Shopping for an engagement ring is a lot like shopping for a wedding dress: You have to try on a lot of different options to figure out what you like. As you play with different styles, gemstones, and settings, you may find yourself loving specific elements of certain rings, but unable to find one that ticks all the boxes. For those with a unique vision, a custom engagement ring gives you the ability to design the ring of your dreams from start to finish.
"If you have certain priorities with the design, i.e. the use of lab-grown diamonds, a different color band, a unique shape, etc., custom is the best way to accommodate these wants," says Jennie Yoon, CEO and founder of Kinn, a Los Angeles-based fine jewelry brand.
How to Create a Custom Engagement Ring
Before you even consult with a jewelry designer, you need to see what’s out there in terms of ring styles and materials. Not only is this important in helping you understand and define your style, but this can also help cut back on the rounds of designs you’ll do with a jewelry designer, which can start adding up quickly.
"Once you have a bit of an idea of what you want—maybe you have tried a few styles on, gone to a handful of jewelry stores, seen different designs and know the direction you want, know your budget range—then it’s a good time to start talking to designers and jewelers," suggests Chelsey Bartrum, founder of Starling Jewelry.
Most bridal jewelry brands design custom engagement rings, so if there’s a particular designer you follow and love, reach out and inquire about the custom process and price range. Take a look at the engagement rings they’ve designed and make sure their style compliments yours.
"When I work with custom clients we first establish a budget and any timeline goals," Bartrum says. "We also chat about initial design ideas to make sure that we are a good fit to work together."
Once you’ve committed to a designer, then the real fun begins. They’ll present a few design sketches that align with your style and preferences. Some designers will even mock up the ring in a 3D CAD rendering, which gives you a better picture of what the ring will look like once it’s completed. Once you’ve approved the design, the designer hits the ground running: finding the stone, designing the setting, and making the ring.
While the process may seem arduous, according to Universal Diamonds owner and jewelry expert Ronnie Agami, the best jewelers have this process down pat. "Normally, it doesn't take more than two meetings to get it right, and then we get to work," he says. "People know what they want nowadays. Plus, when you’ve been dating a long time, you don’t want it to take too long."
When to Start Designing a Custom Engagement Ring
Depending on the designer, the entire process of designing a custom engagement ring can take anywhere from a few weeks to two or three months. Today, it’s common for couples to embark on this journey together before even officially getting engaged.
"It’s typically always couples that come in together to design a custom piece," says New York-based jewelry designer Shahla Karimi. "A lot of times one partner wants to be the only one to pick it up so that there’s still that element of surprise."
With pandemic-related supply chain disruptions still rippling across every industry, it’s best to give designers plenty of time to source the materials and craft your custom piece. It takes a few weeks of working with a designer to finalize your design and another few weeks or months for the whole thing to come together. All in all, expect to wait a few months before going home with your custom creation.
Custom Engagement Ring Cost
As with anything custom, the cost varies by the designer and materials you choose. Your designer can work with your budget to source high-quality gemstones that are within your price range.
"[Factors include] the size of the stone, the metal, lab-grown or natural, along with the details and materials that can be repurposed from heirlooms," says Yoon. "We’ve worked with a wide range of budgets and are transparent with the pricing of materials, etc. with our customers. On average, couples spend somewhere between $10,000 to $12,000."
What to Look for in a Jeweler
The best custom engagement ring is one that both you and the jewelry designer are satisfied with. The jeweler you choose should help inspire your custom design, so you should seek out someone whose designs you’re already a fan of. Once you know you like their style, do your due diligence.
"Look for GIA credentials to ensure you are working with someone that is knowledgeable in the space," offers Yoon. "From there, ask for reviews, a portfolio of their previous work, and what their process looks like. You want to be sure you’re on the same page with expectations, values when it comes to sourcing materials, and ultimately, that you like their designs."
By nature, a custom ring is something that hasn’t been made, so expect some back and forth as you hone in on what the final product should look like. You want to work with someone who you can have that open dialogue with and who has the expertise to make your vision happen.
"Make sure you feel really comfortable and trust the person you end up working with because you want this to be a really joyful, easy experience," reminds Bartrum. "The cherry on top would be making sure they have a graduate gemology or G.G. degree from GIA, which means they have taken the time to study diamonds and gemstones and have the knowledge to guide you through the stone buying process."
Custom Engagement Ring Tips
Know what you want.
Before your initial consultation, you should have an idea of what you’re looking for. Your designer's job isn’t to convince you to go custom but to make your custom ring dreams come true. Come in with ideas and your designer can help bring them to life.
Trust the jeweler.
The best jewelers will tell you what is and isn’t possible when it comes to your custom engagement ring. If your dream ring is out of your budget, they’ll work with what you have to create a similar piece. Don’t be afraid to ask what’s possible, and trust them when they tell you the truth.
Don’t go to a jeweler and ask them to copy someone else's ring.
Most jewelry designers will not recreate another designer’s work that you see and love but may be out of your price range. You can present it as inspiration in terms of style and look, but asking them to rip off another designer’s art is frowned upon in the industry. Work with your designer to create something that’s new and uniquely yours.