Custom Designing an Engagement Ring: What to Expect

For many people about to get engaged, the process of custom-designing any item is a new experience, and for even more, making a serious jewelry purchase may also be a first. Engagement ring trends have become more diverse in the past few years, opening up what was once a rather limited vision of what an engagement ring should be to a whole world of creative, personal, and customized options. While we love the amazing artistry and freedom of expression that come with the custom engagement experience, we understand it can be a little daunting. Secrète Fine Jewelry in Washington, DC, and Bethesda, MD, came up with a guide to help you have the best, easiest, and most rewarding experience custom designing an engagement ring.

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This simple, dainty engagement ring features a conflict-free certified Canadian oval-cut D color Internally Flawless diamond, surrounded by a halo in this custom rose-gold setting. Secrète custom designed this ring so that even the side stones are ethically-sourced with recycled diamonds. 

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This classic three stone engagement ring featuring three D color internally-flawless GIA certified princess cut diamonds in platinum was first made by Secrète over 10 years ago. We have made countless variations of this with different fancy-colored diamonds, gemstones, and fancy shapes. A simple design like this can be a great place to start with your custom ideas. 

Expect to see and try several rings before making up your mind.

When you’re custom-designing an engagement ring, whether you’re shopping as a couple or alone for a surprise-engagement, there’s a lot to see. Expect to take some time at the jewelry store looking at or trying on rings. Some brides-to-be are certain they’re in love with a particular shape, style, or color until they actually see it on their hand. Other couples may think they want matching engagement rings until they realize just how divergent their styles are. When it comes to knowing your ring style, a ring on the hand is worth a thousand on the screen.

In addition to finding your own style, trying on rings in a jewelry store helps you scope out the quality of a jeweler’s work. If you notice rings are too thin and lightweight, that stones are sitting crooked, or that details are a little off, it’s ok to walk away. You can even ask a jeweler to see photos of past custom engagement rings made there (it’s not rude: jewelers love to show off!) so you can get an idea of the type of work they do. You may see some of a jeweler’s most interesting work in photographs of past custom creations.

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A young DC bride had this Victorian-inspired filigree setting custom created at Secrète for this magnificent 3ct center diamond (yes, that's right, this setting is brand new, not a real antique). At first, she'd considered blue sapphires for side stones, but in the end, the unified look of the all diamond setting stole her heart. 

Don’t expect to necessarily see “the one” right away.

If you’re custom-designing an engagement ring, it’s likely because you don’t love what’s available “off the rack,” so if you don’t see the ring of your dreams in the showcases, don’t be discouraged. Most jewelers will have you try on a number of rings that have elements of what you’re describing, and they’ll hope you can use your imagination to fill in the blanks until a sketch is made.

You may even have to review a series of sketches or digital images before the design is final. Be patient with a little back and forth until the perfect blueprints are made.

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Secrète made these beautiful matching engagement bands for an adorable DC couple in white gold, oxidized white gold, and rose gold. We went back and forth with sketches for this design with one of the grooms until we got it just right. This same sex couple will wear the bands on their right hand until "the big day," then switch to the left after they're married. 


Be open to the possibility that you might change your mind.

People start the design process from various points of view. Some people come in with detailed drawings on graph paper or labeled photographs; more often, clients start the process with some adjectives (like “vintage-inspired,” “dainty,” “Art Deco” or “Kate Middleton-ish”) and maybe a few screenshots of other rings they’ve liked. However you start the process, it’s natural if your ideas change a little. You may have envisioned a bold geometric ring, but you just don’t love the sharp lines on your finger. Or maybe you just happened upon an even better version of what you already love. It’s absolutely fine to be all over the place in the beginning. A good custom jeweler will entertain a “split-personality” if you just can’t make up your mind until you can decide which direct you’d like to pursue. Don’t be afraid to change directions mid-way through if that’s where your heart is leading you.

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Can't make up your mind? Just get one of each! (If only that were possible...) With so many sunny engagement rings in yellow gold and/or yellow diamonds in this photo of some of our DuPont Circle showcase rings, we understand just how tough it can be to make a decision. 

