Sophie Harley

Help & Advice

Engagement Ring Guide by Sopihe Harley

Help & Advice

Sophie Harley: Guide to Buying Engagement & Wedding Rings

Whether you are going to surprise your partner and ask her to marry you or whether you are going to choose an engagement ring together there are some really important things to consider. Sophie Harley has been a jeweller and running her own jewellery design business for over 20 years and understands very well the process when choosing something so important.

The moment you ask someone to marry you it will never be forgotten and therefore the location and the situation that you were in, are also very important. So why not make it something to remember either in terms of it being a beautiful location or alternatively an interesting or unusual place. Sophie shares her 7 point guide with Ideal Bride.

The 7 Point Guide

Brand name or Bespoke Design?

Firstly whether it's a brand design or a bespoke design, it is imperative that you use a reputable brand or designer. The main reason for this is to ensure that what you are buying is legitimate. Hallmarking will confirm this, and can be checked at an assay office.

You do need to know whether its 9, 18 or 22 carat gold or indeed Platinum, as there are huge differences in value, especially as in the last three years there has been a dramatic rise in the price of precious metals. Precious metals are a good bet and in the long term, their value can only increase.

A high street brand retailer or an established jewellery designer would not sell anything un-hallmarked & each piece would also be registered to their name. It would be far too unethical, would misrepresent the purchaser and would also be against the law.

Brand name rings from high street jewellers tend to be available to purchase 'off the shelf' only. There is generally no scope for adapting the design at all as they are often machine made in large quantities. Some of the more expensive luxury brands give flexibility when it comes to diamond quality and carat weight and in some cases designs can be altered.

I think the important question you need to ask yourself though is whether you want something that is off the shelf and pretty much available to all or whether you want something that has been designed by you.

However, choosing and designing a ring that is unique to you and your partner does not need to cost a fortune and very often most people are unaware of its availability, as it tends to be very niche and specialist, and not seen in an everyday shopping environment.

Sophie Harley

HOW DO I CHOOSE A STONE FOR HER?

Like all jewellery the price of the engagement ring varies according to the precious raw material used, and likewise with the gemstone. Diamonds are the most expensive and often the rarest gemstone of all. Other gemstones commonly used are Sapphires, Rubies and Emeralds which can be used often following family traditions. Gemstones also relate to people's birth stones:

  • January - Garnet
  • February - Amethyst
  • March - Aquamarine
  • April - Diamond
  • May- Emerald
  • June - Pearl
  • July - Ruby
  • August - Peridot
  • September - Sapphire
  • October - Opal
  • November - Topaz
  • December - Turquoise or Tanzanite
  • Most diamonds are formed at very high temperatures and over 1-3 billion years ago usually very deep in our earth's core, often 100 miles or so underground Unless you have a family tradition or your girlfriend wants to use her birth stone, you are normally safest with a diamond, which are available in a myriad of gorgeous colours, not just white!

    DIAMOND KNOWLEDGE

    A diamond is elegant, timeless and classic. As one of the rarest materials on earth it has characteristics of strength, durability and beauty. It is often said that with these characteristics they also reflect the quality of your love. A diamond is also seen to be the ultimate commitment; probably due to its standing and value in our society. Diamonds are often heard of by the 4 C's; Cut, Colour, Clarity and Carat weight.

    The most common cut diamond shapes are Emerald, Heart, Marquis, Oval, Pear, Princess, Radiant and Round, however some big brands have also developed their own special cuts, for example the De Beers ‘Leo Cut' diamond. Any diamond regardless of its shape gets a brilliancy classification enhanced by cutting and polishing.

    Diamonds come naturally (or by being heat treated) in almost every colour of the rainbow, however most people are interested in diamonds in the white range. The GIA (Gemmological Institute of America) rates the colour diamonds from D colourless, to Z, a light yellow. D-F classifications are completely colourless and, of course, the most expensive.

    The clarity of the diamond is determined by the amount and location of marks or inclusions. The GIA rates clarity grades from 'flawless to imperfect 3'. Most diamonds contain very tiny marks or natural inclusions. An inclusion can interfere with light passing through the diamond or be seen as a black mark within the stone, some are visible to the naked eye and some are not. Generally, the fewer the inclusions, the more beautiful, sparkling and expensive the diamond will be.

    The weight of a diamond is measured in carats. As the carat weight increases so can its rarity and also its price. The carat weight of the diamond is the easiest to measure, however weight alone will not determine the price you will pay, as the cut clarity and colour will all differ as well.

    The size of the diamond matters as much as the other 3 C's, but you should never sacrifice quality for size. You must put your budget together and decide to get the best quality and the best size you can for your money. In fact probably more important is the design. If it's a completely new and unusual design with a relatively small diamond or a small number of diamonds set around the ring band in a creative way, this could make it stand out much more as an alternative to a large diamond.

    The Kimberly Process Certification Scheme was launched in January 2003 to help to stem the flow of conflict diamonds from entering legitimate trade. As from January 2012, 76 countries around the world now participate. Any reputable diamond dealer should have certification to confirm that their diamonds are conflict free.

    RING BANDS

    This is the material that you choose for the ring to be made from. Normally this is made from one of the following: Yellow Gold, Rose Gold, White Gold, Platinum or Silver. This is where it starts to get a little trickier to work out the best choice for your partner. It can be helped a little by looking at what she wears already as her preferred choice. Very often you will find out that she either wears gold or silver.

    The next really good thing to do is take along a photo or a few pictures of your partner to give the designer or shop assistant an idea of style and colour that may be appropriate to her. This could relate to the colour of her eyes or hair or by her general dress, stature and appearance. Also personality is of great importance, when it comes to the band width of the ring itself this is very much a design and preference issue.

    Sophie Harley
    Sophie Harley

    HOW MUCH DO I SPEND?

    It's important for you to put a budget together before you start the process otherwise you can end up paying a lot more than you bargained for. Start by looking through shop windows to get an idea about how far your money will go.

    When it comes to the engagement ring I think it's really important to be comfortable with your budget and not to stretch yourself too much. After all, you still have the wedding rings to budget for as well.

    HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE TO MAKE A BESPOKE RING?

    If it's off the shelf then it can take a few hours, or even just five minutes, but if it's a specifically designed piece, then it depends on the process and on the individual. If you want something individually designed, it takes anywhere between 3 – 8 weeks from start to finish. So if you have a proposal date in mind, be sure to allow yourself enough time to purchase the prefect ring.

    Sophie Harley

    WHY SOPHIE HARLEY DESIGNS?

    Celebrated throughout the world for her exquisitely designed handmade jewellery, Sophie produces a range of unique contemporary pieces that have created a cult following. Based near Portobello Road West London, Sophie uses her creative design skills to visualize and manufacture individual pieces for her clients from concept through to completion using only precious metals and stones.

    Sophie continues to carry out private commissions which include a spectacular collection on wedding and engagement rings. This bespoke design service has been developed over her 20 years in the jewellery business and follows her training at The Royal College of Art where she studied for an MA in jewellery design. All items are hand made by her and her staff using traditional manufacturing methods and offer a lifetime guarantee.

    For more information about Sophie Harley Designs visit sophieharley.com.

    credits: Photography by Jo de Banzie

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