement ring, created expressly for the client is cast in 14 karat gold, from an original hand carved model from Eve’s Pompeii series. The stunning yellow diamond focal point is bezel set just slightly above the halo of 12 smaller diamonds. Eve placed 4 slightly larger diamonds top and bottom of the halo, as well as centered on each side, like the cardinal directions. The result is a halo of 12 sparkling diamonds resting atop a pretty, openwork band. Eve also added a deep blue aquamarine flush-set at the back of the band as the artist’s “secret stone” for the lucky wearer to enjoy.
Eve designed this beautiful opal ring for one of her brides. The opal is diagonally set in platinum with six diamonds on the sides and four smaller rubies. This design from Eve’s “Underwater” series is a wonderful example of a unique approach to an engagement ring.
An engagement ring is something that both families would like to see but it should be as personal as you wish to make it.