Your love is one-of-a-kind. Shouldn’t the engagement ring you select be, too?
No pressure, but your choice of engagement ring ranks pretty high on the list of important life choices. Not only does it need to be a ring that makes your soon-to-be fiancée’s dreams come true, it also needs to stand the test of time.
That’s where custom engagement rings come in: specially designed for your bride-to-be and handcrafted with the best materials and a masterly approach to every detail.
Here, Ryan Coffin shares what it’s like to create a custom ring with Coffin & Trout Fine Jewellers, from idea to design to prototype to proposal.
What should people know about custom ring design and the Coffin & Trout approach?
Unfortunately, the term “custom” has been diluted heavily over the years. You know, a lot of other companies claim custom and it’s more or less picking the colors of gold, the shape of the diamond and the finger size. But they’re still ordering it from a mass producer.
Many times people are shopping at multiple jewelry stores, doing their research and trying to find the best fit for them. I always tell people to ask for a tour and have [the jewelry store] show you what it is they do. A lot of the stores are outsourcing all these things. Some of them offer design services, then have someone overseas or across the country doing the work.
Sometimes we associate custom with expensive, and that’s not the case here at Coffin & Trout because we’re handcrafting jewelry right here in our studio regardless. People really enjoy the experience because they’re able to see every step of the process. We take them into our shop and show them where everything is assembled and the finish work that the jewelers do to each piece when they’re setting the diamonds under the microscope, and the touch and feel of the process.
Once we take people on the tour of our operation, it really gives them more of an understanding of what goes into it. One of the comments we always receive is, wow, I had no idea that all this was back here and that so much went into this. That’s exactly why we show you, because we want you to understand and appreciate what goes into the building of your heirloom.
There’s just nobody else that has an operation like what we’re doing. We have a lot to show off, which is one of our biggest differentiators from our competitors.
Walk us through that process of designing a custom ring. What does that look like?
Everything is done in the CAD (computer aided design) system. Once we kind of have an idea of the initial design concept, the CAD artists just dive in. CAD allows us to generate very realistic 3D renderings. We have three different 3D printers and we are able to print a prototype of the ring onsite to the exact specifications of the diamonds down to the finger size. It quickly allows us to show the client exactly what they’re going to get before it’s ever produced.
We also use a lot of in-store examples that have similar design elements. We’re able to show them the model where they can actually try it on and see the proportions and the fit of the finished piece. Sometimes they’re not set on a color of gold or other details, so we can show them different options with the renderings, as well.
We used to have two full-time wax carvers, and everything was done in hand-carved wax, so you can imagine if there was a modification the amount of time it would take to make that change. Now it’s much easier to make those modifications.
After our initial consult, we spend a few days trying to find different options for the customer to look at. Then we bring them in and walk through the different characteristics of the diamond and what makes one more expensive than the other. Once we select the diamonds, we’ll go to the stage of having the CAD artists build the model and print the prototype. We can then set the diamond in the model, and the customer can really get a great idea of what the finished piece is going to look like.
So, of all the details that go into a ring, is choosing the diamond the best place to start? How do you guide clients through that process?
I always recommend selecting the diamond first and building the ring around that. You might have some design concepts and ideas in your head, but those may change dramatically based on the center diamond itself.
But sometimes a customer may just know that he or she really likes a certain style, so then that’s what kind of directs the process, and then whatever the center diamond may be is based on the design. There’s not a set template. Every situation and scenario is uniquely different. And every ring we build is the same way.
Many times people come in with a pretty good idea of what they want. They have usually already visited our website, or are following us on social media and seeing some of our designs that they like. Or they have a Pinterest page that they’ve created.
Do people ever ask you to create a custom piece using existing jewelry from their collection?
Yes, a lot of times people bring in family diamonds and ask us to design a ring around that. We just did one for a customer using a family heirloom ring that she wanted to change a bit. We built a brand new ring in platinum, versus the white gold it was in, and maintained some of the same design elements, so it would still look like that family heirloom, just a more current version of it.
Do you typically see couples come in together, or is the custom ring usually a surprise?
Sometimes, it depends on the relationship. Certain people have been together for several years, and they both know exactly what ring she wants. Others want it to be a complete surprise. They have no idea what her finger size is and no idea what she likes, and we walk through that with them. I always ask, “Does she have a Pinterest page?” There are usually ways we can nail down what she likes.
In certain instances, we’ve recommended they spend some time finding a diamond, and then we’ll set it into a simple solitaire that’s meant to be a temporary ring. We say, you propose with that, and then come in together, go through the design process together and build her the perfect dream ring. That’s usually worked out very well. It is a fun process.
How long does the process typically take?
Usually a few days to a week for the CAD artists to get everything drawn and have a wax model completed. Once we agree on the design and there's an approval from the customer, from there it’s usually four to six weeks.
How can someone get started with the custom process?
If they've done some research and kind of know what they're looking for, we recommend that they call and set up an appointment. Then we can have some diamonds brought in ahead of time and expedite the process, especially for the first visit.
If people don't know what they're looking for, they really can just come in. We do not require appointments at all. They're free to come in at their convenience, and we have some great sales associates out front that they can start the journey with.