What’s the Best Way to Design Your Own Engagement Ring?


Let's talk about bling

What's The Best Way To Design Your Own Engagement Ring?

Q: Hello APW!

Pre-engaged and looking into making some non-traditional rings for myself and my partner for our upcoming engagement. Does anyone have any good independent jewelers (thinking Etsy or otherwise) in the old Rolodex who do custom ring design with sustainable materials for (clincher) not a TON of money? Ideally it’s a person or company who can do design work from afar.

Note: I’m talking actually designing the ring (as in, changing the shape of the band and getting a little funky) as opposed to “designing” an engagement ring (pick one of five stones, pick one of five settings, pick the metal out of these three options, etc.).

Thanks!

One Ring to Rule Them All

OK, APW—let’s talk about bling. What were the best resources you found? Favorite jewelers to work with? Ethical companies you want shout out? THe time is now. 

If you want the APW community’s two cents, send it to QUESTIONS AT APRACTICALWEDDING DOT COM, and we’ll do our best to crowdsource you some answers!

Staff Picks

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  • Greenish

    Holy hell yes – Justin Duance (https://www.justind.co.uk/). He created the most beautiful responsibly-sourced custom engagement rings for me and my partner, at an incredibly reasonable price, and his team are lovely to work with. Can’t recommend highly enough.

  • Ken and Dana Design in NYC totally rocked the ring design process for me. Though I went there for our engagement and wedding rings, they do all sorts of custom commissions so I would definitely try them regardless of whether you’re in the market for marriage or not. The entire process took about 5 months only because I wanted a morganite e-ring and morganite is tricky to source. I was particularly picky about the size of the stone and surprisingly, morganite in smaller carats was harder to find.

    It’s a family run business and I love returning every now and again to get our rings cleaned and serviced. The customer service is top notch, and I feel good knowing that supporting them and their vision of ethical jewelry (they source conflict free diamonds) will also help put their kids through college. I still go back to their website every now and then to see what new rings have turned up!

    It’s cheaper if you modify one of the rings that they already have up on their website. I modified the melinda band to include double prongs and paired it with the whirlwind band that had champagne colored diamonds. During the process, I also considered Brilliant Earth, but because I wanted to be able to see the color of my stone in person, I chose a local jeweler that I could visit. Paying in cash nets a small discount with Ken and Dana, and that was something else that I wanted to be able to take advantage of locally.

  • LJ

    My now-husband designed my ring with a traditional family jeweler (non-chain). Granted, my ring is somewhat traditional with a twist, but they didn’t have what he was looking for so the guy drew him up some ideas and they made some tweaks and had it made. For my wedding band they didn’t have exactly what I wanted either (difficulty of a custom ring!), but we looked at some of their existing rings and said “we like this of this one and that of that one” and they drew us up something and went for it. Probably not all traditional jewelers are like that, but doesn’t hurt to ask the local guy!

  • We had a great experience custom designing my wedding band with Green Lake Jewelry Works ( http://www.greenlakejewelry.com/ ). They’re based out of Seattle, so we were able to go to the showroom and meet with a designer, but they also do online consults. Cost wise we didn’t pay any more for my band than we would have at a big box store (we probably would have gone with something less customized at a big box store). My husband’s wedding band was actually less expensive from Green Lake than it was from another big box store despite the addtion of some milgrain work.

    • Lizzie

      Us too! I started with their online process for my engagement ring and then met with a designer in their shop. I loved getting to see the wax molds as the design progressed. Their staff were fantastic and I was thrilled to get exactly what I wanted with no upselling or condescension. The price was also less than we had expected to pay, and the entire process was transparent with respect to what each change would mean for the final price. I think their online showroom/design tool would make it easy for one partner to get the other’s input while will retaining an element of surprise, if that’s important.

    • Nikki

      Same here! My husband and I talked about engagement ring designs I liked and then he worked one-on-one with one of their designers (from across the country) to design exactly what he wanted. My hubby said they were great to work with, and saw various sketches throughout the design process before it went to production. They were also able to give us some more sustainable (and cheaper!) options, such as using the stone moissanite, for the center stone. Would definitely recommend them!

  • Eenie

    I know this is not what you asked for, but I have to plug Gemvara. I’ve had absolutely the best customer service with them. If you can work with the settings they already have, you get endless possibilities. I asked for a stone that they didn’t have listed in one ring and they gave me a price and updated their site. I asked for recommendations for a wedding band to go with it and I’m SOOOOO happy with the one they recommended. They also, once again, updated the ring to include platinum so it would match my engagement ring.

