Introduction: Custom Engagement Ring
7 years ago, I found the person I wanted to marry. I had been to jewelry stores, looked at rings, priced out options, and couldn't find something that I liked. Yes I know it is what the girl wants and not what I want, but I am a maker, creator, whatever you want to call it, so if I have to look at a ring I put on my wife's hand for the next 50 years, I want to like it too.
While sitting in church with my girlfriend at the time, I had a thought on a ring that I wanted to create. I didn't have any idea how to make it just a picture of the ring in my head. I am crafty and creative but not a jeweler. In the end, I created the design, drew out variations, worked with a Jeweler to finalize it, but had it cast by a Jewelry artist the Jeweler contracted.
This instructable goes into a bit of detail as to how that process went from start to finish. It details the interaction with a Jeweler to create something custom, the story of why I made the ring, and the outcome of the process in creating the engagement ring, aka my engagement. I wrote in a story format with details mixed in. If you don't want to see the story and want a cliff notes version, Read the above paragraph and look at the pictures :) It's ok, I do it all the time.
As I stated already, I did not do the casting and final setting, but I did design the ring and have it commissioned from start to finish.
This is my story.....
Step 1: Initial Design
The initial design was created on the back of the notes sheet in the bulletin on Sunday morning. I could not tell you what the message was that day. I was drawing a cross on the back of the bulletin and made another cross opposite it. Suddenly a ring shape appeared in my head. I redrew the crosses and the turned it into a ring a half dozen times trying to sort out what looked right and what didn't. It was simplistic, Christian themed, and beautiful, at least in my mind.
A very curious girlfriend asked what I was drawing. I don't think she remembers any of the message that day either.
When I got home, I spent the next week drawing out the design in more detail. I was trying to sort out how to create what I saw in my mind and transfer that to paper.
Step 2: Aquire the Diamond
"Diamonds are intrinsically Worthless". DeBeers Chairman 1999.
But if you ever tell your girlfriend that fact, you will live a long lonely life, or maybe a really short life.....
At this point, my girlfriend and I had chatted about getting married. This was important as I was about to begin spending time, effort, and money on a ring for her. She was thrilled with the original picture I drew on the bulletin and thought it could be a great design. I now needed a diamond to design the ring around. If the diamond was too big or small, it would look out of place. The ring had to be designed to the size of diamond from the start, not an afterthought.
The local Jewelry store I had purchased things from before was having a Valentines day sale. I brought my girlfriend there and we looked at loose diamonds. They had a ton for their sale and they brought out several from the vault and allowed us to look at under the fancy lights, out of the fancy lights, under microscopes, etc. to see the difference in grades and cuts. I knew going in what kind of diamond cut we needed, which was round. My girlfriend was completely happy with a round cut and didn't really like the fancy or square cuts. Knowing the cut helped reduce the amount of decisions in the store.
Silly me, I asked my girlfriend which she liked better, the .5 Carat or the .625 Carat. They say there are no stupid questions. I beg to differ as that was one. The answer was both are two big.... Wrong. She said the .625 and she tried to say it sweetly like I think this one looks just a little bit better.
I had help in distracting her with another diamond to look at under the microscope while I informed the associate to hold the diamond she liked and I would call them later that day to purchase it. We left the store shortly after without my girlfriend knowing I set up the purchase.
Step 3: Initial Jewelry Store Consult
Two hours later I went back to the Jewelry store to finalize the purchase and put the diamond on a version layaway as I paid it off over the course of 4 months, and designed the ring. At that time, I brought in my initial design to the Jeweler and we started looking at in and discussing options for settings etc.
I was able to look at rings in the store to understand types of settings such as Prongs, Bezel, etc. We also looked at the option of smaller diamonds on the sides or Baguettes (no not the bread) or options to add to the ring. This was the initial brainstorming with someone who had experience with rings and knew what works and what doesn't. He had a completely different concept of the design than I did though so I had to take some things with a grain of salt. You can see a picture of the drawing he made up with lots of extra stuff on the top. That drawing did give me the idea of the baguettes on the side though which was a great addition to the overall look.
When I left, the Jeweler gave me a few things First he gave me a small ring blank of wax. He also gave me a .625 Cubic Zirconia that I could use to help model off of. Last I got a set of ring sizers to make sure I had the right size for the ring finger of my girlfriend.
Since I only had a basic drawing from the side, I needed more details to what I really wanted in the end. The wax would give them a better idea of what I needed and they asked for more detailed drawings to get it right.
Step 4: Computer Aided Drawing
So my computer modeling came in the form of Powerpoint. Yes that is right, Powerpoint. I didn't have access to AutoCAD or anything to do a 3D model at the time. Although I did have AutoCAD experience in a High School engineering course, the program was not available to me once out of that class. Plus I really didn't need a 3D computer model anyway.
