Admit it—you've had a Pinterest board's worth of wedding-reception DIYs locked and loaded since before you even officially became a bride-to-be. No shame, girlfriend. Who doesn't love a good, gorgeous wedding DIY or two (even if you don't consider yourself crafty enough to tackle 'em IRL…)? But even better than that DIY escort-card display or chalkboard welcome sign? A DIY engagement ring. Yep, they exist. But there's no glue gun or twine involved in this DIY. These are design-them-yourself engagement rings, and they're about to be the next cool-girl bridal trend taking over your social-media feed.
Jewelry designer Baylee Zwart's AZLEE collection is known for its effortless edge, clean and crisp detailing, and celebrity following. (Rihanna and Zoë Kravitz are fans.) With modern geometric shapes and stackable pieces, AZLEE baubles are such like-able Instagram fodder, it's no wonder why cool girls everywhere are obsessed with the brand. But now, with Zwart having just said "I do" herself, this accessories aficionado is officially in the bridal biz with custom engagement and wedding rings.
If you're the type of gal to scroll past the millionth engagement-ring selfie you've seen of a round-cut sparkler on a silver band, you're not alone. Countless other almost-brides-to-be crave a bauble that feels wholly like them—not just another Mrs. sparkly stamp. But with any geometric diamond shape, stone, or finish available, the sky is quite literally the limit when it comes to custom engagement rings. And don't let the process (or price) fool you. With modern jewelry companies like AZLEE in the driver's seat, DIY'ing (remember, designing!) your own engagement ring is much easier than you think.
"I don't think there is anything more special than knowing you have a ring that no one else in the world has," Baylee Zwart herself tells Brides. "I am always surprised that more people don't take the opportunity to do something custom more often for their wedding, but I think they just don't know where or how to start. Our job is to make that an easy, personal process."
With Zwart being a recent bride herself, she's currently rocking a one-of-a-kind sparkler (You didn't think a jewelry designer would just go with something already in that glass case, did you?) that's undeniably her—something that she believes every brides should possess. "I had never seen a ring that I felt was 'me,' honestly nothing even close," she explains. "I wanted clean, sleek, modern, timeless, and unusual all in one. I knew I wanted the stone to be the focus and have always loved bezel settings."
"Not to say the task wasn't intimidating!" she continues. "I was so scared to commit to the final design direction because it just felt like such a big decision, but I could not be happier. It is everything and more than what I envisioned.… I think you should look down at your ring and it should feel as unique and special as you are—like you have something that no one else in the world has. That is what I want to give people."
Cue AZLEE’s latest custom bridal work, something that this newly wedded lady is especially passionate about. "I adore that feeling of forever. It is why I got into fine jewelry in the first place—to create things that last forever," muses Zwart. "Bridal is the pinnacle of bringing that concept to life. It's also a very different way of experiencing jewelry and my relationship with customers, which I also adore. I get to meet people at one of the most exciting times in their lives. I get to bring their dreams to life, be there for them and with them through such a special experience."
With all of the one-of-a-kind pieces made locally in Los Angeles, catch-your-eye designs (think unusual half-moon shapes, vertically stacked stones, and unconventional styles) that represent you and only you, and the fact that a portion of the profits goes to help ocean-related causes, going custom with AZLEE sounds almost too good.
But hold up a second…how exactly does a proposal with a custom-designed ring work? Does your guy pop the question with an empty box? Do you spoil the surprise for yourself by designing the ring ahead of the proposal? Deep breath, brides. You can have that romantic, caught-off-guard moment with custom bling. Zwart's own proposal tale proves it.
"My fiancé did an amazing job with handling the ring situation," she says. "He knew I would want to design my own ring but didn't want me to make one, give it back to him, then propose. He wanted to surprise me. So he actually whittled me a wood ring out of the leg of the couch that we met on. He also proposed on that couch on a cliffside! So I was very surprised and didn't know it was coming, which was amazing. I wore that wood ring for about a year and a half while I looked for the stone for my ring. I adore it. It is so special, and we are having it custom framed to hang by our front door, as it is so dear to both of us."
*Umm…*we're sold. So what's this supposedly easy-peasy process like? "I don't think designing your own ring should feel burdensome. I think, if anything, it should be liberating," says Zwart. "My job is to let people dream and then, on the back end, make it something that works. I think if you like someone's work and overall style, you should be confident that it will be something beautiful."
Zwart breaks it down: "Depending on the level of involvement that my clients want, they are involved in every aspect of the design process. From collaborating, to sketches, to 3-D renderings, I make sure they are totally on board and excited before we ever even start production. Whether it be via phone calls, in-person meetings, or emails, the entire process is collaborative, and I make sure it is exactly what the client had hoped for and more. I have clients come to me with absolutely no idea of what they want, to people with a very clear vision, and both starting points work and end with amazingly beautiful pieces. Everything is collaborative and personal."
So if you're a pre-bride-to-be, is a DIY engagement ring for you? The short answer is yes. "I think the women—and men—who are drawn to our work are looking for something high-quality, modern, and timeless," says Zwart. "They want a slight hint of unusual, personal, and unexpected while maintaining a timelessness that will last for years to come. They want something no one else has: a story behind their ring."
Yes. All the yes.