I was never one of those girls that dreamt about my wedding growing up, but it’s safe to say I’ve always dreamed of my engagement ring. I have ultra-long fingers, and diamonds as my birthstone (sorry Scott!); so when it came to go ring shopping, I knew I wanted a large, vintage-style, unique looking diamond ring. It was such a dream creating my custom engagement ring with our now dear friends at David Alan Jewelry. Based in NYC, they came highly recommended by my friend of 12+ years, and fine jewelry marketer, Jen Cullen Williams. After my custom engagement ring experience, Scott and I plan on purchasing our jewelry from David Alan Jewelry for the rest of our lives. Since so many of you are on the brink of getting engaged, I interviewed David Alan at his beautiful NYC atelier. Read this before you go ring shopping!
About David Alan Jewelry
A jeweler for over 25 years, David Alan is a custom fine jeweler who hand makes everything at his atelier in the heart of NYC. Known for placing one pink diamond in every piece, he is an unparalleled expert, and his passion and creativity for his work is contagious. Helena, his whip-smart wife, and partner in business, spent over 15 years as the former spokesperson of the US fine jewelry industry. One thing is clear when you sit down with the dynamic pair, they LOVE their clients, and LOVE what they do. They are so knowledgeable, generous with their time, and create a sense of family with everyone they work with. They lent me jewelry for both my civil ceremony, and destination wedding, and Helena even lent me her own beautiful jewel-encrusted bouquet that she carried at her own wedding!
The Inspiration Behind My Engagement Ring
I had initially wanted an simple oval engagement ring, but as my taste is very (ahem) specific, I still wanted to be involved in the design process with Scott. While we were sitting in David’s atelier, I saw a 3-stone cocktail ring that took my breath away. I asked David, “could we do something kinda like this?” He immediately started sketching, and drew out my dream ring in a matter of minutes. He then brought out options for center stones and together with Scott, we selected what would be THE center stone. David insisted that he and Scott take it from there.
While I knew the general design of my ring, David and Scott worked together to create a ring beyond my wildest dreams. I had no idea what the final product would look like, when it would be ready, or when Scott would propose. As a result, I got the best of both worlds – a ring that was INSANELY beautiful, fit me perfectly, but I was still genuinely surprised the day that Scott proposed. Read on for my Q&A with David Alan, and everything you need to know before you go ring shopping.
The Ring Creation Process
Jordan: Scott and I had the best time creating my amazing custom engagement ring with you! I want the details – how long it took to make, your design process, and any inspiration that went into the final design after our initial meeting!
David: It was AMAZING working with you and Scott on your custom engagement ring! I love collaborating with cool, creative couples. When making custom engagement rings, first I meet with the couple, (as we did) to establish style, design preferences and budget. I provide a thorough education about the 4C’s, the buyer’s guide to diamond quality. My beliefs about the 4 C’s are very different than most jewelers. For me, the character of the stone and how it makes you feel, is more important than its grade. Diamond certifications are helpful to understand what you are buying however, you will likely never look at that paperwork again. My goal is to make a talisman that tells the love story of the giver and wearer.
Once we decided on the perfect diamond (for you), the rest of the ring design came to life. For an engagement ring, the center diamond is the core of the design.
Your style is so romantic and you are a lover of fashion. I wanted to design something for you that felt fresh, and feminine, yet old world. We loved the idea of a North/South setting to make your already lovely long fingers, look even more elegant.
From start to finish the process of making a custom engagement rings takes from 3-6 weeks.
To make the ring more special, we complete each project by adding a personal engraving on the inside, as well as one pink diamond.
What To Ask Your Jeweler When Shopping For A Bespoke Ring
Jordan: For those people that are considering creating a bespoke ring, what are the main questions they should ask their jeweler?
David: The most important thing when making a custom piece of fine jewelry is to be open and honest with yourself, your partner (if they are involved in the process) as well as your jeweler.
1. Diamond Size: If the size of the diamond is the most important thing to you, ask your jeweler how to obtain the largest stone for the best value.
2. Budget: If you have a limited budget, ask which settings can help make the center stone look larger. You can also ask if they offer alternatives like colored gemstones, or colored diamonds, (like grey) which can be more affordable.
3. Timeline: If you have a hard deadline, like a wedding date or a proposal planned, be sure to ask the jeweler how long it takes to custom make your design. We always deliver on our promise for an on-time ring delivery.
