This is a little series of blogs where some of our favorite engagement ring designers tell us how they imagined and then created their own engagement rings. Here for our third entry in the already critically acclaimed series "My Engagement Ring Story" : Emily Chelsea Jewelry specializes in custom designed engagement rings and wedding bands. Meticulously designed and expertly crafted, Emily Chelsea Jewelry is first designed with precision and accuracy then finished by hand for a handcrafted look. Emily is the person we go to when we have a client who has a super custom vision. Think words like "low sitting toasty butterfly" - Emily, we know you know what this means. Help! Not only is she a sister ring whisperer but this woman walks the walk. Emily Chelsea Jewelry is a proud member of Ethical Metalsmiths and is committed to social responsibility and equality. Her custom creations are made from 100% recycled precious metals or Fairmined Gold and ethically sourced diamonds and gemstones as often as possible AND is a Graduate Gemologist through the Gemological Institute of America (GIA). I mean. This gal. SO without further ado, check out what she made for herself!
What are the stats?
Pear shaped rose cut gray diamond in an 18k yellow gold bezel setting by April Higashi. I originally wanted an amorphous green sapphire and was convinced that he would have plenty of options to choose from. I gave him some specifics but told him to choose the stone. In the beginning of the search, they found a great candidate, but because I was quite naive about it, I said yes but more green (thinking it would be out there). The search went on for over a year. At Christmas time, after telling all of my friends that surely, he would be proposing I finally broke down and asked him why he hadn’t. I thought maybe he would say they are putting the finishing touches on the ring but he said they still hadn’t found the stone. I was shocked.
After being schooled by my boyfriend on why what I was looking for was actually a needle in a haystack, I finally began to understand. He came with me to Tucson that February and we picked out a pear shaped rose cut diamond together. I realized I had wanted a fresh start from the green sapphire debacle and we both loved this new diamond.
How did you come up with the concept?
I always knew I wanted a solitaire, something simple. I knew I wanted to have 2 wedding bands and was planning on getting creative with that so I left the engagement ring simple.
Did you work on it with your partner? How was that?
My poor, poor partner. I basically kept telling him: “What I want is out there and there are plenty of it (the center stone)! And I want you to pick it out, but make sure it is X,Y, Z… oh and this, this, and this…. I was actually really specific and probably his worst nightmare. He was afraid that he wouldn’t get exactly what I wanted so we ended up working on it together in the end.
Did you always know what you wanted to design?
Pretty much. I met April Higashi 5 years ago and after seeing her work, I knew I wanted a piece by her.
What’s your favorite detail or part of the ring?
Because it is translucent, the diamond looks different every day. Some days I can see deep into the ring and other days, I just notice the inclusions toward the surface. It has a little bit of iron oxide staining deep in the middle and I love when I catch a glimpse of that.
Did you go over budget?
If your ring was worn by a mythical character (ehm ehm you), how would you describe that character? Does it have a special power?
Dark and stormy and full of mystery. Just like my diamond. Oh and can see into the future. :)
Is there advice you usually give clients that you didn’t take yourself? Or something you learned in the process that you now share with your clients?
I share my experience often since I had learned so much through the process. I felt so silly that even I, a jewelry designer and gemologist, could send my boyfriend on a wild goose chase for a stone that may have only existed once. There are so many times that we see a gem in a piece of jewelry or on Pinterest and are convinced that we can have one identical to it. But gems are truly one of a kind. If you have your heart set on something, then something has to give- and it is usually your timeline or budget. If there is no wiggle room, then I encourage clients to be more open. Once we get a certain image out of our heads, it opens up so many possibilities with other truly beautiful stones. And that first green sapphire that I thought wasn’t green enough? My very wonderful partner managed to buy it as well and we made it into a right hand ring that I wear almost every day. And yes, it is so, so green. He occasionally asks if I wish it were my engagement ring, but I don’t. I love the ring he proposed to me with and I love that we chose the stone together.
This is a little series of blogs where some of our favorite engagement ring designers tell us how they imagined and then created their own engagement rings. Here for our second entry in the already critically acclaimed series "My Engagement Ring Story", a favorite of both the Giants baseball team and yours truly, our fave jeweler, everybody put your hands together for NICK ENGEL!
