1. What is the first step and most important thing to consider when couples start ring shopping?
When couples are ready to start engagement ring shopping, they need to know what they value the most, and this varies from person to person. For our couples, it’s having a completely custom engagement ring that’s totally unique and that they won’t see on their friends or on other people on Instagram. Another top concern is ethical sourcing; couples want to know that they’ve got a conflict-free diamond (this can be a lab-created diamond or ethically sourced) or an ethical gemstone. Some couples want to work closely with a jeweler because they want to see that the ring is high quality and built to last a lifetime. So when you’re ready to start shopping for rings, you need to identify what’s most important to you as a couple, what you value, and what will best symbolize your relationship.
2. How often do you get a fiancee that chooses/designs something completely unique without consulting their partner first? Do you recommend this?
We do get a lot of brave souls who come to our studio and want to design an engagement ring on their own so that it can be a complete surprise to their partner, but most aren’t flying totally blind these days. They have a sense of their partner’s style, what kind of jewelry they wear, (or the holy grail) their Pinterest board. Whether they’ve got some intel or not, we’re trained in sussing out what their fiance would want in an engagement ring. We spend a lot of time learning about their life as a couple, what they do for a living, their day-to-day activities and what they’re into. Do we recommend designing an engagement ring without consulting your partner? It depends on your unique relationship and your unique partner. Some people love the surprise proposal and are super touched by the thought that goes into making a custom ring. Others want to be involved in the process, and want to design the ring together. And still others will start the design process together, but will keep their partner in the dark as we get closer to the final design. There’s no wrong way to get engaged.
3. What’s your favorite style of ring/setting/metal? And your favorite diamond shape?
This changes over time because I’m constantly in the world of engagement rings and diamonds, looking at gorgeous classic styles and new trends. There are seriously endless combinations of metals, stones, and settings but most people are only familiar with the most popular styles — and those styles are everywhere because they’re mass-produced and easy to replicate. I like seeing new, unique styles that haven’t been done before. Lately, I’ve been really into colored diamonds and rough diamonds mixed in with a diamond center stone and set in sleek high polished platinum. My favorite diamond shape of all time is a round brilliant cut. It’s a classic for a reason.
4. Do you find that more Colorado brides are drawn to a specific style? If so, which one?
Colorado brides definitely like to play with shape in their engagement rings. We’re doing a lot of geometric rings, and achieving the look by putting a traditional round cut diamond in a hexagon-shaped setting. We’re also doing more pear shaped, emerald cuts and marquise cut diamonds, and setting them horizontally for a really unexpected twist on a classic. Colorado brides are always looking for something really unique, and if it’s not with unexpected design flourishes or non-traditional stones, then it’s with little handcrafted touches like slight asymmetry or milgrain detail in the metal work.
5. What’s your favorite thing about designing jewelry/engagement rings?
The clients I work with and getting to be a part of someone’s story for a little slice in time! Whether it’s working with a couple on an engagement ring, or helping someone repurpose a piece of heirloom family jewelry into a new design, jewelry is always really meaningful to the individual and you get to hear their story and what’s important to them. I also love getting to be creative, and looking at beautiful things all day definitely does not suck.
6. What’s the process of designing a ring, once a couple has decided to go that route? How long does it take?
Before a you come in, it’ll help the design process if you can collect ring inspiration and get an idea of you want, what you like, and what you don’t like. Pinterest is a great tool for this, and so is Instagram. You should also figure out what’s important to you, and what your budget is. We can really make whatever you’re dreaming of, so it’s important to remember that you can think totally outside the box, and there’s really no limit to what we can design. At your first meeting, you’ll talk to a jewelry designer about what you’re looking for and then we’ll get to sketching options for your ring. Then we’ll communicate back and forth until we’ve created the perfect design. Next we’ll source a range of stones for you to choose from so you can see different shapes and sizes. Then we’re ready to start production, so we mockup the final design in CAD or create a wax model. Then your ring is cast in metal, your stones are hand set, and the finishing touches are applied.
