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Engagement ring for a jeweler

I have a bit of a complex question:

My boyfriend wants to propose to me and buy my an engagement ring.
He has discussed this with me because I make jewelry and tend to like
things that are more unusual (as in not the norm). I’ve worked in
several commercial jewelry stores and those types of rings bore me. I
am currently the jewelry manager for the Buyer Market of American
Craft show and the idea of having an artist design a ring for me
sounds great.

The problem is I don’t want to give my boyfriend the possibly
difficult task of working with a jewelry artist on his own. He wants
to of course see things before he pays for them and he’d rather not
work with an artist he can’t meet in person.

I by no means need a ring but he wants to buy me one which is very
sweet of him.

My question for you is as a jewelry artist would you tell him here
is the type of gold I like, go and pick something yourself and
surprise me. Or should I work with him getting the ring designed.
Also would you go for a more simple/commercial ring or a ring made by
an artist.

I have greatly over thought this. I love supporting the art
community so your opinions would be greatly appreciated. I’m just
wanting to wear something I’ll love but I also don’t want to
seriously stress him out. I have also seen so much jewelry over the
years that I just feel overwhelmed when trying to pick out something
I’ll wear for years to come.

Thanks for your help! This is a great community!

Valerie A. Heck

My question for you is as a jewelry artist would you tell him here
is the type of gold I like, go and pick something yourself and
surprise me. Or should I work with him getting the ring designed.
Also would you go for a more simple/commercial ring or a ring made
by an artist. 

While it’s wonderful that he wishes to buy you a ring, and even more
that he wishes to marry you (congrats!), a strong determining factor
here is that you are the one who’ll be wearing this ring, not him.
While it would be great for him to like the ring, it’s more important
that YOU like the ring. You should both be involved in the whole
process. This is not a great place for him to surprise you, since
you’re already an expert on jewelry, and the last thing you or he
would want is for his idea of a great ring to be a boring idea or
disappointment for you in any other way. Make it a joint project,
choosing the artist, working with that artist to design a ring you
will truly treasure. If you end up with a ring you adore, you can bet
he’ll be pleased with the whole process. and it’s result. If he
wishes to maintain some sort of control or “purchaser” status over
the whole thing, arrange with the chosen artist that all discussion
of price will be between him and the artist, leaving you out of that

While you’re at it, you might also wish to examine the issue of
whether you want a diamond in the ring, just like all the other
carbon copy brides on the planet, or whether you might enjoy choosing
an engagement stone that’s a bit more unique, not just a commodity
stone to keep up with the Jones’s. There are a good number of
beautiful gems that are truly unique and rare from which you could
choose, even including some of the rare versions of diamond itself,
if you like. Remember that most of the “tradition” of an engagement
diamond are the result of a long established and highly sucessful
advertising campaign by DeBeers, not as the result of any real long
time tradition…


I have also seen so much jewelry over the years that I just feel
overwhelmed when trying to pick out something I'll wear for years
to come. 

Maybe as a jeweler I’m over the whole sentimental aspect of the
product, but to me the focus of the engagement ring should be the
expression of his feelings for you, not what color of gold, or which
artistic community you support.

To me an engagement ring is like your first apartment or car. What
suits you now will not be the same as what you’ll need (or want) in
10 years. A diamond may be forever, but an engagement ring,
especially a non-classic design will only be relevant for a certain
period of time before the style changes. Then it’s just a relic, a
bit of sweet melancholy for a less complex time in your relationship,
or it should be unless you already get your beau stressed out.

Tell him what you like, even steer him toward a gallery you think
might carry an artist you respect, but give him some emotional credit
and some leeway. It will be a good exercise for both of you to learn
the most important aspect of any marraige, compromise.

21 years of marriage, 25 years at the bench

Valarie, having designed wedding and engagement rings for over 30
years, the way I approach your situation, where the guy just doesn’t
know what she would like, and wants to please her, and also have a
ring to give in the little box from bended knee etc. is as follows…
Let the lucky guy pick the center stone, i.e. diamond, sapphire,
emerald, whatever, and have the jeweler set it in a traditional
tiffany setting. (I allow full retail trade in value for the tiffany
setting when I do the custom design later) This gives they guy a ring
in a box,from the knees, in the romantic setting, etc… When you
have chosen a designer (if different from the stone seller)then go
together and work with the artist to design your one of a kind ring
within the budget and design parameters that you have decided on as a
couple. This gives everyone what they want and the future husband
does not feel left out of a very important mutual commitment, it also
takes him off the hook in will she like or not like arena. You can
also design his wedding ring at the same time so it all goes together
(or not)…this process has worked for me and my clients for years
and everyone comes out happy… good luck and congratulations.