So, round here at LITTLE BIRD we suh-eriously heart Nick Engel & Co. He is an incredible jeweler who hand fabricates engagement rings for many of our clients from S C R A T C H. I mean. He's kind of a big deal. Spoiler alert: Best Ring Ever Award goes to Nick for Ali's stunning bespoke emerald cut diamond engagement ring. Without further ado, let's learn how Nick Engel went.........
What are the stats?
2.09ct Post Consumer Emerald Cut Center Stone Flanked by half carat baguette diamonds set in 18K Rose “Ali” Gold which I self alloyed.
How did you come up with the concept?
I started off creating a couple of rings that were more traditionally my style but none of them were just right. My team kept reminding me that this ring had to be exceptional and different from my other pieces. I honestly began playing around with fabrication and ended up with the final design after countless hours of filing and altering it until I was happy.
Did you work on it with your partner? How was that?
I actually did not. We created each others bands (which was awesome!) but I wanted to fabricate her entire ring while keeping it a surprise. I was lucky to have insider information from her best friend who took her ring shopping.
Did you always know what you wanted to design?
I had no idea...I really needed the process to dictate the final design.
What’s your favorite detail or part of the ring?
Setting the sidestones upside down and making the basket float were the two elements that really made the ring feel badass to me.
Did you go over budget?
I didn’t have a budget in mind so not really but I definitely went over what I thought I would make it for.
If your ring was worn by a mythical character, who would that character be? Does it have a special power?
Pegasus! Sparkly, brilliant, and capable of magically making your goals a reality. It’s special power is foresight... it predicts a pretty amazing future!
Is there advice you usually give clients that you didn’t take yourself?
If I told you I’d have to kill you...
A Chronological Account
The national average for an engagement ring generally fluctuates between $3500-6000. It's our pleasure to bring you our curated collection of fave engagement rings under $3000 on Pinterest. There are absolutely stunning rings out there that don't require you to overspend. We are big fans of helping people stay within a super reasonable budget. All said and done, $3000 is still a lot of dough to throw at some rocks and metals. So you'll want to come out on the other side with a stunning, heirloom quality piece that is both stylish and unique.
The THREE pro tips for folks looking in the $3000 engagement ring budget range:
1. Look for antiques! Play up clusters, halos and unique styles....
There are some really amazing antique ring curators out there. I always find something amazing at Erica Weiner, Victor Barboné & Metier.
2. Check out artists on Etsy! There are some incredible designers showcasing their work here. You just have to sift a bit.
Don't be afraid of Etsy designers! Some of my fave indie designers list on Etsy. Check out Sharon Zimmerman, Melanie Casey & Kate Szabone.
3. Open your mind to something totally different!
Often times the bigger the budget, the more basic and well travelled the ring style. Open your mind to something unique. I mean. This ring. Can you believe it's under $3000? I know! You'll find treasures in many places, Jewels by Grace has a great eye...
If you need help understanding how to set your budget and what you can expect to find based on your desired price range, don't hesitate to reach out of a BIRD CALL. We will hook you up with all the salient deets you need to nail it.
Ah, rose cut diamonds! With a name like that what's not to love? We started a month long affair with rose cuts when we kicked off the Dream Diamond x Gem Hunt pop-up which features 10 rings made from rose cut diamonds.
Rose cuts are currently the Edison light bulb of the fine jewelry world. Soft, glowing, warm and yet functional - designers just can't seem to get enough. And we don't mind one bit. While this cut is all so en vogue at the moment, rose cuts are not new - they have a very rich history. This cut dates back to the 1500s.
Rose cuts were first seen in the Georgian and Victorian Eras, with many cuts coming out of the Dutch region of Europe. They faded in popularity, but as we entered the 20th Century and brilliant cuts became more popular for their firey sparkle. Rose cuts have re-surged in popularity in the last five years and many designers are finding inspiration in their glowing facets and flat bottoms - there are some seriously incredible designs featuring rose cuts.
