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With a client list that includes celebs Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, Kanye West, and Michael Jordan coupled with a reputation as a trusted family-owned-and-operated jeweler for 95 years, Lester Lampert knows a thing or two about fine jewelry. With an expert team of craftsman to make pieces on-site, his engagement rings are among the most stunning we've ever seen. But, shopping for engagement rings can be intimidating, and oftentimes you're not happy with the sparklers (or price tags) you find in the glass cases of a store. That's why we sought out Lester's son David, a fourth-generation Chicago jeweler, for some pointers on how to land the engagement ring of your dreams.
Consider a custom ring, even if you're on a tight budget.
"Having our manufacturing facility on the premises means that we can create custom pieces relatively quickly, within three to four weeks," says Lampert, adding that a custom ring can oftentimes be more affordable in the end. After nailing down price parameters with the couple, this jeweler creates a model for approval before creating the final product. "It is very important for us to build long-lasting relationships with our clients," he says. "Jewelry is for a lifetime and we want to be their jeweler of choice for all life's special occasions." For that reason, they work hard to accommodate a couple's budget, even if that means offering a payment plan to make the special moment happen.
Use caution when buying a ring from an estate or auction.
Don't overlook the importance of buying a diamond ring that's accompanied by a reputable certificate. "It really takes an expert to judge the quality of a diamond, and it would be a shame to pay a lot of money for something that's not what you expected," he says. "If a couple were to purchase a diamond ring from an estate or auction, they should make sure it can be returned upon having the ring appraised by an independent source. Otherwise, you have to place your bid based on the assumption that it's not a genuine diamond so that if it's real and high-quality, it will be a great surprise!"
Don't count out a family heirloom that isn't exactly your style.
You love your great grandmother's ring and would never destroy its integrity by resetting the stones, but you still want the ring to feel a little new and more your style. "This is one area of expertise in which we have specialized for more than 40 years, and we have a process called 'Lesterizing' that refurbishes the existing ring to look, as we like to say, 'brand old,'" says Lampert. Or, you can take it a step further and consult with the design staff to suggest slight changes that modernize the ring while keeping its era intact. Major bonus: Re-appraisal of the completed ring is included in the price, and clients go home with an exclusive 'Lesterizer,' a special jewelry cleaning machine with the store's namesake.
Create a completely new setting for stones from another ring.
Redesigning an heirloom diamond into a new setting allows a couple to project their own style. "We are only limited by the boundaries of our imagination," he says, "so you can create any style, from contemporary to art deco." He prides himself on building relationships with clients, so that there's a level of trust and comfort, and stresses the importance of this in working with any jeweler. "You don't want to entrust a family heirloom to just anyone."