Frank Goss

Hi Valerie, I’ve run into this before. I had the man buy the diamond
and then the woman would pick out her own design. This way both
parties are included and you get what you wanted.

Hope this helped. Good luck and congrats on the engagement.

Scott Verson
Metal & Stone Design


I had a very similar situation. My husband was reticent on buying
such until he learned from a good friend how much I love antique and
estate jewelry, even though my own work is quite contemporary. So
when he popped the question he offered a beautiful diamond ring from
1901. That simplified things and was not too stressful for him. And
it worked for me too, I love it!!!

Megin Diamond Designs

As a jeweler if this was me personally or if he came into my place

  1. I wanted him to surprise me with the finished ring: I would send
    several pictures of general styles I liked so the artisan would have
    a good idea of YOUR sense of style. As a jeweler, I would also
    appreciate seeing several pieces of your favorite jewelry that you
    wear A LOT! This would also give me an idea of your ring size. If
    you prefer colored stones, what colors do you prefer wearing? You
    would want the stone to complement your clothing, not compete.

  2. If you wanted to participate in the design so that it is special
    to BOTH of you: Make an appt to see the artisan. Keep an open mind
    as to the styling. What you might prefer may not be structurally
    sound. I have also found that many of my best pieces also develop as
    it is being created as if it must bloom on its own.

  3. If you want to let him have full rein: Tell him as to which
    artisans jewelry styles you prefer and why (metal, design, etc)

Judy Shaw, GJG and more
Ready to start job hunting anyplace that’s warm all year round

My question for you is as a jewelry artist would you tell him here
is the type of gold I like, go and pick something yourself and
surprise me. 

When we get a young man who wants to pop the question and keep it
secret, we discourage them from choosing a design. Commonly we say,
“Buy the diamond, we’ll set it in a solitaire, you do the deed, and
then both of you come back and design a real ring.” It’s her ring,
she will wear it. There are lots of times when he wants to do the
whole package, and usually she likes it in the end - that’s partly
due to my guidance. If your guy has a good sense of aesthetics it
might come out good for you. If not, then you’re stuck. As for which
design, obviously I can’t say. I would advise against something too
trendy - something you’ll likely tire of in the future. Also think
practicality - nothing that’s overblown and will endlessly catch on
things and bang kids’ on the forehead or whatever. It’s for the long
haul, after all.

I will be facing the same situation soon, and I have decided to work
with my boyfriend on the design of the ring and use a local jeweler
that designs their own pieces. The reason I have decided this, is my
boyfriend is a stone mason, so he is also an artist and I think that
by working together he will come up with ideas I may have not thought
of and when we are finished we will have something that stands for
our relationship together that we designed together. Just a thought
and good luck with whatever you decided and congratulations!

Lauren Stineman
Brighter Shade of Blue Jewlery

 I'm just wanting to wear something I'll love but I also don't want
to seriously stress him out. 

Here’s my suggestion-- If you already have a favorite artist or two
whose styles you love, send him to work with one of them. If you
don’t, consider going to shows or studios together to collaborate on
what you end up with. The “shopping” process will convey to him what
you’re drawn to, and it could be fun.

Personaly, through kinda this process, I ended up with a beautiful
ring by Tom Herman, though it was actually many years after we got
married with just plain bands (all we could afford at the time). I
admire my ring every day.


Hi Valerie-

First of all- congratulations!

My advice to you is to get something you’ll love- and bring your
fiance into the process. We have created quite a few
engagement/wedding band sets for couples looking for the unusual. Of
course you’d want something that you will enjoy for lots of years -
so it’s a good idea to shy away from the trendy.

Feel free to contact me off line- and in the meantime- check out our
website and see if anything appeals to you both.

We also work extensively to create a piece that is totally custom-
and will work with you by e-mailiing you design options.