They are not as *flashy* as brilliant cuts and they can sit more flush to the finger and accommodate a different variety of setting types. Rose cuts a great alternative from someone looking for something more subdued or alternative. Even though they are having a moment, rose cuts have and always will be here to stay.
They were named rose cut because the cut resembles the petals in a spiraling rose bud. In general, they have a flat bottom and a domed crown coming to a subtle peak at the top. It's important to note they have no pavilion (basically, the triangular bottom part you see on a brilliant cut - rose cuts don't have that). This cut creates a more subtle look and won't have the same intense scintillation and light return you see in a brilliant cut diamond, instead you see a softer, glowing kind of sparkle. Rose cuts sort of beg for candle light and flowers (and champagne). And we're cool with that.
Without that pavilion, they can be cut into many different shapes and tend to have more "spread" which means more of the carat weight faces up making the diamonds appear larger than a brilliant cut of the same carat weight. We're also cool with that. Rounds reign supreme in terms of popularity, but you'll also find elongated cushions, pear shapes, kites, ovals trillions... the list goes on.
Unlike many modern cuts that have standardized facets and cut patterns (aka rules), rose cuts can have anywhere between 3 or 24 facets. The faceted top is what makes them different from other flat bottomed stones such as cabochons or sugar loafs. The most popular and classic ones you see today have 24 facets but many have less to make some very unique and beautiful shapes. Despite their specific flat bottomed fashioning, they look baller next to small brilliant cut accents, so don't be afraid to accent a killer rose cut with small traditionally cut stones with pavilions. Magic. Another spectacular thing in the rose cut family is what is known as a double rose cut! It's essentially like you have two rose cuts put together. These stones are exceptionally beautiful because double the facets double the sparkle!
Before you leave and start creating your Rose Cut Diamond Engagement Ring *secret* Pinterest board, let's talk colour. We spelled it fancy there just now to match the allure of a rose cut gem with color. In the diamond category, you're going to find that opaque white, grey, champagne, light brown, salt and pepper, and black diamonds are increasingly common. The cool part about this is that each one is totally one of a kind. The hard part about this is that designing a custom ring and sourcing your ideal rose cut stone can present itself as a challenge. Take a deep breath and know your ideal rock is out there. It might just take some digging! It's a good idea to find an artist you love that already works with the stones and then have that artist help you source your perfect gem.
A note on sapphire rose cuts! Sapphires look amazing in rose cuts. So, go for it. Here are a couple of tips: turn the color saturation up a notch to maintain the color when worn over skin, or ask your ring designer to back the rose cut with metal in order to reflect light and maintain the color through the stones, esp if it's a lighter color.
There's always one more thing: we don't 100% recommend a rose cut for an engagement ring that isn't diamond or sapphire. Because of the shallow depth of the stone, you especially need a hard mineral. So, diamond and sapphire are your go-to's for a rose cut ring.
This post was co-authored by Danielle Mainas of LITTLE BIRD & Catherine Cason of Gem Hunt and
So. Where do I start? I get like this when I have a crush on someone or something. Sort of embarrassingly speechless. Lamozine. OK, I'll get it together to introduce a design team I've had a major Instagram crush on for a while now: @gemsteady. Not only was I enraptured by Brittany's fantastically unique Instragram curation, but I was attracted to her voice. In her own words, they make "FINE JEWELS FOR FUN PEOPLE. Custom made just for you by an actual human person." Visit the GEM STEADY website and you're greeted with the this headline "TURNING THOUGHTS INTO RINGS SINCE 2012" underneath which you might find an image of a small plastic cat next to a small plastic parakeet both gazing at a wildly beautiful ring Brittany designed and her partner and husband Robert hand-crafted. I reached out to Brittany and when she emailed me back this was in her email signature:
Obviously, I wanted (needed) to know more, so hopped the phone to chat. We just clicked. Aside from loving the process of custom design, we both believe in astrology and think our own jokes are nothing short of side split-tingly hysterically funny. We slay us. So we decided to interview one another on the process of custom designing engagement rings.
LITTLE BIRD: How can the you inject some personality into a 'basic' design (i.e. their partner asks for a non-flashy solitaire)?
