London bespoke jewellers for unique engagement rings
Thinking of proposing? Read on for the Culture Whisper guide to commissioning a bespoke engagement ring in London
If you're thinking about proposing you've probably already spent a fair amount of time considering the purchase of 'the ring'. There are a host of household names ready to assist you in that search with styles and prices ranging from modest to mega.
But there's another way, and it's one that seems to be increasingly popular especially among people turning away from the traditional.
Commissioning a bespoke piece of jewellery might sound daunting and expensive, but thanks to passionate designers and makers, a renewed interest in alternative stones and plenty of experts dedicated to demystifying the process it needn't be.
There are three main ways to commission a ring: have a classic style made to your exact specifications, work with a jeweller to customise an existing design or start from scratch in order to have a bespoke design.
Each option comes with pros and cons, and budget implications. Read on for the Culture Whisper guide to commissioning an engagement ring or other special piece of jewellery.
Designs by Sorrel Bay
If you want to commission a classic ring to exact specifications then you should head to a jewellery manufacturer in order to start the process.
In London, Hatton Garden in Holborn is known as the diamond district and is home to a wealth of independent jewellers that will be able to assist you in the process. Manchester and Birmingham have their own jewellery quarters too.
This is the most straightforward route to commissioning, and can even be more economical than a high-street jeweller as the margins tend to be smaller.
You can also save money by opting for a diamond a few points below the full weight class (0.95 for example, versus one carat). For peace of mind opt for certified diamonds to ensure that you are getting what is advertised.
Design by Mirri Damer
If you want to customise an existing design, use heirloom stones, recycle an existing piece of jewellery or go bespoke the process becomes a bit more creative.
It can also be more about a wholly beautiful design, meaning it can be the perfect choice if a huge rock would leave your partner cold.
You'll need to do your research: look for designers whose work would suit the personal style of your partner. A good first point of call is the annual Goldsmiths' Fair held in the autumn which features the work of independent jewellery designers and makers working with different materials and aesthetics.
If you miss the fair, the Goldsmiths' Fair Instagram account routinely spotlights the work of members, many of whom are available for custom or bespoke commissions.
Design by Shimell & Madden
Ruth Tomlinson, Sorrel Bay, Shimell & Madden, Shivani, Disa Allsopp, Hannah Bedford and Mirri Damer are just some of the talented makers who turn their skills to engagement rings.
Instagram can be a treasure trove of inspiration, allowing you to find designers who specialise in the unconventional. But be sure to ask where their work is sold or go for a studio visit to ensure you're as enamoured with the real thing as its digital version.
If you're overwhelmed, The Cut London is a jewellery consultancy run by Kate Baxter who offers a 'matchmaking' service aiming to help buyers find the perfect designer for their needs with plenty of creativity, integrity and sustainable practice among the 'exceptional jewellers' with whom she works.
Baxter caters to a mix of clients: 'millennials uninterested in huge diamonds and wanting an ethical alternative, same-sex couples looking for commitment rings or bespoke engagement bands, to those simply wanting to break with convention and find a ring that feels more "me" than a cookie-cutter style on the high street.'
Design by Hannah Bedford
Whichever route you choose to go down there are a few ways to make the process easier:
Communicating the style they like isn't as easy as you might think. Don't rely on your drawing skills or grasp of the technical terms, but bring pictures of your partner's other jewellery and any rings they've mentioned or coveted.
Pictures of them will help the designer can get an idea of their personal style – minimalist, bohemian, glamorous, retro – to see if it's the right fit with their work.
Think about what sort of jewellery they wear often: is it gold, silver, rose gold, platinum? Do they have small hands or large – what sort of stone would look right? Would you prefer one large or multiple smaller stones (these would usually come in odd numbers to provide balance), graduated in size or equally weighted.
Think about the lifestyle of your partner too: will pavé diamonds get knocked and be at risk of falling out; will a high setting snag their fine clothing; would a chunky, claw-free setting better suit?
Cost is important but so is value. If you're buying diamonds discuss which of the four Cs (clarity, colour, carat and cut) are most important to you and your soon to be betrothed.
Carat could actually be the least important in the hands of a skilled jeweller as clever cutting and mounting can make stones look larger than they are. A superior cut can make a huge difference to the sparkle of the stone.
Designs by Shivani
Consider coloured stones too: sapphires and rubies are considered hard enough for the lifelong everyday wear that the right engagement ring should entail, but you can also find yellow, pink, green and blue diamonds – and grey diamonds are having a moment among low-key brides to be.
This is also a chance to be sentimental, if that suits you. An heirloom piece, from your family or theirs, could be turned into something perfect for your partner.
There are independent jewellers who specialise in conflict-free stones as well as recycled and sustainable materials, so be sure to check for these credentials if this is important to you.
While proposing with a bespoke ring is hugely romantic, if you're at all unsure consider proposing with a dummy ring instead – a sweet, a cocktail ring, even a fashion piece they'd love. Involving your partner in the design process could make the resulting ring even more special.
After all, as Baxter explains 'when buying a bespoke ring you can choose all the tiny details that make a piece of jewellery not only unique and special but exactly what you want.
'A super-skinny band, a grey diamond, a pink sapphire, or even a particular shade of gold… anything is possible. These details matter, and result in a uniqueness and rarity that, to me, is the ultimate luxury.'