You’re head over heels in love with your boo, your relationship is as solid as ever, and you’re *pretty* sure a proposal is on the horizon. Now, you start thinking about the ring. And not just any ring. We’re talking THE ring — that sparkling piece of finger candy you’ll wear every day, possibly forever. Whether you choose a traditional diamond or an alternative gemstone, the keyword here is to “choose.” Because, if you’re anything like us, you want a role in this very important fashion decision. “Shopping for an engagement ring has become more of a collaborative process,” says Olivia Landau, founder of The Clear Cut, a company that specializes in engagement ring customization. “This is one of the first big investments and decisions a couple will make in their life and they’re opting to design the ring together.”

How to rework an heirloom

Whether you’re planning to repurpose previously loved stones or you’re starting anew, there are plenty of reasons to take the custom route. Jewelry buying is a costly endeavor no matter how you cushion cut it. It’s important to stay financially smart when selecting your ring while also considering your own personal style. “Custom made jewelry is becoming the next mass trend,” says Seohee Koh, founder of S/H KOH Fine Jewelry and Studio Remod. “It’s driving amazingly original and groundbreaking trends in jewelry as an art form.”

Customization isn’t as much about budget as it is about creating your own design. There are many factors that affect the price when it comes to ring buying — like stone quality and size and metal type — and custom rings require an added labor cost that most mass-produced styles don’t include. But, “in general it’ll be a better price if you do a custom made engagement ring at a smaller local shop than buying a well-known brand engagement ring,” says Koh.

If you’re lucky enough to have a perfectly good diamond ring to begin with, re-setting it or changing the design can give it a unique look, making it feel more like a personal piece. “I’ve been asked to repurpose modern yet classic styles, like a Tiffany classic six-prong ring,” says Koh. “Even if it’s made into a very similar design, the customers notice the subtle difference between a one-of-a-kind, custom made ring and a generic, mass-made ring.”

Studio Remod offers a Bring Your Own Jewelry process where Koh works closely with customers to give antique pieces a refresh. Following an initial consultation and a minimum $50 design fee, the customer sends in jewelry and makes some important design decisions. Will it be modern or classic? Art Deco or vintage-inspired? Should it be set in platinum or yellow, white, or rose gold? And then of course, what kind of stone are you working with? A diamond? A pearl? How big and what cut? It’s all about these intricate details and Koh takes careful notes, sketching up individual designs for the customer to pick from. And it doesn’t have to be a ring; Koh also uses stones from heirloom necklaces, bracelets, and earrings.

In general, the custom ring makeover costs between $950 to a few thousand dollars *if* you bring your own center stone. If you’re sourcing a stone, the cost increases significantly based on the type of stone, size, and quality. According to Koh the trend right now is unconventional stones cut in unique shapes. “Colored stones like sapphires are very popular since there are many different varieties of colors,” says Koh. Raw diamonds are sought after too, especially in unusual cuts like shield, trillion, kite, and hex.

How to design from scratch

No heirloom? No problem. The Clear Cut specializes in helping you create your dream ring from scratch, beginning with an ethically sourced diamond. “We always start with a phone call to get a better sense of the customer’s preferences, timeline, and budget,” says Landau. “We then curate a selection of diamonds that ticks off all the boxes for the customer’s preferences and provides the best value for their budget.”

The average price for one of their engagement rings is $10,000, and Landau is so involved in the process that you reach her personal cell when you call the website’s phone number. The Clear Cut doesn’t have an on-site inventory (aside from their newly launched capsule collection of minimalist diamond jewelry) and each piece is made at their NYC studio.

According to Landau, the biggest engagement trends right now are skinny solitaire rings, colored metal, three stone rings, thin pave bands, and hidden halos. As far as diamonds are concerned, customers have been loving antique, square cushion, and Ascher cuts.

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(Illustration by Casey Callahan; Photos via Quinn Chandler Jewelry Photography, The Clear Cut, and Jason Spear)

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