Agreed-- congratulations! If you are looking for a diamond, I just
wanted to recommend this particular cut because it doesn’t leak any
light. I have one on my engagement ring and it is so incredibly

I love it!

Whatever you decide to do for your ring make sure you are doing what
feels right, makes you happy and feel relaxed. This is an important
time to cherish. Enjoy-- life is short!!!


When we get a young man who wants to pop the question and keep it
secret, we discourage them from choosing a design 

My experience is that when a guy knows what design he wants custom
made, after I am done, and he picks it up, the next time I see them
together for the wedding band. I have had guys who do not know what
they want, and I do the same thing as John, set it in a traditional
Tiffany setting and have themcome in and pick out or create what
they want.

Richard Hart


occasionally i have faced a similar dilemma, albeit not with
engagement rings but jewelry in general. since i am an artist and
work specifically in the engagement ring business, i also see masses
of product that is either too ordinary or too weird from people
trying to create something different but it just comes out bad, (for
an engagement ring, anyway.) a lot of them just look like whatever
is the lasted trend to be selling very well. and when my dear wants
to buy me something he waits for me to come up with an idea and then
buys it. i think it would be so much more romantic if the two of you
searched together for the perfect ring. either at an artisan jewelry
artist atelier where they really make their own, unique but not
impractical, few or one of a kind. or consider something from a
vintage selection. either way, when you see the right one, you will
know it. as you know that each of you is the right one. do it
together and finding it will be the surprise for both of you. less
stressful and everybody gets what they need, you something you want
to see on your hand everyday for the rest of your life and him
helping you find that perfect ring, it’s surely out there somewhere.
make it an adventure!

ny area

Hi Valerie,

I fear your boyfriend has set himself an almost impossible task if
he is trying to find a ring that will tick all the boxes… :wink:

To my old and befuddled way of thinking, an engagement ring is an
expression of your boyfriend’s love and commitment to you and, as
such, should be of his choosing. Don’t forget that it will, hopefully
be a long-term piece of jewellery (although, in a way, it is more
than just jewellery) and so should be of a design that will stand the
test of time and not something flashy and ‘modern’ that will look
awkward on your hand in 50 years time. It should also be practical -
something you can wear under rubber gloves while cleaning the house
and of a design that won’t easily scratch a baby or get tangled in
its diapers… etc. etc…

My vote would be for something minimalist and traditional, however
boring that may seem - he could always be persuaded to buy you
another, more showy, ring for social events, but that initial
expression of love and commitment would be held in the simple and
sentimental ring you cold wear most of the time.

Alternatively, you could give him a couple of sketches of designs you
currently like together with a note of the type of gold and stones
and send him on his way like a child being sent to the grocers…

Good luck.
Best wishes,
Ian W. Wright
Sheffield UK

Why don’t the two of you sit down and look through the Lark “500
Wedding Rings” book together and pick out some things that appeal to
both of you. Then send him off to contact a couple of artists, pick
the one he most “clicks” with, and let yourself be surprised with
the finished piece! There are a few people in that book who couldn’t
design a boring ring if they tried, but I won’t name my favorites
as tastes vary…

Hi Valerie,

It’s very sweet that your sweetie wants to do that for you. I’m sure
it’s a bit of a tough situation. When I got engaged, I wasn’t yet
doing metalsmithing, so there wasn’t quite that dilemma, but there
was a little bit with the ring that I wanted. It was a family ring.
My grandfather was a jeweler, and he’d set a nice-sized mine cut
diamond for his wife-to-be. Years later he wanted her to have a
brilliant cut, so he made a new ring for her with a brilliant cut of
about the same size as the mine cut was. He also had the old mine cut
stone re-cut as a brilliant & put it away for safe keeping. Many
years later my dad bought that stone, and my grandfather once again
set it (“under duress”, as he said), and it became my mother’s
engagement ring.

