If you can’t find your dream jewel or setting, here are three ways to go bespoke, commission a ring and create the ultimate love token
[dropcap]A[/dropcap]n engagement ring may be is about the most personal piece of jewellery you can give or receive, so little wonder that it can be so hard to choose. But if you have something very specific in mind – or want to make the whole process of designing a love token something special – the way to do it is to commission a ring. Here are three options to consider in your quest for the perfect engagement or wedding piece.
Dominic Walmsley offers a design-from-scratch service from his Clerkenwell and Sevenoaks studios. Having begun his career at age 17 with a traditional apprenticeship to a London gold and silversmith, he has now been creating dream designs for over 30 years, counting Helen Mirren and Coffie Annan among his distinguished clients.
Every design is made in his Clerkenwell workshop, typically taking four to six weeks from first idea to finished commission – although he’s been known to complete a piece in days for an impulse engagement or gift.
The process begins with a no-obligation chat through ideas. Dominic says: “One of the first things we establish is people’s style – without sounding too simplistic, we need to know if your taste is sleek and architectural or pretty and more froufrou”. From there, the first sketches are drawn up and the fun of selecting gemstones can begin. Dominic says: “This is where clients get a crash course in distinguishing between different quality stones and the four Cs of cut, colour, clarity and carat”.
Some clients will ask Dominic and his team to work with an heirloom piece. He says: “Repolished and re-set, old stones can look like new and they do tend to have more character than many modern stones because they were individually cut – and of course there’s the symbolic value of a family piece”.
From the initial idea, a quote is drawn up and there will also be a meeting for a fitting. “One thing I’ve learned over the years is that this is crucial,” says Dominic. “People’s original idea may change once they try on the prototype, and this gives us the opportunity to adjust so that the final design is perfect”.
His tip for engagement ring buyers is to always consider the wedding ring that goes with it, so that the two fit perfectly together. “You’d be surprised what a difference this can make – and we offer in-between sizes for wedding rings. While you may think you’ll wear the engagement ring every day, the wedding ring needs to stand up on its own without looking too flimsy”.
* Contact Dominic Walmsley at dominicwalmsley.com
Neil Geddes offers a jewellery concierge service, taking the stress and legwork out of ensuring jewels match the recipient’s taste and buyer’s budget, working with pieces ranging from £2,000 up to £100,000 plus for an international client list.
The business was born after Neil became frustrated during his own search for an engagement ring for his then fiancé. Now Gemological Institute of America (GIA) accredited and with multiple other qualifications, he has access to wholesale markets across the world and exclusive closed-shop events such as Antwerp Diamond Fair.
Neil’s clients come to his London and Leeds offices with a range of requests: “Some clients may want a surprise gift or special piece, and then it’s a process of research, stripping back to likes and dislikes to narrow down to the perfect piece”.
He can also advise clients who want to convert an heirloom jewel into something contemporary that they can wear – for instance, converting three rings into one piece. His advice can be invaluable. Neil says: “In some cases it might not be a good idea if the value of the piece is partly in its fine setting, style or maker”.
Another popular option is to propose with a stone (he can ensure you find ‘the one’) and then the recipient gets to design her own ring – finding the right makers and advising on styles and settings is all part of his service. Neil taps into his extensive network of skilled designers and makers and can be the conduit to ensuring the final piece matches your vision.
He says: “My role is all about personal service, so it can be as simple as helping someone find the perfect solitaire ring, right up to sourcing an elaborate diamond or mixed gemstone necklace – in a digital age, this is a very personal approach that taps into traditional techniques”.
* N.J. Geddes Fine Jewellery Concierge; njgeddes.com
Go diamond diving
For the ultimate engagement gift, head down to Cape Town on a diamond safari to find and then commission a ring. Organised by Benguela Diamonds and offered through chic hotel Ellerman House, this is a once-in-a-lifetime experience where you prospect for a sea diamond and have it made into your one-off ring.
Benguela Diamonds – which is owned by South African diamond diver Wynand Hendrikse – operates a private sea diamond concession on South Africa’s west coast, diving for diamonds sourced from the seabed. The safari involves a private charter to Port Nolloth, where you stay as guest in a villa overlooking the diamond site. You then join the dive master and crew and can either watch from the boat or dive with the team provided you have a PADI Level 1 dive certificate.
Following a gourmet lunch at the villa, you pick your rough diamond from the seabed booty, assisted by a grader from Benguela. After that, it can be polished and set at the company’s Stellenbosch design studio – taking it from seabed to your ring finger in as little as three days.
Find more ways to create a unique engagement ring