4. Find a jeweler who will take their time and answer all your questions. I tell my clients, “the only dumb question is the one you never asked.” Good communication will ease fears about the custom jewelry process. Be sure to find a jeweler with whom you can build a solid rapport!
Custom vs. Pre-Designed Rings
Jordan: What’s the advantage of creating a custom ring vs. a pre-designed style?
David: EVERYTHING! In today’s world, we are surrounded by sameness. Even luxury goods from famous names have begun to look alike. I want to make jewelry worn and treasured today, while constructed so soundly so that it’s passed down for generations. We take great pride to build rings that tell a couple’s love story. We craft rings that tell the stories of connection and commitment; whether it is a special engraved message, a binary code that translates into a private message, or our one signature, secret pink diamond.
Jordan: Does “custom” always mean it’s going to be more expensive?
David: NO. Saying a custom ring is always more expensive than ready-to-wear jewelry is erroneous! Custom jewelry is catered to your specifications and style preferences as well as budget. The only caveat is that there are some “bread and butter” basics which don’t make sense to custom craft if there is something readily available in the market at the right price.
Common Ring Shopping Mistakes To Avoid
Jordan: What are the most common mistakes people make when they’re ring shopping?
David: This is a GREAT question. The most common mistake we see is when people obsess over the four C’s of diamond grading. The 4 C’s are a great guide to help understand what you are looking at. However, at times the info can be limiting or even debilitating when shopping. When it comes to diamonds, know the 4C’s but buy what you love. Forget what the certification says. If you look at a diamond, and your heart skip a beat, it’s a better match than studying its stats.
Should You Let Your Partner Design Your Ring?
Jordan: That’s exactly what happened to me – my heart skipped a beat when I saw the center stone! What are your thoughts on selecting your own ring vs. having your partner select it for you? Are more people shopping with their partners nowadays?
David: Many of our clients begin the custom design process together! After the initial meeting(s), I recommend that the purchaser eases their partner out of the final design/stone selection. I love surprises, so I think this makes the whole process more romantic and exciting.
Diamond & Design Alternatives
Jordan: I couldn’t agree more! If you don’t like diamonds, what are other stones would you recommend?
David: When thinking about other colored gemstones, we recommend opting for a hard gemstone that is high on the Mohs scale if you plan on wearing the ring every day. (The Mohs scale is the scale the jewelry industry uses to measure a gem’s hardness. Diamonds are a ten.)
I love SPINEL, which ranks at 7.5-8. It is available in the most luscious colors including dusty purple, smoky grey, denim blue, salmon pink, rich dark green, and trendy yellowish/orange. My other new favorite is grey diamonds. They hold the same magic as colorless diamonds but feel cool, urban and unpretentious.
Jordan: What are the engagement ring trends you’re most excited about for 2019 and 2020?
David: We don’t follow trends, but right now I am obsessed with ombré. I know it doesn’t sound like an engagement trend. Hot off my bench, is a diamond eternity band featuring emerald cut diamonds, one carat each. Ombré colored gemstones peek out from the inside. I created a matching skinny band which features the same ombré colored gemstones which symbolize each family member. I can’t get enough grey diamonds. Oval diamonds are on fire for us right now as well.
Forget The Stigmas
Jordan: What about that whole 3-month salary stigma that comes with engagement rings and how much to spend. Is that still the norm?
David: No way! Spend what makes you happy and comfortable. Companies created this antiquated “rule”, as a marketing initiative that was used to enhance diamond and jewelry sales around World War II.
Working With Your Significant Other
Jordan: I work with my husband Scott, and you work with your wife Helena. Tell me about your dynamic, and any lessons you’ve learned about working with your significant other.
David: Helena is my partner, wife and Muse but more importantly she has over 15 years-experience as the former spokesperson of the US fine jewelry industry. Helena and I have the utmost respect for one another. Our mission is to make David Alan the number one custom fine jewelry house in the United States. Our jobs don’t compete, they complement; I design and meet with clients and she spearheads our brand building and communications. My number one rule?! We don’t talk about work in bed!
We are so thankful to David, Helena, and the incredible team at David Alan Jewelry for creating my DREAM ring. Just like picking any other detail of your wedding day, ring shopping is a decision that should be carefully considered. If you’re in the market for an engagement ring, or fine jewelry, I cannot recommend David Alan Jewelry more highly! What’s your dream engagement ring?
All portrait photography by Scott White