How to make a custom engagement ring

The custom engagement ring I made for my fiancé

Step 1: Ring Research

Engagement rings are meant to be worn and shown off.

Alloys

On alloys, for instance, 24k gold is pure gold. Pure gold is too soft to retain its shape and isn’t really used for jewelry. 18k and 14k gold are both gold alloys strong enough for jewelry albeit with a slightly lighter color. There are other gold alloys such as rose gold.

Finishes

Next up is the metal’s finishing. There are many, many types of finishes as you can see in the image below for a better idea. Depending on the look you’re going for, the finishing is mighty important. Most people just go with polished, but there are so many variations it’s worth looking at some others to see what might work with your ring.

Plating

Finally, there is plating. Some metals can get plated with other metals that change their color and tweak their properties. Rhodium can be plated on white gold to make it stronger and shinier. This plating can be useful to get colors or properties you couldn’t otherwise achieve with the base metal.

Step 2: The gemstone

There are many, many possible gemstones out there. All of them have five main features you should keep in mind: hardness, color, cut, clarity, and size.

Cut

A gemstone’s cut also affects its color and vividness. Most gemstones you see are cut in the round brilliant shape to reflect the maximum amount of light back out to get the sparkle. There are lots of other cuts to choose from, most of them are designed with an objective like unique shapes such as a heart or just maximizing that trademark engagement ring sparkle.

Clarity

Clarity refers to a gemstone’s purity. Often there are tiny imperfections inside the stone that look like little scratches. These tiny scratches are barely noticeable without considerable scrutiny but do affect the stone’s price and vividness. The fewer imperfections the more the gemstone is worth.

Size

Finally, size. A gemstone’s size is one of the most important aspects of buying a ring since the gemstone is usually the centerpiece. A big diamond is not necessarily expensive, while a small one is not necessarily cheap, but a big diamond might look weird on a thin ring and a small diamond might look microscopic on a large thick band.

Step 3: Before you design

Designing the ring can be a daunting task. I started by figuring who I’m designing for.

Step 4: Design tells a story

I think it’s hard to design in a vacuum without context. Looking at thousands of ring designs a day is nice, but there are always more incredible rings you can see instead of making a decision. Rather than go down that rabbit hole, I suggest you come up with the story you want the ring to tell.

Step 5: Decision checklist

Once you have the store you want to convey with the design you’ve got a bunch of decisions to make. There are many parts of the ring beside the gemstone(s) and the band. Each part of the ring needs a decision. Here’s a checklist of what might be helpful to think through before talking with a designer. It’s fine to have multiple options you’re choosing between. The designer can render different variations for you to see and choose from.

  1. Finish
  2. Shape (flat, tapered, twisted)
  1. Custom
  1. Size (carats)
  2. Color
  3. Cut

Step 6: Jewelry Design

A lot of jewelers offer design services, but they also have many clients so they won’t necessarily care about your project as much as a solo designer would. You and I don’t know much about making rings. Getting a dedicated knowledgeable expert who can advise you without making any money from the ring manufacture helps get unbiased advice….That was my thinking at least.

Ring specifications here: https://bit.ly/3wR5Nfp

Step 7: Validating the design

Before dropping a ton of money on getting this design made you probably want to validate the design. 3D printing is a key part of the jewelry creation process and is relatively cheap to order a high-quality print. This ring has a lot of small elements, so I needed to use powder bed printing which is able to make much smaller geometry than your average home 3D printer.

Step 8: Making the Ring

Did I mention I didn’t know what I was doing? Cause that’s pretty important. I opted to go with a metal called black zirconium. It looks great and really helped nail the story I wanted to tell with this ring. Nobody uses black zirconium. Sid, the designer, warned me, but I found four people on Etsy who advertised they could make it so I felt confident. I was wrong.

Conclusion: Project Details

Project Cost

  1. jewerly designer $200
  2. Plastic 3D print of the ring: $20.82
  3. Project manager: $357
  4. Jeweler: $1,669.50

Timeline

  1. I started researching on October 19th 2019
  2. Hired the designer on April 8th, 2020
  3. Completed the design on April 13th
  4. Ordered 3D print on April 26th
  5. Received 3D print on May 9th
  6. Hired the project manager to help find a ring creator on July 1
  7. Put the deposit in for the ring on September 27th
  8. Received the completed ring on December 11, 2020

Retrospective

What went well

  1. Having the ring tell a story was the key to making this work. Without a story it’s impossible to make decisions.
  2. Finding an incredible designer was the key. I actually hired two designers. One on Fiverr and one Upwork. The Upwork designer blew everyone out of the water and make this whole project possible.
  1. Materials. I’m super happy with my material choices and was very picky about them, but they did make the project take much, much longer than necessary not to mention the extra cost of needing to hire a project manager.

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Alex Cox

Alex Cox

Product Manager and designer writing about ideas. Living and working in SF. See more of my projects at www.alexcreates.me