From our first meeting to the finished product, it typically takes 6-8 weeks. This varies with each couple, based on how fast they make decisions, the complexity of their design, and the rarity of stones we’re sourcing for them.
7. How did you get into the industry of jewelry-making? What’s your background and favorite thing about the business?
I’ve been making jewelry since I was about 6 years old, thanks to the help and support of my dad and grandma who bought me tons of beads and gems. My grandma (of Native American descent) had an huge collection of jewelry and beads and artifacts that I loved to play with when I was young… I was really inspired by this, and it had a long-lasting effect. My path took an interesting turn and I ended up studying chemistry and getting a pre-med undergraduate degree, and then spent my twenties traveling the world and consulting. I eventually came back to my roots in jewelry design and I went back to school and got an MBA in finance and entrepreneurship. Starting a business in diamonds and fine jewelry isn’t easy, and I faced a lot of naysayers who didn’t believe that I had the balls, the knowledge, the drive, the education, or the diamond pedigree. But I never stopped trying to reach my dream.
The reason that I love jewelry, and I think it’s so important, and I devote my career and passion to it is because there are few other things that that commemorate your life, that stay with you, that mark the really big occasions that change your life, and that your family passes down through the generations. We change our clothes, our cars, our homes, our careers, but our jewelry doesn’t change. When we wear these pieces we are reminded of these big milestones that make us who we are, down to our very existence. And for me, those are the things we need to hold on to and be reminded of and be proud of.
8. Average cost of an engagement ring (setting + diamond)?
My average engagement ring has a 1 carat diamond center plus accent diamonds and starts around $12,000 – $15,000 depending on materials and complexity of design. No diamond is the same, and there’s a wide range of sizes, colors, and clarity, but when you see a typical engagement ring, the diamond center stone is probably 1 carat or more. That being said, we also do a lot of repurposed jewelry, whereby we remodel family heirloom jewelry into a new engagement ring. Sometimes having that diamond taken care of can make the ring a bit more budget friendly.
9. Any trends/styles you would advise to avoid?
We just did a whole blog about this! And it’s not that we don’t love some of these trendy styles and gemstones (we do, they’re beautiful!) it’s that a lot of trendy jewelry just isn’t durable enough for an engagement ring. Think about it: you wear an engagement day every day for decades and decades, and then you hopefully pass it down to the next generation. It’s gotta withstand years of wear, years of accidentally hitting against car doors, pots and pans, and fitness equipment. Soft gemstones like turquoise, pearl, moonstone, and opal just won’t last. They’ll get scratched and they’ll break. They’ll seriously cook in hot tubs. This is why diamonds are the most commonly used stone for engagement rings — diamonds are literally the toughest organic material on the planet. A diamond scratches other materials. If you’re curious about the durability of non-diamonds, there’s an industry-wide approved scale that measures the hardness of different gemstones. Moissanite comes close, as do sapphires and rubies. I’d also advise against the super thin, super dainty bands that are everywhere right now. Yes, they’re delicate and beautiful, but metal bends if you knock it against something hard enough.
10. How do you interpret a bride’s style when she shows you a Pinterest board of a bunch of different styles? How do you narrow down?
There’s usually one overarching theme, with a sprinkling of outliers. Most brides will fall into a category, whether they know it or not: vintage-inspired, modern, Art Deco, feminine, classic, minimalist… the list goes on. I’ll be able to see patterns among the rings they pin–like all the rings feature a huge rock, or really intricate metal work, or asymmetry, or rose gold metal. I also see how they dress, what their style is, and ask where they shop. There’s a difference between someone who loves Anthropologie vs. Free People vs J. Crew, and most girls will be a mix. I also ask what the person does for a living and what their hobbies are. This tells me more about the person’s vibe, what they’re in to, and what makes sense for their life. My main goal is to capture a person’s spirit in their custom jewelry.
We hope you enjoyed learning more about the process of custom jewelry design, if you or someone you know is looking to custom design a ring or any style of jewelry, we recommend visiting Abby Sparks and setting up a consultation! Their design team is excellent, they offer wonderful customer service, and creativity is their specialty!