Don’t be open to sales-people trying to change your mind for you.

Even though you reserve the right to change your mind as many times as it takes to find the perfect engagement ring for you, you should never have to compromise your tastes to make a salesperson’s job easier. The beauty of choosing a custom engagement ring is that you get to have exactly what you want, regardless of what’s already available.

Professionals can offer expert advice that can help you get along the way; for example, a jeweler may suggest changes to the architectural structure of a ring you may not have considered to make a stone more secure or a band fit better, or they might advise your stone and materials choice from a background of experience to make sure your ring is as beautiful in reality as it is in your dreams. They can even come up with cool ideas to incorporate a concept or symbolic message into the engagement ring. Sales staff should not, however, try to edit your tastes or discourage your design ideas. It’s your ring. It doesn’t matter if what you want doesn’t make the “top engagement ring trends of the year” list, it’s personal, custom, and unique to you.

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We made this custom engagement ring after a photograph of a beautiful antique Art Deco ring. The bride had taken the original photograph to dozens of "custom" jewelers, only to be turned away because "a stone that shape is impossible to find," and that she'd "eventually prefer an ordinary shape anyway." Secrète doesn't have a special reserve of elongated hexagonal sapphires, but we do know some basic geometry. Our custom stone-cutter simply cut the corners off a rectangular sapphire to give her the one-of-a-kind shape she wanted. 

Don’t expect every jewelry store to be capable of real custom design.

Almost every jewelry store will tout its ability to do “custom” design, including jewelry stores that operate from shopping mall kiosks and online mega-jewelers that “customize” with a create-your-own-ring wizard. The ability to choose the size of a pre-fab setting, the color of the gold, and the grade of the center stone is basic, not custom; you can choose the color, size, and fabric content of Hanes T-shirts on Amazon, but Hanes is not a custom tailor. Conversely, many artsy sellers on crafty online marketplaces are full of amazing ideas but may lack the professional jewelry experience and industry resources to make a high quality engagement ring that will last for generations.

Most custom jewelers are old-school family-run establishments that use old-world techniques. If you want a truly custom engagement ring, look for jewelers with portfolios of unique fine jewelry pieces, jewelers who use certified diamonds and high quality gemstones, who can tell you who will make your ring and where, who cast their own molds, who listen to you. There's no catalog, mega-store, or app that can substitute the experience and quality of a profession who listens to what you want. 

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This gorgeous ring has a secret, or actually, nine secrets. This custom creation has the number 9 incorporated into it in 9 ways. Even if sacred math isn't your thing, Secrète has the capability to create truly custom engagement rings from scratch that creatively embody your personality and ideas. 

Expect a good jeweler to work with you, taking time to make drawings, show stones, and revise designs.

For most people, the process of custom-designing an engagement ring takes more than just one visit to the jewelry store. Expect your jeweler to devote a fair amount of time, attention, and effort to you and your design. Even if you’re coming in with exact photographs and measurements of exactly what you want, a professional who specializes in engagement rings will still have plenty of details to consider and refine. Whether this process occurs over multiple in-person visits, emails, phone calls, or a combination of communication, expect to have a devoted expert helping you execute your ideas.

Engagement rings, like relationships, are different with each couple. You may come up with your idea fairly quickly, or you may take months. Some people will want to be highly involved in the process, while others will want to give an expert an idea and trust them to deliver. No matter where you fall in the spectrum, you should trust your jeweler to be there every step of the way.  

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While this classic accented platinum engagement ring may look straightforward enough, every last detail was considered, down to the tenth of a millimeter of width. No detail is too small for the attention of the designers at Secrète Fine Jewelry.  

Interested in getting started with a custom engagement ring design? 

Contact us to get started! You can set up an appointment with a designer at our DuPont Circle Store in Washington, DC, or our Wildwood Store in Bethesda, MD, or you can start the process remotely via email from anywhere in the world!

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