When I was getting serious with my boyfriend, my mother mentioned
that her engagement ring could be mine. She was now wearing my
grandmother’s second ring & had put her ring away for me to have. I
could either just use the diamond, or use it as it was, it was up to
me. It happened to fit (yes, I tried it on), and my grandfather (by
that time deceased) had set it, so I wanted it just the way it was.
Plus, it was platinum! :wink: So, then I had to convince my boyfriend
that THAT was the ring I wanted. He felt wierd, it wasn’t as if it
was a ring from HIS family, and he was giving it to me. He wanted to
be the one buying it. Well, what difference did it make, if it was
the ring I wanted? Besides, it saved him a chunk of change! :wink: I
finally convinced him, and without me knowing it, he flew to my
parents’ house, cooked them dinner, and asked for the ring (and my
hand to put it on). Sweet. Sort of like buying it, right?

So now a second little story. I sell jewelry at a local gallery, and
a bit before Christmas a couple went in there & the woman really
loved a particular ring I’d made, and it just happened to be her
size. Her boyfriend bought it, and I later found out that it was to
be an engagement/wedding ring. She’s an art teacher, I think, at a
local college, and she wanted something “different”. Mind you, this
ring is not really out of the ordinary in general, just not your
average wedding band or engagement ring. A simple, wide silver band,
with a bezel set oval-shaped royal blue dichroic glass cab. Oh, and a
swirly visual texture engraved all over the metal.

I heard back from her soon after that she loved the ring, but just
because she was committing to one man, that didn’t mean she needed
to commit to one ring, so she wanted a second one in a different
color & slightly different style. I went to great lengths to find
just the right piece of glass for her, and so I made her a second
ring, this one with a different finish & a square-shaped cab. What
I’m getting at, is she went to a local gallery & found a ring she
liked, and then because she liked the (local) artist’s work, was able
to commission something else from her, too. So, maybe you could scout
through local galleries that sell artists’ work & see if there’s
something you’d like as an “engagement ring”, but that’s not a
typical one. What matters in the end, is that what he gives you is
something that you really love. Heck, even if it’s not a ring.

Designs by Lisa Gallagher

Bonjour and congratulations Valerie!

I went through a similar questionning when my husband proposed me…
but being students and poor I ended making both my engagement ring
and our wedding rings (and I am really happy with them).

Anyway, what I suggest is to first give some thoughts to what
engagement means for both of you and how a ring could symbolize your
relationship. Colors, textures or patterns can have some meannings
for you…A ring can be just a ring… but an engagement ring, this
should be really special to you…

Maybe you’ll find out that a very simple solitaire is what suit you
best? After all it is a strong symbol. Or you’ll want to illustrate
your relationship through an intricate pattern…

With this in mind, you could together review and comment the work of
some of your favorite artists and then maybe leave it up to him.

Juliette Arda
Artiste Bijoutiere
Aix en Provence, France

Congrats & viva la spouza! Well Valerie, welcome to my world…Back
in 1987, when John was thinking of popping the question, being both
working jewelers,he decided to do it with a 0.03ct diamond in a
simple setting…I said yes, obviously, and then we began to explore
what my real engagement ring would be like…Since we both had worked
for a wedding ring manufacturer here in SF, I had a good idea in mind
of what my dream would be and he knew how to make it. I knew a
general budget range & we developed it around those $$.(Of course all
our family & friends did expect to see a “Rock”. We finished our
rings the end of the week before we got married and we still have
them 21 years later.

In your case, as suggested by others, he could pick out the main
stone for you and it could be set into a solitaire for now…Then
you both could explore various artists & designs to put that stone
in…Perhaps that could also lead to developing his ring in

All different metals & stones are being used now…It can be whatever
you want…We just took a natural, uncut diamond and set that into a
solitaire for some graduate students…They are now working on the
wedding band design and at some point soon, we’ll help them make
it…As I say to customers where I work part time: “Making the ring
will be easy. You did the hard part already and found someone that
you want to share your life with…”

Congrats to you both!


an engagement ring is an expression of your boyfriend's love and
commitment to you and, as such, should be of his choosing" 

Oh dear, the expression of someone’s love and commitment to me would
be to let me choose the ring which I will have to wear. My partner is
intuitive about this (that could be due to a bad past experience) and
listens closely to the clues. Such as “oh I do like that. I would
wear that. Can I have that for my birthday/Christmas.” It works very

My partner might buy it (bless them) but I have to wear the damn

(ps,I am well into recovery with my second new hip and until I get
back to work there won’t be any money for any more jewellery) Hope
you are well,

Cheers, Ruth