There's no question about it: Engagement rings are absolutely stunning. Not only do they shine in all the right places, but they're also a symbol of your intention to make a lifelong commitment to another person. Creating a piece of jewelry that holds such significant meaning is serious business. Even from its very conception, crafting an engagement ring requires intricate, involved, and extensive care and consideration. "Cleanliness of work, quality of fit, and finish all combine with scale to make the perfect ring," explains Matthew Trent, a Dallas-based jeweler. "In today's market, there are so many channels that highlight all of the details and options for an engagement ring, but it's the jeweler's job to educate, listen, and work with the customer to build a ring that suits his or her personal taste and lifestyle." That's why we asked four jewelers to give us a closer look at the incredible process involved in creating a custom-made engagement ring.
The very first phase of the custom engagement ring process is meeting with the client (or clients) to discuss the overall style they're after. Whether you're planning to create completely custom ring or prefer to make slight alterations to an established design, this first step is hugely important. Slisha Kankariya, founder of Four Mine, an online jewelry retailer specializing in engagement rings, says you'll be asked a series of general style questions, like the size and shape you like for the center stone, whether or not you want accent diamonds, and if you have preferences for the setting itself. "This helps the designer get an idea of the overall look of the ring you're hoping to create together," she says.
Deciding on a metal type and the size of the center stone should happen early on, since these decisions influence the most important aspect of the piece: the ring's structure. "These factors determine the band's width, setting type (channel, bezel, micro pave, pavé), and the number of prongs necessary to hold the diamond in place," says Kankariya. "Once these structural components are considered and the designer can ensure that the ring you want will be sturdy, you can start discussing other design elements." Metal flourishes, milgrain accents, and additional stones are some of the many extras you can add in.
After you've come up with an idea for what you want, most jewelry designers will use advanced computer imaging and design technology to create a custom rendering of the ring for you to see. At New York City's Josh Levkoff Jewelry, clients actually watch the design team create their ring in real-time through a 3D digital rendering. There, everything you've requested—like metal type, stone shape and size, and placement—will come to life on the screen. "Based on customer request, we also provide further computer models depicting alternative options," explains Levkoff. That means you can see different versions of the same ring, like one with a halo and one without, or the design made in both yellow gold and platinum.
After the client has approved the digital design, it's then rendered into a wax mold and cast into metal, which captures all the angles and measurements that were laid out on the computer. "This is an important step as the wax mold will be used to cast the metal, so it must look perfect in terms of shape and width," explains Kankariya. Once the wax has melted away, a negative of the model is all that remains. "The metal, typically platinum or gold, is then selected, heated, melted, and carefully poured into this cavity making sure there are no air bubbles and porosity," says Chloe Di Leo, owner of Di Leo Diamonds. "Once cooled, the plaster is broken off and the metal form of the custom ring design remains." Kankariya explains that this process can take some time, as your jeweler will want to be careful with the metal to ensure the ring is durable.
Next comes the setting phase, during which time gemologists and craftsmen work together to set the center stone and pick any accent diamonds. "The smaller accent diamonds or gemstones are then set into the ring with the center diamond, and the goal is to ensure we get a cohesive look with consistency and matching diamonds throughout the ring," explains Kankariya. "There are a variety of setting styles that contribute to the overall look of the ring—diamonds can be handset, which is traditional, but they can also be laser set."
Once the diamonds are in, your custom engagement ring will be polished, ensuring that the metal has a smooth and even finish. "The metal is also checked for scratches, dents, or air bubbles," says Kankariya. "A clean and even look is what the craftsmen and setter are aiming for." Last but not least, your engagement ring is inspected and cleaned (typically using a combination of steam and ultrasonic cleaning, according to Kankariya). "We're able to see that all the stones are set well and will not go anywhere," she says. "The steam cleans out even the smallest impurities and dirt to ensure a flawless finish." Once the ring is inspected by gemologists and a quality control team confirms that everything looks and sparkles as it should, it's all yours to wear and flaunt—after your significant other pops the question, that is!