  • Leah

    As a novice metalsmith, I have to say ABSOLUTELY you can find someone to design *exactly* the ring you’re imagining! I’m not good enough yet, but I dream of the day someone will approach me and say, “any chance you could make something like….this?”

    My advice would be to search out local art schools (that offer metalsmithing) and/or metalsmithing studios. One other piece of advice? Materials are really not that expensive… so you might consider finding your own stones and gold/silver/titanium/whatever floats your boat/ and then approaching a metalsmith for their craftsmanship only :) Much nicer route than paying a big box for their pre-fabbed rings!!

  • Mrrpaderp

    My fiancé (mostly) and I (to a lesser extent) went with a local jeweler. I absolutely love the end result; it was exactly what I was imagining.

    If you have a specific vision, I’d encourage you to get a CAD workup of the ring before they make it. My fiancé insisted on seeing a CAD drawing because he has trouble visualizing things like this (it’s the same with home renovations but that’s a whole ‘nother thread). I’m SO GLAD he did. I thought we had articulated our “vision” pretty clearly, but the first thing they came back with was NOTHING AT ALL like what we wanted. It took a while going back and forth, but the final product is everything I could’ve asked for and more. Just be prepared that this is not a quick process. I don’t know the exact date my fiancé picked up the ring, but I think it was over 3 months from the time we first started working with the designer to the time he could take the ring home.

    • Eenie

      CAD=computer aided design, basically electronic blue prints or sometimes a 3D rendered version in a computer program

  • Arie

    I worked with J Albrecht Designs in Boulder and they were absolutely phenomenal. I had an old ring and wanted to design a new setting for the same (old, old) stone. I came in with some ideas and they brought the whole thing to life, totally beyond my expectations. They did CAD drawings and a wax model before actually making the piece. The price was exactly what was quoted to us and everything was completed early or on time. But I think most importantly: it was really obvious that these people are true craftsmen who love what they do. They were 100% professional and down to earth: no jewelry store crap.

    They don’t really work in sustainable materials and I’m not sure if they do design work from afar, so I’m sorry that this doesn’t help the original poster. But if anyone is in Colorado and is thinking about getting custom anything done: go here. It was awesome. And one more plug for designing your own ring: it gave us something tangible to work on/wait on for 6 weeks while we talked our way through pre-engagement. I really liked having a pending project so that it was like: we are working on the tangible object that makes this real for the world, but in the meantime, let’s talk about our finances and process what all this means. There are a lot of different ways to do that, obviously, but it was really cool to have a semi-enforced waiting period while we worked on the ring.

  • nsmmb

    We went with Bario Neal in Philly for my engagement ring and I’ll also be getting my wedding band there. They ethically source all their materials, are owned and operated by women and the custom designs featured on their site and in store are gorgeous! They are worth checking out for sure.

    • LisaG

      Seconding this. We bought our wedding bands from Bario Neal (we visited their NYC showroom) and we were very satisfied with their service and products.

  • AE

    Midwinter Co!

  • Philippa

    My husband and I designed my engagement ring (exactly as you described – designed from the ground up!) with a little local jeweller in my parents’ home town who had also designed the necklace my parents gave me on my 21st birthday. Local can be GREAT :-) We also designed our wedding bands, and went with a UK-based ethical jeweller called CRED – they were amazing! So not that helpful if you live in the states, but if like me you’re a UK reader, I really recommend them!

  • Kristen

    The jeweler who designed both my engagement ring and my wedding band is AMAZING. He is based out of Philly. Totally works with you and his prices are at cost, so it’s totally affordable! I’ve attached a pic of my engagement ring. Name of the jeweler is Mark Banik, MJB Jewelers in Philly on Jeweler’s Row! Good luck and have fun!

    • nsmmb

      Yay for Philly jewelers! Your ring is GORGEOUS

  • ParkSlopian

    My (very unique) engagement ring was designed by Dana Walden Bridal in NYC – they did an amazing job and I would recommend them in a heartbeat!! They are super nice, do beautiful custom work and their clients are definitely on the non-traditional side.