GEM STEADY: With so many options available out there I do think it’s a little sad when folks go for ‘safe’ options. But hey! That’s just some peoples cup of tea. Do you, girl! That being said; a good way for the buyer to inject some personality in that situation would be to go the handmade route. Having a ring handmade is really cool because you can dictate small details like the number of prongs you want to go with (or bezel perhaps?) or maybe play with the width or shape of the band. Even a ‘basic’ design will end up with defining quirks and characteristics when going the handmade route since the artist is creating it from the ground up.
LITTLE BIRD: How often do ladies contact you for help with their mans ring?
GEM STEADY: Not as often as they should. We do make men’s rings and love to do coordinating sets, but it’s funny bc in my experience the guys ring is kind of an afterthought. Sometimes a couple will contact me literally a week or even days before the wedding in a tizzy because they need a ring on the fly (Not recommended. Try hard not to do this.)
LITTLE BIRD: What is your favorite ring you helped someone design?
GEM STEADY: I have quite a few top favorites (all the images in this post are good examples of faves), but one that sticks out is a ring we created for a friend a couple of years ago. The center stone was a custom faceted marquise shape lodolite quartz and it had a diamond halo that went from black to gray to white diamonds. Everything about it is right up my alley. It was a mashup of classic, goth, and avant-garde glory.
LITTLE BIRD: Are there any gemstones you DO NOT recommend when designing a ring?
GEM STEADY: We get requests for so many different stones, and love making engagement rings with unexpected gems, but of course you have to be cautious since not all stones are hard enough to hold up to the everyday wear and tear of long term commitment.
When someone comes to me asking for a stone that ranks low on the hardness scale I make sure they are enlightened on the risks associated. I never want to ‘talk someone out’ of getting a certain gem if there’s a sentimental reason why they want it in the first place, but I do keep it real on the possibilities of things breaking or chipping in the future so that they are fully aware of what they’re getting.
LITTLE BIRD: Final words of wisdom?
GEM STEADY: Designing and buying an engagement ring should be fun and shouldn’t cause you to wake up sweating from night terrors. There are a million people and places you can purchase a ring from; go with what feels right not with who lays the pressure on thickest. If you want a ‘basic’ ring then by all means get that basic ring, lady. It will look great with your Michael Kors watch. And if you want something bold and colorful then go on with your bad self. It will totally vibe with your combat boots. There are no rules. You’ll be wearing this thing for a long time (hopefully). Make sure it speaks to you.
Well, that was a ton of fun. I look forward to working with Brittany and Robert all of the tiz-ime!
Fancy. Color. Diamonds. Yep, that’s a gemological term! Any diamond that isn’t your typical crystalline white color is likely considered a “fancy color”. Yellow, blue, green, red, chocolate, champagne… the list goes on. Fancy colored diamonds are less common for most folks to choose for a central engagement ring gem, but they are real dang cool and we love it when we do get to work with a client to select one. For those considering a colored diamond engagement ring, we tapped Emily Duke of Diamond Envy. She’s the first person we call when we are on the hunt of a fancy colored diamond and she’s here to give us all a little background on How Fancy Colored Diamonds Work!
What are the most popular of colored diamonds?
Yellow was the gateway to color for most people. “Canary diamonds” as they are often called, are still very popular along with brown or “chocolate” diamonds (Levian’s trademarked term.) They are more abundant in nature and are therefore, a very affordable option for diamond lovers. Thanks to impressive auction results over the past decade, along with some celebrity attention, pinks and blues are also quite desirable. They are much rarer though, so prices are significantly higher - a collector’s item of sorts.
Are colored diamonds more expensive than traditional colorless/near colorless diamonds?
Yes and no. Colorless and natural colored diamonds are both valued based on rarity. As I mentioned above, yellows and browns are mined frequently so their prices are generally lower, especially compared to a D (colorless) flawless diamond. Very rare colors though, like green, purple and red are so rarely discovered that they can sell for over $1 million per carat, blowing colorless diamonds out of the water! Of course other factors like carat weight and color intensity can affect price too.
What is your opinion of lab created colored diamonds?
