Harriet Kelsall on designing a bespoke engagement ring

Harriet Kelsall on designing a bespoke engagement ring
Harriet Kelsall is a passionate believer in letting jewellery tell personal stories

Harriet Kelsall believes the best way to get wedding jewellery you’ll love for evermore is to commission a custom-made design. And with her team’s expertise, it’s easier than you might think to go bespoke

Harriet Kelsall says the ring is one of the most important decisions you make – apart, that is, from choosing to get married. And she has a point. The dress may be divine, but it’s worn for one day then wrapped in tissue paper. The celebration and honeymoon leave behind warm memories and a fading suntan. But rings are worn on your body each and every day and will, in all probability, be family heirlooms for generations to come. So choosing to create a bespoke engagement ring is a good way to ensure you have a lasting and totally personal symbol of your marriage.

Harriet is passionate about jewellery, and with an eye for what buyers love too. It’s a recipe that swiftly took her from kitchen-table start-up in 1998 to multi award-winning business. Today, Harriet Kelsall the company has a large international following via its website, a store in central Cambridge and a destination gallery and jewellery workshop housed in a converted barn in the Hertfordshire village of Halls Green.

Commissioning a one-off piece of jewellery

A team of 35 – the majority of them women – design and create bespoke engagement rings, wedding rings and other one-off pieces. Each object is produced in a close consultation between designer and buyer, and the buyer’s design input is critical. This was one of the things that set the company apart when it started. As Harriet puts it: “Bespoke used to mean either going to a small workshop or going to the ultra exclusive traditional jewellery houses. I realised that, by establishing a specialist workshop, I could offer customers the opportunity to commission a piece of timeless craftsmanship in a contemporary way”.

Harriet Kelsall ring designing 1 copy
Such is the relationship with clients they design for that many of Harriet’s design team are invited to attend their wedding

Harriet is a passionate supporter of British jewellery expertise. As well as helping to train the next generation of jewellery designers and makers, she also sits on the committee of The British Jewellery Association. She is a leading exponent of Fairtrade Gold, and helped establish the scheme in the UK. And on gemstones she is resolute: the company was the first independent to receive Responsible Jewellery Council certification and insists on strict traceability. “Rings are a luxury item,” says Harriet. “But it’s important to feel good about what you wear, and today that means transparency – knowing that every element is responsibly and fairly sourced”.

She and her team of designers often get asked to the weddings of the couples they work with – one designer has even been a witness at the ceremony – which is a mark of how valued the relationship between jewellery designer and wearer can be. And the same couples often return to get anniversary, milestone-birthday and eternity pieces designed here.

Harriet Kelsall morganite ring copy
Couples choose bespoke engagement rings inspired by anything from a shared love of nature to the place where they first met

Customers are a constant source of inspiration – coming up with ideas that are entirely personal. One couple chose a Southern Cross design for their engagement ring, signifying their long-distance relationship that had a happy ending. Another chose a design based around the full moon that shone the night they met, and also the night their twins were born. For Harriet, the symbolic value of each piece is one of the best things about their work. She says: “We like to think we help to tell people’s individual life and love stories through jewellery”.

Harriet’s tips for bespoke engagement rings

  • Consider what you already have – a stone or the gold of an old family wedding ring can be incorporated into a bespoke engagement ring design. It’s recycling at its best and means the jewellery will carry extra meaning.
  • Avoid what’s in vogue unless it’s in tune with your personal style. A design that matches your personality will stand the test of time.
  • Try different metals to find out what works with your skin tone. Yellow or rose gold, is more flattering than platinum or white gold for some complexions.
  • Do tell the jeweller about your lifestyle, especially if your career or hobby is likely to expose the piece to particularly tough treatment.
  • People tend to think in terms of diamonds, but there are so many other beautiful stones. If you’re thinking of a colour and are unsure how to choose, select a stone the same shade as your eyes. That way, it will go with everything you wear.
Harriet Kelsall has a store in Cambridge and a retail and workshop centre in Hertfordshire. hkjewellery.co.uk