    You’d have to ask more about their custom prices, but they do have a great section on their website for engagement rings under $2,500, as well as info on their website about their sustainable and ethical practices: http://www.danawaldenbridal.com

  • Megan

    Sounds like my experience was similar to other commenters in that I worked with a local jeweler to do a design. She was awesome – mocked it up in CAD and built a wax mold so we could see what it would look like before proceeding. She also worked with us to pick out the exact stone – she’d have some sent in and her and B would look at them together before picking what it would be.

    So, they probably wouldn’t consult from afar, so not helpful for the poster, but for any Milwaukee/Wisco ladies, highly recommend Atrio Jewelry in MKE!

    My husband also worked with them to design me a custom necklace for Christmas with an engraving of the state of Wisconsin on the front of a pendant and our dating anniversary, engagement anniversary and wedding date engraved on the back. They’re our “go to” jeweler now!

  • JenC

    If you’re going for wedding bands as well as engagement bands I’d recommend asking the jeweller to do both at the same time, obviously if you can afford it. That way you can make sure that your rings fit together and the design is consistent, it might also be cheaper than getting them made separately. Also, my wedding band is being made to fit my engagement ring and I miss wearing it. It’s weird because I wouldn’t consider myself materialistic but I do miss wearing it and if I’m being honest looking at it (plus for like a week after it went away I thought I’d lost the ring and had a mini panic attack each time). Sometimes bigger, national jewellers do custom work too. I got my wedding band when they had a wedding special so we got 20% off.


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  • Amanda

    I highly recommend Elektrika Banana (http://www.elektrikabanana.com/), a small jeweler based out of Portland, OR. She is very talented, and definitely off beat. She’d be open to just about any design idea you can come up with, and she’s happy to work with people all over the world.

  • Brie

    My fiancé and I went with Bario Neal in Philly and they were amazing — we did a standard band of theirs for his engagement band and a modification on one of their custom designs, which we loved. They were actually awesome about staying in our price range (and going below our price range) and definitely know their stuff. We did a couple of hours of stone picking and arranging, metal decisions, all that jazz. They also do totally custom work and are amazing artisans. All ethically sourced, very educational. We can’t say enough good things about them!

  • eating words

    If by any chance you are in Connecticut, my wife and I worked with Derek Simpson in New Haven for our engagement rings and wedding rings, and he.is.amazing. For the engagement rings, a family member gave us stones, and we had very specific ideas. He got exactly what we were envisioning and sketched them as we talked. They came out beautifully, and were much more affordable than I’d expected. I still stare at my ring on a regular basis, and we still get compliments on them all the time.

    But to give you more general advice: talk to jewelers. Look at their previous work and see if it fits with your style. I know the post asks about working remotely, but talk to them in person if at all possible; it’s just the best way to know you’re getting what they promise you. I’ve had a couple of jewelers mention stories of people bringing in jewelry bought online that just isn’t up to normal quality standards and needs repairs.

    Find someone that you enjoy working with. If you talk to a jeweler who SAYS they get you but then you start feeling like they don’t, or they try to convince you to do something that you don’t want, they are probably not the ones for you. (That happend to us at first. It felt yucky to walk away, but we wasted so much time and it was clearly not going to work.) You should love and trust their work.

  • Kelsey

    We love our rings from our local artsy/alternative jewelry store, Global Pathways (https://www.etsy.com/shop/GlobalPathways). Not sure if you’re looking to spend as little as we did, but my aquamarine sterling silver ring was under $150, and my partner’s is brushed sterling silver for I think $60? And they made it within a day! So yes, we love them.

  • CMT

    If you happen to be in New Hampshire, my friend Orin does this! http://www.designergoldjewelry.com/gallery-artists/

  • WarnerFamily

    My husband and I designed my engagement ring and wedding bands together with Kathi and Pano from Kosmima Fine Jewelry near Boston. http://kosmimafinejewelry.com.

    They are EXCELLENT! I wanted something simple but unique and ultimately came up with a sapphire and diamond design on a gold band that I love. Kathi and Pano understand that everyone has a budget in mind and will work with you to find the best way to make your idea come to life. I never felt like they were pressuring us to do something we didn’t want or couldn’t afford. My ring actually had a small mistake, which they quickly fixed before our wedding. I know they can do great work from afar since my cousin designed his wife’s gorgeous diamond engagement ring with them all via email from New York.

    I simply cannot recommend them highly enough.