Lab created diamonds are interesting. Right now they are being touted as an eco-friendly and conflict-free alternative to mined diamonds - but that might be a whole separate conversation to have. As far as their beauty? I can’t say for sure. I would say that because they have the same chemical makeup, they can be just as lovely.
Color treated diamonds though, to me, are just not as incredible as the real deal. Many are “coated” with a color that can wear off or chip. Others are heat treated to get better color. Part of the intrigue of natural colored diamonds is that Mother Nature combined these rare forces to give us unique jewels.
Is there a specific shape and color combo that you see time and time again?
Diamonds with natural color are a challenge to cut. From the rough, the cutter wants to bring out the most color. Rounds are best at reflecting white light so the shape is best for colorless diamonds. Brilliant cut fancy shapes (cushion, oval, radiant, pear, marquise) bring out the color best. We see a lot of yellow radiants because they produce strong color. As far as fashion and demand, we’re seeing a pretty big surge in cushions and pink just keeps gaining popularity. Yellows will probably always have a place in the business though because they are pretty and affordable.
Is there a specific shape and color combo that you think is amazing that the general population just hasn't tapped into yet?
I think chameleon diamonds are just absolutely insane. They change color and scientists aren’t completely sure why. How cool? They are priced really well too but that likely won’t last if we see a spike in demand.… maybe it’s just because my favorite color is green!
My other thought on this has to do with saturation. I think it’s interesting that most shoppers only want really strong color. A nice fancy light pink oval? So dreamy. Plus, they’re way more budget friendly than fancy intense or vivid options.
What are your favorite setting designs for a colored diamond?
I’m not a fan of the halo when it comes to colorless diamonds, but when you put some bright whites around a colored diamond, the color really pops. I think a traditional three stone is also nice for the same reason. There’s something so chic about taking a classic style and adding your own twist - in this case, a colored diamond center.
How long have you been working with colored diamonds? Why did you choose this avenue?
Our founder grew up in the business and he’s had his own wholesale company for over 15 years. He started out cutting colorless diamonds, but when he came across natural colored diamonds, he fell in love. I started in the industry just 3 short years ago but I’m hooked too! For us, color is exciting. Each stone is unique and special. There’s so much to learn and see.
We have an affinity for rare. Since starting in colored diamonds, we’ve added emeralds, sapphires and rubies to our inventory. We focus on each stone individually. If it’s extraordinary, we’re interested. We always joke that it’s hard to sell because we have a hard time parting with something so beautiful.
It can be a challenge to find natural colored diamonds in retailers across the US and the world, so we decided to share our passion with everyone. In 2013 we launched DiamondEnvy.com to bring our rare inventory to the web.
Just kidding. There's really only one reason to avoid "trendy" engagement rings: because you should have something you love that represents your unique style. The point of an engagement ring is that it's here to stay, and the point of trends is that they aren't. Trends are fleeting. So what do you do if you've fallen in love with a majorly re-pinned ring from Pinterest? The fact that your favorite ring is on Pinterest means two things: it's probably a lot of other people's favorite ring, too, AND it's probably not available from the original retailer any longer. Sad story getting sadder.
Guys, we have an idea. What if you recreated that popular setting you love, but with a unique center gemstone? Enter the Eighty-Eight Diamond Cut. This diamond cut looks like something from a bygone era, but it's actually a newer and pretty rare cut. Note: this means you won't see it all over the place. Instead of recreating/straight-up-copying a ring you see on Pinterest, consider what it would be like to look at that ring design with a kaleidoscope and bring some more interest into the design. Make it yours. Creating a setting with an Eighty-Eight cut diamond center is a slick way to accomplish this. This diamond has 88 facets, which is about 30 more facets than your basic round brilliant (learn more here). ALSO, eight sides. We are into it.
So we took the top 8 rings people bring us and we are reimagining them set with an Eight-Eight diamond in the center. Imagine with us...
perfect for an Art Deco-inspired piece
the ultimate no-brainer for an 8-sided diamond
this, but with an 88. can you see it? we can see it.
for a twist on the simple solitaire
a ring with eight prongs = a diamond with eight sides!
would look super cool with compass point prongs
octagonal halos are made for 88 cuts
octagonal solitaire settings work, too
From our experience, you guys (all ya'll engagement ring shoppers) don't want to be trendy. In fact, one of the biggest trends these days is to avoid trends. For such a personal piece of jewelry, most people ask us how they can personalize a ring they've seen that they really liked. Check out the Eight-Eight and drop us a line if you need help reimagining your ideal setting!