What I really wanted to accomplish with the computer modeling was to get the site lines even and correct. I wanted the different faces of the ring to line up perfectly with each other and become more a detailed technical drawing than a true 3D model. My only picture outside of my head at this point was the pencil drawings on a Bulletin and only one angle. Powerpoint helped change that. Who says Powerpoint is worthless.
You can see in my pictures that I put in reference lines to show exactly where I wanted things to align. This was to help my thoughts transfer to paper even if my freehand drawing skills were not up to par. I could then bring this back to the jeweler and show him what I was thinking.
Step 5: Carving the Wax
I will tell you that carving a ring out of wax is much harder than I thought it would be. I used a carving set I had for wood working and an exacto knife or two. My goal was to get it close to what I was thinking but being 23 and in a hurry in life, I didn't take as much time as I probably should have.
Still I ended up with two rings from the wax model. The .625 Cubic Zirconia fit in the top rather well and I had an idea of what I was hoping to create.
I wish I had pictures of the ring carving process. Unfortunately I don't. Again, too much of a hurry to get it done and 7 years ago I didn't really know about instructables.
I brought the ring to my girlfriend's home and let her see it. She had to try it on and it fit. I had a really hard time getting her to give it back. She wanted to keep it but I still had to bring it to the Jeweler.
At this point she knew I was working with the Jeweler to get a ring designed and made. The goal now was to throw her off the trail for a month or two while I finished the details and had the ring completed.
Step 6: Jewerly Store Visit to Hammer Out the Details
Once I had approval from the Girlfriend that she liked the ring design and look, I needed to get back with the Jeweler to hammer out the finer details of the ring.
In hand I had the wax ring, the Powerpoint drawings, a list of details I wanted in the ring design, and my specs for the final product.
Things you need to know.
***What kind of metal do you want the ring made out of? Silver, Platinum, White or yellow gold,
***What kind of gold 14K, 24K? - 14K White gold
***Size of the ring - 6
***Diamond size - .625 Carat
***Diamond Setting - Bezel
***Supplemental Diamonds - Baguettes in my case
*** Inscriptions or anything on the inside - 1 Corinthians 13
***Finish on the ring - Smooth polished
***Thickness of the ring - Tapered design with diamond width at the top.
The Jeweler took my designs, wax ring, details on what I wanted it to be, and sent them to his artist. It would be several weeks before I got the ring back, which would have no diamonds set, but just the basic ring to critique and make adjustments to.
In the mean time, I needed a distraction plan....
Step 7: Distraction.....
Although I had the ring fully designed and currently being worked on, I wanted to ensure my girlfriend did not know I was advancing with the process any further. At this point we had been dating for 8 months. She knew we were serious but I didn't want to let her onto when I was going to have the ring and propose soon. I bought a wax ring bank, the full 6 inch stick, and had it on my dining room table, along with some basic drawings, the ring sizer set, and some carving tools.
I informed my girlfriend that I needed to get the ring carved perfect and that is what they would make the mold out of or off of. Throughout the course of the weeks the ring was being cast and created, I carved a bit here and there on the ring block but did not do any detailed work. The wax chips were enough to create the illusion of procrastination and keep her wondering if I was ever going to work on it or if I was too busy with life. It was much more exciting if she had no idea I was completing the ring and could surprise her with the final product on a day she didn't expect.
Back to the Jewelry store...
Step 8: Ring First Cast
The jewelry store called after several weeks or so and said they had the ring in. I was thinking, it was going to be done, diamonds mounted, and ready to go out the door. That isn't how the process works.
The ring was in but just the ring. Since it is a custom order, they ensure the ring is to the customers specifications prior to taking the time to set any of the diamonds. The design was close but not right.
The artist had missed the note about tapering the ring down. It looked like a guys ring because it was the same depth from top to bottom, bulky and too thick, not the slender look I was hoping for. The channels in the sides for the baguettes were not tapered either as the ring wasn't. The metal was not fine polished so it was dull and not reflective. To be honest I was rather disappointed. It was not what I was hoping for and not what I had envisioned.
I worked with the Jeweler to make the corrections. I pointed out what I needed fixed, how I needed it to taper, to have the baguettes taper with the ring, what thickness I wanted it to end up as etc. We looked at other rings they had in the store to compare what I was wanting with what I had in hand. We talked for an hour, he took notes, wrote down everything I was wanting in the ring and forwarded it onto the Artist for final work.
The waiting game began again.
Step 9: Ring Final Creation
The artist took the notes and made a final cast of the ring while working with the Jeweler. The whole thing was polished, the jewels were set, and the ring was finalized. I did not have a look at the ring until it was finished and didn't even know they were finishing it. I received a call the ring was done and in the store. The consult we did for an hour set up the final specifications for the ring work to be completed. This is important to note. Unless you specify another look at the ring mock up, you likely won't get one.
When I arrived at the Jewelry store, they had the ring out and it was perfect. The ring I had envisioned had come to life. It was exactly what I was going for and had ever detail I wanted perfected.