  • Sparkles

    My husband designed my engagement ring and he worked with the local jewellery store. Not a chain store, like the owner lives around the corner mom and pop jewellery store. They came up with a wax model based on pictures and modified it to come up with the final product. He was great to work with and it seemed like this is a pretty common thing they do.

  • Emily W

    We designed my ring, from an idea I had and a sketch my (now) husband made at a local jeweler. We’ve since moved, but every time we’re in town (my MIL lives there), we stop by and they check and clean my ring. It’s been 5 years since we first walked in to design the ring and I have absolutely no regrets. It wasn’t the cheapest place we got a quote, but we got a really great vibe from them. If you’re in the Seattle area, it’s Joseph’s Jewelry in Bellevue.

    • Maggie

      We got my ring from Joseph’s, too, but via the magic of the internet! Though we didn’t do a custom design, and more went the “do a lot of increasingly-specific google image searches and find one we like, then just tweak that” route. But my ring is beautiful and perfect for me :)

      • Emily W

        I wouldn’t have thought of that! That’s not a bad idea for any future jewelry purchases too… ;)

  • Mandi P

    Angie Star Jewelry in Boulder, CO. I love my wedding band & can’t wait to get a little treat from them for our first anniversary! (Hint, hint… dear!)

  • Amanda L

    My husband had my ring designed and made by Demirjian Jewelers in Scottsdale, AZ. When I got a new setting, they were kind enough to remove my diamond from the setting (something other jewelers wouldn’t even touch) and make the ring wearable. I highly recommend finding an independent jeweler.

  • shannonly

    I’m not sure if she would work remote, but if anyone is reading this in Chicago, I’d HIGHLY recommend Dallas Maynard. Her jewelry lines are really funky and sculptural, and she did an OUTSTANDING job on my more classic custom ring. I loved going in and seeing her workshop where she had all different kinds of jewelry in the works.

    She worked with my husband to find a gemstone in the exact dimensions they needed for his design for my ring. He said he went in a bunch of times to look at the CAD and make changes with her, and that she was so awesome and helpful.

    She also was super transparent about costs. We were willing to spend a decent amount, but she was really helpful in explaining where we could splurge vs save. She did our wedding bands, too.

    Plus she was just as nice as can be! Highly recommend.

    http://dallasmaynard.com

  • Caroline Sjööh

    I have the answer to this!! Korus Design at Etsy. They’re located in Finland, SUPER nice and so so talented! They made my ring, and it was The. Best. Shopping. Experience. Ever. Not kidding. I gave them my budget, a few thoughts about what I wanted, and then they sent me some sketches for me to have opinions on. I fell for the 11th design they draw for me, a titanium ring with a pink sapphire and some small diamonds. They are great at working with titanium, a great choice for metal!
    English isn’t their native language, nor mine, but communication was excellent. I seriously couldn’t recommend them any more than I do. I’m totally in love with them and with my ring!

  • Stephanie

    Any suggestions for custom jewelry work in Washington DC? I have some stones from our families to use. All of the jewelers I’ve looked at online in DC do very traditional work. I’d love to hear if anyone had a ring made in or around the District.

  • Pamela Tyll

    I approached designing my own engagement ring the same way I buy cars. I started with research – and lots of it. Then I went to a few big box stores (Robbins Bros, Jared’s, Zales, etc.) to try on different stone sizes and shapes. Because shocker – what I thought I liked I DID NOT like when it was finally on my hand! Funny how that works, huh? Then back to research – I researched different jewelers (both online, like Gemvara or local, like Jewelry Limited here in Dallas). I posted in my neighborhood Facebook group asking them for local jeweler recommendations – who do you trust? Who do you love? Who went the extra mile? Who do you hate? and the answers piled up.Then I started going to these local jewelers and dicussing what I wanted. Did they understand what I wanted? Could they sketch it out? Did they try to force to buy a diamond right then and there? Did my partner feel pressured? Were we comfortable with this person? Ultimately, we ended up having a wonderful experience at a local jeweler 2 miles away from our house who made the process easy and pleasant. I wasn’t pressured, I was treated respectfully and I genuinelly fell in love with the company.

  • Gel

    I would highly recommend Dana Walden Bridal out of NYC – http://www.danawaldenbridal.com/ – My fiancee & I met with Dana & Rad, the husband & wife duo who started their bridal jewelry line after much success with high fashion/runway jewelry with social justice messages (http://www.danawaldenjewelry.com/ – SO great!). We found them online and scheduled an appointment in person after reading about their philosophy and methods of working. They use 100% recycled metals, which is unheard of, and they manage their supply chain very closely, so they understand exactly where and who their gems are coming from. They also work in a variety of lab created stones that I have to say, are more beautiful than some of their mined counterparts.