Sapphire is the most popular colored gemstone for engagement rings. The rich blue has symbolized fidelity since the Roman Empire. Sapphire is a type of gemstone called Corundum. The gemstone is very durable, only diamond is harder. Though sapphire comes in a rainbow of colors, the most popular color is a rich, saturated blue. Yellows, greens and peaches are also at the top our list.
Here’s what to look for when browsing for your ultimate sapphire engagement ring:
Avoid stones with worn facets (they will look smudgy instead of crystal sharp) and stones with any chips on the edges. Avoid stones with stripes of color (called color zoning) or stones with strange patches of very intense blue. That could be a sign of color treatment - but not necessarily. You should always ask about color or heat treatments when you are buying a stone. Unheated sapphires are rarer, and not necessarily better.
Sapphire looks great with either yellow or white gold, and especially good with some diamond accents. The refined and elegant contrast of sapphire and diamond was hugely popular in the Deco era and there are endless and spectacular examples from the time that would make wonderful engagement rings. Follow the board below to see spectacular sapphire rings that were chosen by Little Bird engagement ring consultants and gem experts.
If you ever have a question about sapphires, treatments, diamonds or engagement rings in general, please drop us a line! We are here to help. You can also head on over to the Little Bird TOOL BOX where you can peruse more libraries of images curated by Little Bird engagement ring consultants in order to help bolster your visual vocabulary.
- LITTLE BIRDS
For all you folks who say you want something “truly unique” we know a guy who is about to blow your mind: Jean-Noel Soni of Top Notch Faceting. This guy cuts gems to look like optical illusions. Seriously, they look like something from the bottom corner of a kaleidoscope viewer. Should he cut the center gem for your engagement ring? Are you cool enough?
Here are a few hints that he might be the magician for you:
Or maybe you are just a freak on the inside. Bottom line, this is for the person who says “you pick” and really means it. Is this for you? Yes? Then let's hold hands and dance.
note: these images do not feature the same exact gem, rather they help you understand the process.
Now how to make this happen for yourself? Jean-Noel Soni works with many designers and we would be happy to help put you in touch.
Jean-Noel Soni is based in San Francisco, where he lives with his family. He travels a lot. You can get to drooling here.
One of our favorite clients opted for this combination recently and the results were spectacular. More people should do this. We wanted to discuss the pros and cons for the rest of y'all out there.
Old Mine cuts and old European cuts are harder to find. They are not included in the inventories of major diamond retailers, so you have to have an insider hookup. That being said, they are not as expensive as you'd think - considering their rarity - and if you know the right people you can get your hands on some truly gorgeous diamonds. Luckily, we do. ;)
Old Mine cuts and European cuts were crafted long before the Modern Round Brilliant was invented. The cut is blockier, more fiery, and is not graded by the same standards that the industry uses to analyze modern brilliant cuts. Often these stones do not come with a certificate from GIA or another grading lab. This makes antique cuts a bit tricky to shop for, but on the plus side they are valuable because of their appeal, so you can feel free to trust your gut, follow your instincts, and choose a stone that you fall in love with. (If this sounds really scary to you, never fear, we are here to talk you through it.)
If you are looking for the classic Tiffany or Cartier engagement ring, this may not be the best route for you. These diamonds generally have a slightly warmer color and a faceting pattern that needs a jeweler who specializes in setting antique cuts to compliment their uniquely beautiful qualities. This is the best way to get the warm look of an antique without the years of wear and tear on the setting. You can work with your jeweler (such as the lovely and talented Linsday Chapman of Giador Fine Jewelry in Nashville, TN) to decide what antique elements you want to include, and what elements you want to update for your modern, glamorous lifestyle. Or your rustic, bohemian lifestyle. Or your drunk, yoga, camping lifestyle. Your call.