When choosing a bespoke engagement ring think long term.
The bit that we are focusing on is the suitability of certain ring designs for an engagement ring when they are actually a dress ring. An engagement ring might be worn over a 30/40/50 year period. So it has got to be durable and feel comfortable, while retaining it's looks.
We've got a number of articles that discuss engagement rings, and all the levels that 'bespoke' might mean. These days, almost every store in Hatton Garden, (London) as well as online offer a 'bespoke engagement ring service'. Technology means that it is ever easier (visually at least) to design an item of jewellery tailored to the client specifics. Good news.
As usual, this isn't without a number of pitfalls, the biggest being creating a ring that will still hold the diamond securely, second biggest being a ring that looks good (but that's a different topic).
Nice people can sell inappropriate jewellery
Just because somebody is helpful and friendly doesn't mean they know everything about jewellery design, wear and manufacturing. (Sometimes, that sentence may end with 'anything about ..' depends where you go.)
There are good ring designs that look amazing out there. They just aren't all made to be worn daily.
The engagement ring is like a pair of shoes. There are different shoes for different functions. Some are built for comfort, sport or protection. Others for glitz or special occasions.
A day in glam heels may cripple you or wear them out with all the pounding they are going to get. It's why so many women have a pair of trainers under their desk! There are lots of pretty ring designs out there, that don't fit the "can wear daily" category, they aren't made for it. All that happens is that over time they just look rather battered, missing stones, nothing like when they were new.
In our opinion, these are the the things to avoid for everyday (aka engagement) rings;
01 - Avoid Soft or Brittle Gemstones
It's a no brainer here, some gemstones are better than others for everyday wear.
- Emeralds (brittle - chips/cleaves easily)
- Tanzanite (soft - facets wear down - you can get similar coloured sapphires)
- Morganite (soft and brittle and never as pink as it looks in online photography) look to peach and pink sapphires or spinel)
- Garnets (soft - the faceting will wear, sapphires rubies or spinel may be better options)
- Tourmaline (soft and can discolour - sapphires or spinel again will wear harder)
- Amethyst (soft - the faceting will wear - you can get purple sapphires)
- Pearls (susceptible to chipping and chemicals)
Gems work on the Moh Scale - which basically looks at the overall harness of a mineral. Anything below 8 on the Moh Scale is going to show wear and tear in a ring. We advise against soft stones in engagement ring settings for this reason - you want the stone to still look pretty in 5 years, never mind 30. It is unfortunate that the harder gemstones occurring naturally all carry a price premium, hardness means longevity.
02 - Avoid Irregular Claw Set Stones
There is definitely a trend for rings with a lot going on. Bands that have claw set baguette stones set at angles to the shank are popular, because they can make a very pretty looking ring. But they aren't ideal for everyday punishment, the reason being that the claws are both small, and more exposed which means that they will wear over time. And in addition to this, they leave the stone open to more punishment, even diamonds chip, and moving down the Moh scale stones are in for even more punishment.
03 - Avoid Super Skinny Bands
By this, I'm talking about those bands that are less than 1.8mm in diameter.. I have had clients get a bit obsessed with these, because they think that it will make the diamond look bigger. It would have to be a pretty small diamond to start with, and actually it can make the finger look a lot stockier than it is. What they often do is roll around the finger a lot, and also (more importantly) they break if they aren't deep enough because there is not enough strength. You need a minimum width and depth of metal to hold the stone effectively, as what happens otherwise is a little pressure and something snaps. Even gold or platinum. We taper settings in if clients want to create a wider diamond effect, but only to a point, and we won't provide our normal guarantee if a client wants something really skinny, because we aren't prepared to have to fix the ring in the next 2-3 years..
Other things to consider
These aren't 'no no's as such - it's just worth figuring out whether you want appearance longevity with the engagement ring. If tastes dictate, by all means go for these ring designs, but they are better suited as anniversary gifts or special presents (buy one for yourself ladies!).
04 - Lots of metal detailing
As I've spoken about elsewhere, all precious metals scratch. Platinum forms a patina when it scratches, gold develops a high shine. Another trend that found popularity with ring designs, is to have lots of delicate details, little round 'granules' or intricate elements and carvings. Again, they are really pretty and look great. On the flip side of the coin, in time they will also scratch, and show up punishment, fast. For some, this will make no difference, as it reflects the relationship evolving over time. For others, it's really going to bug them that the details that were part of the ring are either now missing or unrecognisable. In addition, you need to keep these beauties clean, as they will collect soap, hand cream and all everyday dirt.
05 - Avante Guarde designs which 'stick out'
This is a practicality, if the wearer likes wearing woolly fabrics, or more open weaves, it is worth ensuring the makeup of the ring doesn't include details which are going to catch. People think about the stone settings here, I'd recommend extending that mental checklist to any part of the ring that is 'pointy'. Keen wearers will over time adapt to the design, however for some, the continual trashing of knitwear and laddering of tights may get a bit much..
06 - 100% diamond coverage
In pictures, engagement rings can look very opulent covered in diamonds all around the shank and it's very popular in the USA. There is a difference to fully diamond or gemstone covered wedding rings, because with an engagement ring, the setting is meant to be worn one way up. So it will be the same patch of diamonds receiving the same punishment under the finger on a daily basis. Which can lead to stones or claws breaking, and being lost. In addition, 100% stone coverage makes the ring more expensive to resize, as adding or removing a diamond can have a bigger impact on shank size than the adjustment required. You can't see the diamonds underneath - so just leave part of the ring clear in order to be able to resize it more easily should your hands change shape over time.
When I'm working on a client commission, unusual requests always involves consultation with one of my London goldsmiths. Having made thousands of engagement rings in their careers - I can ignore their advice, at my peril. They really get the make-up of an engagement ring, how it is most comfortably worn and where the problems can start.
We get a lot of unique requests. We're making engagement rings to last past the next generation, so if a red light goes off we have to put our foot down. Some designs are not going to keep their looks for 5 years never mind 50.. Style matters, but lifestyle will drives appearance. Some engagement rings could be will be worn 24/7 (we do recommend taking them off for heavy duty activities and sport) which means over a 30 year period that is nearly 11 thousand days in action!
The four/six claw engagement ring design has endured over time because it endures over time. This doesn't make it the only option for an engagement ring, and today there are a lot more designs out there to choose from, in order to reflect the multitude of styles that women have. We look at some of the amazing celebrity engagement rings out there and think "ooh, I'd like something like that" but for a lot of the celebrity engagements, they don't even make it down the aisle! So it is worth keeping perspective that you are looking for a ring that is going to be good for DECADES. You both may wish to upgrade/remodel as time moves on. But keep the long term view whatever you do, as that is a better reflection of your relationship.