Any guy proposing marriage to the woman he wants to spend the rest of his days with is probably going to be nervous. Hike your nerves up a few notches by daring to surprise her with an engagement ring of your choosing. But the true adrenaline junkie can take a greater-than-bungee-jumping risk by surprising her with a custom-designed ring.
Why would any sane person do that?
Like most important decisions in life, it’s worth pausing to the consider pros and cons of custom designing an engagement ring.
Uniqueness – The biggest pro is winding up with a unique ring. Your relationship is one-of-a-kind, and you might feel that as a symbol of your love, your engagement ring should be, too.
Vision – Are you somebody who understands design and can envision just the ring you want? But despite hitting the shops, you can’t find it anywhere? If you custom design a ring, you work with a jeweler to fulfill your vision.
Fun – Designing rings is definitely not everybody’s idea of fun. But if it’s yours, this might be the way to go.
Cred – If you get it right, you’ll earn admiration and tons of credibility from her friends and family. But watch out – You might tick off her friends’ significant others by making them look bad.
Cost – You’ll pay for uniqueness. It could cost you three times as much to go custom, depending on the jeweler, materials and how labor-intensive the design is.
Time – Do you tend to wait till the last minute? Better not procrastinate this time, or you’ll miss your ceremony. Allow at least an extra couple of weeks for the ring to be ready, and more like six to be on the safe side. You’ll also spend more time meeting with the jeweler to go over designs.
Unpredictability — No matter how much you draw and discuss the ring, you can’t predict exactly how it will look and feel when it’s finished. It could be perfect and feel divine. But then again… And if you don’t love it, well, you can’t just trade it for a different one.
If you like the idea of a one-of-a-kind ring but aren’t quite up to the design job, perhaps you should collaborate with your fiancée. After all, she’s probably spent more time contemplating what jewelry styles she likes than you have. Let your proposal be the surprise, and the ring design be one of your first projects together as an engaged couple.
October has two birthstones: Opal and tourmaline. Opal is the more traditional of the two, but in 1952 the Jewelry Industry Council urged adding pink tourmaline as an alternative October birthstone.
Opals are fun to shop for because they vary so widely. Pick one up, turn it this way and that so it catches the light, and appreciate its unique color and fire. Some are milky white, others are dark, all with flashes of green, blue, red, yellow and orange.
October babies claim the opal as their birthstone. So if you’re shopping for somebody with an October birthday consider the gift of a rare black opal or a radiant fire opal.
Opals form in cracks and cavities of volcanic rocks. They’re made of tiny silica spheres which are held together by water and more silica. Heat and pressure easily change its appearance. Impurities in the stone dictate its color and fire. Gas bubbles account for opals’ sometimes pearly or milky look. Iron oxide is responsible for flashes of yellow and red. In black opals, magnesium oxide and organic carbon make them flash red, blue and green. Opal and quartz have the same chemical formula, except opals contain 5 to 10 percent more water.
Australia and Mexico are most famous for opals. Nevada, Brazil, Nicaragua, Japan, Honduras, Guatemala and Ireland also produce opals commercially.
Many cultures prize opals. Ancient Romans considered opals a symbol of hope and love. Arabs believed opals plummeted from the sky in flashes of lightning, which makes sense when you consider their fire. Some Arabs thought opals could make a person invisible. Hence it became a favorite stone amongst spies and thieves.
Medieval gem enthusiasts used opals like a modern mood ring. They thought a change in an opal’s color reflected the wearer’s health. They also believed opals strengthened the heart and could protect against infection, fainting and foul air.
Opals got some bad PR during the 14th century, when some Europeans held the stone responsible for the Black Death. Supposedly opals shone extra brightly while fevered wearers died of the plague, then went dull as the soul parted from body.
Fortunately, the opal made a comeback by Elizabethan times. Shakespeare memorialized opals in Twelfth Night, calling them the “queen of gems.” Queen Victoria gifted her children with beautiful opal jewelry.
A Delicate Beauty
Since opals are easily altered by heat and pressure, day-to-day activities can be hard on this fragile stone. Depending on the opal, it ranks only 5.5 to 6.5 on the Mohs scale. This means that earrings and pendants are safer places for opals than being set in rings and bracelets. If you choose to wear an opal ring, remember to take it off before washing dishes or other manual labor. Some jewelers suggest occasionally soaking opals in plain water so they don’t dry out. But don’t use oil or ultrasonic cleaners on your opals.
When shopping for opals, beware of doublets and triplets. These are composite stones made by attaching a thin opal layer on top of a less expensive stone or a piece of glass. These are extra-likely to chip and crack.
Tourmalines are versatile because they come in so many colors. In fact, they’re especially known for combining multiple colors in one gemstone. Tourmalines that display more than one color are called bi- or tri-color. The watermelon tourmaline is a gorgeous example, combining bands of pink, green and white like its namesake fruit. While originally pink tourmaline was the October color, now all manners of tourmaline are accepted as October birthstones.
Tourmalines are found in Afghanistan, Brazil, East Africa and the USA, most notably in the states of North Carolina, South Dakota, California and Maine. At 7 to 7.5 on the Mohs scale, tourmalines are substantially tougher than opals.