    We met with Dana & Rad in their studio and were immediately at ease. They were completely warm and friendly, not pushy in the least, and didn’t put one ounce of pressure on us to increase our very modest budget. They said – we’ll figure out how to make it work – and they did!

    Everything they do is custom, even if you are getting one of their already created designs, so it gives you the opportunity to do custom at a much lower cost and stress level and headache than usual. We went in, tried on all sorts of different things and talked with them to say – we kind of like this metal, but not this part of this ring, and that stone, and this part of the other ring, and maybe make it a little more vintage looking, etc. They totally understood our vision (which to be fair, was absolutely zero when we first walked in the door) and made it came perfectly to life. After our visit, they worked with my fiancee to figure out exactly what he was going to order, sent him some drawings/renderings, and then took the leap and started creating it in their beautiful workshop in Maine.

    We absolutely couldn’t have asked for a better experience and couldn’t have imagined we’d get such beautiful high quality craftsmanship, lovely warm service, and an affordable, fair price. We’ve been recommending them to everyone since :)

  • Angela

    We had a bad experience with the first jewellers we chose to make the ring. They did not start making it when it was due to be delivered, and then they were like, well our quote has expired and the price just doubled. We found this little family based company (Silverstone Auckland, NZ) who were just a delight to deal with and my ring is unique and beautiful and exactly how I had imagined it. I feel it has set a really good precedent going forward with wedding planning – we are going to be much more careful to only engage vendors that we like the ppl!

  • Lucile Hecht

    I can’t recommend Facets in Park Slope, Brooklyn, more highly! I had two family rings that I wanted to combine. They helped with the design process, indulged all my back-and-forth with ideas, and finally produced a really stunning ring at very low price that met all my goals. http://www.facetsparkslope.com/

  • Steph

    I got my ring custom made through CustomMade.com. we had family stones to use, and i disliked most engagement rings I saw. i pulled inspiration pics from the internets, and then posted a “want” ad for a designer. got my modified 3 stone, 14K white gold ring with all family stones, for $800 (my exact budget :)). once i chose my designer (Hershal Wiggins- he usually works in silver, would totally have taken recycled gold if we had had it, did AMAZING work, we communicated through email and phone. he sent me pictures, i sent back requests. it took awhile, but after about 4 months, i had my exactly-like-i-wanted-it engagement ring, in the budget i felt comfortable with. i recommend it to everyone!

  • Ida

    My fiance and I were very open about getting engaged and that he wanted me to be involved in the ring process, so that I would get exactly what I wanted. I can be very picky and have specific tastes. my then-boyfriend gave me the budget he wanted to spend on the ring and I did a lot of ring research – in store and online. I couldn’t find anything that was just right and within the budget. The best option was to design the ring and have it made.

    I was extremely lucky to have friends who have their own jewelry line and they make bespoke engagement rings. If you are in the Los Angeles area, then I would highly recommend Mai and Chris of Sirciam Jewelry (www.sirciam.com)!!! After sharing my inspirations, they helped us source all the diamonds and offered advice on what details (vintage engraving, etc) I could add based on the budget. I got to see the 3D printed mold of the ring because I wanted to make sure the dimensions of the ring would be just right. After that, my boyfriend took over the process and I never knew when the ring was finally ready.

    It was a wonderful surprise when he proposed to me and the ring was even more beautiful than I could have ever imagined. I’m so happy that my fiance and I could share in the ring design process together and in the end, I got exactly what I wanted!

  • Lily

    Just in case anyone in or around London, UK is reading this, I wholeheartedly recommend checking out Richard Chown ( http://www.richardchown.co.uk ).
    We picked up the wedding rings he designed for us yesterday, and they are *astounding*. I came with all manner of wild ideas, and he somehow managed to incorporate them all into a beautiful, incredibly detailed carving. And all that ended up costing about what I’d expected for something completely generic off the high street.
    Absolutely worth a look!

  • Alexis

    Natural Sapphire Company was my pick! I loved the idea of sapphires, and they have tons of options, even white! They have great customer service and really helped us. I suggest taking a look!