The ring cost breakdown works like this:
***Weight of the Metal
***Diamond and accessory diamonds
***Artist workmanship and time to create the mold
*** Jewelry store part of the equation that is built into everything else.
In all, the price of a custom ring is about 10 to 15 percent more than a good quality ring from a local Jewelry store, not the big box chains. It really isn't a giant leap in pricing.
One thing you want to make sure you get is an appraisal or true valuation on the ring for replacement, not what you paid for it. My valuation was higher than the final price because to replace it outright would cost more than what I paid when I got the diamond on sale, plus a sale price on the baguettes. This is needed to insure the ring with your homeowners or renters policy. The rider paper signed by the Jeweler will be needed to insure the ring properly.
I settled up with the Jewelry store, got my ring appraisal, and walked out planning my proposal.
Step 10: Proposal Prep
First and Foremost: Know your bride to be. Mine would be mortified if I dropped to one knee in a public place or even around her family. It needed to be between just me and her, no one else.
Second: Ask her parents. Maybe this is a dead cultural thing in some parts of the world or even the United States but to her it was important and needed done. I didn't have a problem doing it either and had always planned to. I sat down with her parents, both of them, for an hour and chatted one evening while she was still at a College class. I told them my intention, that they wouldn't know when I would ask her, and it would be just between me and her. I got their blessing and continued my planning.
Third: Have a plan on how you are going to propose. Randomly thinking, yeah, today is a good day doesn't go well. I planned for 9 months on asking her to marry me with an engagement shadow box. I knew from the moment I met her that I wanted to marry her. So I saved things for 9 months: movie ticket stubs, letters, putt putt score cards, admission tickets, whatever. Everything went into a storage box so I could create my shadow box when the time was right. I created the box and she knew I was making a shadow box of our first year together. She didn't know it was a proposal.
Fourth: Record the moment without her knowing. Although she wanted the moment to be between us, and only us, she wanted to show her mom, and sisters, and my mom all what happened. I set up a camera to record the events and she played it at least a dozen times.
Step 11: Proposal
You can only hide so many things from your girlfriend regarding a proposal without here knowing something is going on, especially when you have talked about getting married. To remedy some of this, the shadow box I was creating for a proposal I told her was just for our first year together and memories about that year. I didn't want to lead on that I was getting the box close to being done and it was because I was going to propose.
She even helped me keep mementos from events for the box.
I took an afternoon and went through the Mad Gab game to find the proposal card of "Wheel Yum Air Ream He" and put the card into the box. I mounted the wax ring I created, as well as some of the drawings I used to create the design. Then I had to convince her to go out to dinner so she would be dressed nice and come to my home where I had everything set up (We lived in cities 20 miles apart).
I had one hiccup in the plan. The day I wanted to propose was on the same weekend of one of her good friends wedding. I needed to call that friend and ask her if it was ok to get engaged prior to her wedding. I didn't want to take anything away from her special day. The hiccup turned into something good though. Her friend was completely ok with me asking her the day before their wedding and had another great idea. She would invite her out to get a manicure so they could chat before the wedding. My girlfriend had no idea this was about her and not her friend.
The proposal went as smoothly as I could have hoped although I was a nervous wreck. I had the ring box taped under the table, the engagement shadow box covered on the table, the ring carving stuff all about. I had to figure out how to show her the box, get her to read the card, and be on one knee without her knowing. Luckily my girlfriend is only 4' 8" and I am 5' 10" So me being on one knee next to her as she looked at the box wasn't something out of the ordinary as I was then about her height.
It took her a minute to read the card and get what it said. She skimmed it the first time and didn't read it. She pointed it out but wasn't trying to solve it, instead being caught up in the pictures and other things in the box. She did come back to the card and then sorted it out. When she did, I had the ring in hand and was on one knee.
She said yes.
Step 12: Wedding Ring to Compliment
Although I had an engagement ring, we both needed wedding rings to go with it. We spent some time at the store looking at rings. The thought came up of adding a thin band on either side with small diamonds across each band. I didn't ask the silly question this time of do you want one ring or two. I instead asked do you like the ring with a band on each side or just a single band. Ok, maybe that was another silly question but really she needed to like the final look and sometimes simple is better. Other times two is better than one and that is what she and I decided was best and went with. I actually very much like the symmetry of the two bands and pushed for her to get both.
After the wedding, we had the rings soldered together. The only issue we ever had was the center diamond came loose after about 6 months. It was just loose enough that I was worried it would be lost but it never actually fell out. The Jeweler fixed it without issue, by adding a tiny amount of gold to the bezel to tighten up the fit. Going on 6 years now, it has been flawless since.
Dealing with a good local jeweler is a great experience. I would recommend it to anyone. If you have someone who cares about helping you as a customer and getting exactly what you want then it is worth the hassle of designing and waiting for the end result.
My wife gets so many compliments on her ring and she always brags that I designed it. I think she loves knowing that she has a one in a kind ring that she will never see on another hand. Well, now that it is on the internet, who knows.... but at least she will have had the first.