While there is no shortage of beautiful engagement rings to suit all styles and budgets available at mainstream jewellers, there is nothing quite like presenting your other half with a bespoke engagement ring for a special and memorable proposal. Whether you want to incorporate sentimental jewels into a ring, like Prince Harry did for Meghan Markle, or you want to design a ring that reflects your partner's personality like Edoardo Mapelli Mozzi did for Princess Beatrice, this romantic gesture will ensure the ring she wears is a real one-of-a-kind, and will be treasured for years to come.
Planning a romantic Valentine's Day proposal? While you won't be able to have a bespoke ring created in time to present on the day, you could present your other half with one of these proposal rings before giving them the real thing at a later date. London based jeweller Emma Clarkson-Webb, who specialises in the design and creation of bespoke engagement rings, shares her step-by-step guide of how to get started…
"The benefits of having an engagement ring bespoke-made are endless: you really can have exactly what you want made by some of the most skilled craftsmen in the country, and still pay a fraction of the cost of a Bond Street jeweller," Emma said. "There really is no compromise with bespoke: you can have your dream ring made to your exact specifications. The bespoke process can seem intimidating and expensive – especially if you have never had something custom-made before – but my role as a jeweller is to make the bespoke process as memorable, as transparent and as stress-free as possible, from the initial consultation to the finished piece."
Step 1: Think about a realistic budget for an engagement ring
"Prior to the initial consultation I would encourage clients to have a real think about what they are looking for in an engagement ring. Do they have a specific idea in mind? A certain style that they love? A family stone that they’d like to repurpose into a new ring, or a piece of jewellery that they would like to upcycle? I always advise that my clients come to me with a fixed budget in mind as this allows me to suggest styles and stones that will fit within their price range, without having to compromise on the areas that really matter to them."
Step 2: Become a detective to determine what engagement ring to choose
"Many of my clients are men so I often need to do a lot of detective work in order to find out more about their future wife's style and personality, and to work out what kind of ring might suit them. It is worth thinking about what kind of jewellery your other half tends to wear? What is their personal style? What sort of colours do they tend to wear? I often design a ring having never met the woman I am designing for and am happy to say that I have never had a disappointed bride yet!
"I will work with my client during their consultation to establish the best design to suit their ideas, budget and partner and make sure that we have explored a number of different ideas before we settle on the one design route. Each of my designs is tailored entirely to the client’s specifications to ensure that we create something completely unique to them. Anything is possible with a bespoke design: whether you want to include a meaningful birthstone, engrave a hidden message in your own handwriting or incorporate an existing piece of jewellery. The great thing about having a bespoke engagement ring made is that you can take elements of different rings and combine them to make your dream ring."
Step 3: Choose the right stones for your bespoke engagement ring
"I want my clients to be as involved as possible in the design process and I encourage them to choose the style and setting of their design and to personally hand-pick the specific stones that will feature in the finished piece. I am a certified GIA gemologist and it is really important to me that my client understands why a particular diamond might be more valuable than another: I want them to feel that they are getting real value for money as I feel that so often there is a lack of clarity around pricing when it comes to engagement rings. Don't be embarrassed to ask why a certain stone is more expensive than another: it is your right to be as clear as possible where you are putting your money, as you would with any other investment you make.
Emma Clarkson Webb 18ct gold emerald and diamond bespoke engagement ring
"Make sure that you ask about the provenance of the gold and stones that are being used in your design. I work with a wide global network of diamond and gemstone dealers to ensure that each stone I use is ethically sourced. Responsible sourcing lies at the heart of my business and all of my diamonds must be part of the Kimberley process, ensuring that they are conflict-free. Make sure that you ask where your stones have been sourced from: are they conflict-free? Is the gold used recycled or fair-trade? A good jeweller should be able prove that the diamonds they use are Kimberly-certified and be able to tell you exactly where your ring was made (and ideally the names of the craftsmen who made it!)"
Step 4: Send off your engagement ring sketch to be made
"Once a stone has been selected I will share a hand-drawn technical sketch for the client's approval to ensure that every specification has been met. The approved sketch will then be sent to my Hatton Garden workshop, where the design will be brought to life by my team of craftsmen. I am lucky enough to work with some of the most talented craftsmen in the country: the mounters, setters and polishers that I work with each have over thirty years' experience in the jewellery trade and their attention to detail is second to none, ensuring that each and every ECW design is made with the utmost love and care. A good jeweller should be able to tell you the name of the person who made your ring!
Emma Clarkson-Webb 18ct gold diamond bespoke engagement ring
"I want each of my clients to feel as involved as possible during each step of production, and clients are able to visit the workshop to see the evolution of their design. For international clients I constantly send updates via WhatsApp and email to make sure that they don't miss a single part of the process! For secret proposals, I encourage my clients to bring in an existing ring belonging to their other half to ensure that the sizing is perfect, but for couples who are co-designing a ring, I make sure that they come in to try on the mount prior to the stone-setting."
Step 5: Don't forget aftercare with your engagement ring
"Following completion, I provide each client with an insurance and GIA diamond certificate. Aftercare is such an important part of my service and I encourage my clients to bring their ring back for a regular MOT which includes cleaning, polishing and checking settings. I love receiving rings back to be serviced: it feels like seeing an old friend! The full bespoke process takes between four and six weeks and is, in my opinion, well worth the wait. As a bespoke jeweller it is a real honour be able to be part of such a special process in such an important moment in a couple's life and each ring that I design is a reflection of that particular couple’s story and love for each other."