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Maybe you want to repurpose Grandma’s engagement ring because you have a strong sense of family heritage. Or maybe you’re trying to save a few dollars. Some people are so eco-conscious that they prefer to reuse rather than to buy something new. There are lots of reasons to reuse a family heirloom ring, and several ways to do it. If you have a pretty ring in your family – or at least a ring with some attractive stones – this may be a route to consider.
History Cuts Both Ways
If you’re planning to surprise a woman with a marriage proposal and a family heirloom ring, you should know your audience. Is family history important to your lady? And does she feel a strong connection to your family? Wearing an heirloom ring ties her to your family, not just to you. This can be a wonderful thing for many women. Others may have a more individual yearning to create a new history with you, rather than to wear someone else’s stones.
Also assess whether possessing a family heirloom will be a stressor. If your intended is a bit on the absent-minded side – prone to losing her keys or leaving the stove on—she might worry about being responsible for family gems.
People can be superstitious about jewelry. Wearing the ring of your grandmother who had a happy marriage might feel different than wearing jewelry from a less rewarding partnership.
So assuming that your prospective fiancée is a good candidate for an heirloom jewel, what next? If the ring is beautiful and your girl loves vintage style jewelry, you might only need to have the ring cleaned and polished. Then again, the condition of the ring, or her fashion preferences, might call for a redesign.
“Up-cycling” means reusing what you have in a new way, rather than buying something entirely new. A good jeweler can take apart your old jewelry and make it look a little or a lot different.
If you go this route, it’s essential to find a talented jeweler that understands your partner’s style. So shop around, and be prepared to work closely with the jeweler to create a ring that looks just right.
Lots of guys want to surprise the woman they love with the perfect ring. But when you’re going through this much work, it might be time to collaborate with her rather than risk getting the update wrong. This isn’t a ring that you’ll be able to take back and exchange for another one. Consider proposing with the old ring, stating that you want to use it to create something new together.
If you are dead set on surprising her with the redesign, collect as much data as possible on her style. Your jeweler will want to see pictures of her favorite jewelry and clothes, understand her size and coloring, and maybe even check out her iPod playlist.
Designing with Older Diamonds
Older diamonds look considerably different than new ones. Vintage diamonds have a more subtle sparkle than modern cuts. This means that you probably don’t want to combine them with new diamonds that will out-sparkle and diminish your heirloom jewels.
Your old diamonds might also be slightly discolored or chipped. Rose gold or yellow gold might be more flattering than white gold for off-color diamonds. And some setting styles can hide chips. Your old diamonds will look more at home in pieces that incorporate vintage details, such as filigree and hand engraving.
Family gemstones are precious in a whole different way than new stones. If you and your intended value connection to family, updating Grandma’s ring may be the perfect way to go.
Trendy clothes and jewelry are often associated with the young. After all, who’s more fashion conscious than a teenage girl? Meanwhile, classic styles can be elegant, but are often associated with matrons and unadventurous people who are unwilling to take any fashion risks. So what’s the modern woman to do? For a look that’s both fun and tasteful, combine trendy and classic in your jewelry wardrobe.
Some fashionistas recommend a mix of 70 percent classic pieces and 30 percent trendy for your clothes. Consider taking a similar approach with your jewelry, or at least your jewelry budget. If you spend 80 to 90 percent of your jewelry dollars on timeless pieces, you’ll still have plenty left for that bracelet that’s fun now but will be horribly dated in a year. Inexpensive jewelry has its place: the beach, traveling in developing countries, a night out with the girls when you feel like wearing the biggest earrings possible.
Sometimes you can tell classic from trendy jewelry by how much care you’re willing to put into it. Restring your pearls? Of course. Replace the twisted wire on those long feather earrings? Maybe not. Classic jewelry deserves cleaning, maintenance and repair.
Formal events call for a more classic look. Especially if people are taking a lot of photos. You don’t want a strange outfit with giant, dated jewelry to haunt you for decades, do you? Opt for a diamond tennis bracelet rather than an armload of plastic bangles. But if you’re going out to a dance club, trendy jewelry makes more sense than understated elegance.
A Few Timeless Classics
Did you ever hear this advice about how to tell whether or not you’re over-accessorizing? Once you’re dressed to go out, stand with your back to the mirror. Then whip around and face yourself. Does one accessory catch your eye? Take it off. This would be the classic approach, where your jewelry plays second fiddle to the beauty of your face, skin and hair.
Here are a few examples of timeless classics that enhance your beauty without ever overpowering it.
Diamond studs: This is an easy way to make your outfit look finished. Buy a pair with good cut and color and their sparkle will liven up the whole room.
Pearl necklace: Pearls look lovely and classic on everyone. These organic beauties absorb your body heat so that after wearing them for an hour they feel like part of you.
Hoop earrings: If you want something bigger than a stud, but still simple, choose hoops. These can be very simple gold, or you can add sparkle with clear or colored diamonds.
Cocktail ring: Pick something glitzy, with color. Maybe a vintage style sapphire or emerald with a few little diamonds on the side. Let it be the centerpiece of your outfit, paired with a simple dress and pumps.
When in doubt, stick to the classics. You can’t go wrong with diamond studs.