Engagement rings have been around for a while, with evidence of their use as far back as Roman times, and possibly further. In the early twentieth century, the extremely successful marketing campaign by De Beers hugely increased the popularity of diamond engagement rings, and set a precedent for much of the rest of the century. While diamond remains a popular choice, demand for other options is increasing, and many people are looking for something a little different, that reflects their own personality and values.
When choosing a gemstone for a ring that is going to be worn every day, it is important that it can stand up to the wear and tear. With that in mind, either sapphire or ruby would be a great choice. Sapphire and ruby are actually the same mineral, but with different impurities which affect the colour. Ruby is always red, but sapphire is found in all the colours of the rainbow (including pink but excluding red – a red sapphire is a ruby!). While ruby is relatively expensive, natural sapphires are available in a huge range of cuts and qualities, which is reflected in the range of prices, so there really is something for everyone. I believe it’s important to understand a little about where your gemstones have come from. Within Wise Fig Jewellery I source rough gemstones from small dealers who work directly with the mining communities. I choose people and small companies who give back to the communities, in terms of ensuring that those involved in the mining and sales get a fair deal, but also feeding back support directly into the wider communities. A percentage of sales for all my artisan-cut gemstones and gemstone products is also donated to a charity called Gem Legacy who support miners in Africa.
As well as the gemstone choice, you need to consider the design, and the metal. I believe in keeping things simple with the design, ensuring that the metal used protects the gemstone, but also shows it off nicely. You can see a couple of my engagement ring designs in my website shop, all of which can be adapted to fit with your choice of my artisan-cut sapphires.With respect to metal, there are two main choices. One relates to the type and colour of metal, such as silver, white gold, rose gold or yellow gold. Gold comes in different purities, with both 9 carat and 18 carat commonly used in the UK. As 18 carat gold contains twice as much pure gold as 9 carat, the price will be greater, and the colour will look a bit different too. You can get some ideas of the differences in colour for the different types of gold by looking at the photos of my wedding rings. It is worth pointing out that the white gold available on the high street is usually rhodium plated, giving it a silvery appearance. As this process is not particularly environmentally friendly I avoid it, and I love that my jewellery shows off the natural colours of white gold. 9 carat white gold tends to have a creamy appearance, and 18 carat often has a greyish hue.
The other choice relates to where the metal comes from, and how it is sourced. It is fantastic that there has been a lot of thought about both the ethical and the environmental costs of gold mining over recent years, and a number of organisations are working hard to minimise the effects on both people and the environment. Traceability is helpful in determining not only geographically where the gold has come from, but also in ensuring that those involved in its production are treated well and compensated fairly. Single mine origin gold offers traceability, and Fairmined and Fairtrade focus on not only where the gold has come from, but also the conditions under which the mining is carried out, focusing on small scale operations. Mining for metals inevitably carries an environmental cost, so some people may choose recycled metals for their rings. I am currently able to offer both recycled gold / silver and single mine origin gold but am also actively working towards registration with Fairtrade and Fairmined, and hope to be able to offer their products in the near future. Please just ask if you’d like to chat about any of these options, or to receive a quote.
Once you have your ring design with your choice of gemstone and metal, you will want to present it to your partner. I am delighted to be able to include beautiful wooden boxes, handmade with wood from a sustainably managed forest with all my engagement and wedding ring purchases.
If you are embarking on this journey, please do get in touch and let me help you through!