Helping customers to choose one of the most important purchases of their lives is no mean feat, but with hundreds of years of experience, the team at Beards Jewellers in Cheltenham, knows a thing or two about what makes the perfect engagement ring.
Speaking to Sophie Cudworth, creative director at Beards Jewellers, SoGlos discovers what people need to know before they pick a ring, and discovers that building a bespoke ring, doesn’t have to break the bank.
Knowing the ring size is a real plus, but very often about 90 per cent of people don’t know! We’re very used to resizing rings, our in-house jewellery workshop can resize a ring in under an hour, so it’s one of the things we factor into the design process. We wouldn’t advise diamonds going all the way around if we didn’t know for sure the ring size, for example.
Generally, we’ll lead a lot of the questions for customers. So, you might have done a bit of research and have partners dropping hints, you might know roughly what they’ve seen and liked in the window, or you might have snuck a look at a secret Pinterest board, so that’s great and really helps us.
But if the customer doesn’t know, we can guide them through the process and ask lots of questions. One of the key things to ask is ‘are they very active?’, or ‘do they have children’ because in those cases, the profile of the ring needs to be lower so it doesn’t catch on things. We ask lots of questions about lifestyle, as it will influence how the piece is worn.
Ultimately, it’s great if the client knows all these details, but if not, we’re fully equipped to ask the right questions, and we always encourage people to go with their gut.
Well, it’s quite tricky! We call it the four Cs which are clarity, cut, colour and carat.
Sometimes people will have a set budget, but want a really high-quality diamond, so they’ll probably come down in size and reduce the carat weight. But then you can go up in things like colour and clarity to improve the quality.
Some people go for bang for buck, which is an industry term where people just want their ring to be massive. They’re not really too concerned about the quality or colour, but there are also people who don’t want to reduce the quality of the diamond, and they just want a lovely clear diamond.
A big carat-weight diamond you can see from a long way away, but when it comes to clarity you won’t see the detail of that until you’re quite close up.
Colour is also quite important, and in diamonds the absence of colour is what you’re looking for. At Beards we deal with D-E-F as a standard, which are all considered colourless, and the further down the alphabet you go, the slightly more yellow they’ll become until it essentially becomes a yellow diamond.
Additionally, you’ve got cut – round brilliant is the standard, generic cut – the pin up of the diamond world! But there are also things like pear cut, or princess cut which is square, a marquise cut which is like a lemon sort of shape, asscher cut, emerald cut… There’s a real variety.
Really, it’s half-and-half. I think now it’s far less of a faux-pas to have the conversation about getting engaged. We’re not in a time really where it has to be a total surprise when they get engaged, people have always had that conversation.
So, I think with the design process, the couples who come in together tend to go for much more exciting pieces than when it’s a person designing as a surprise. You can take more risks if you do it as a couple.
At the moment things that are very timeless are also quite fashionable. We’re very reserved in Britain as a whole, we don’t go for anything too crazy, especially when it’s something that’s a big investment.
Generally, an engagement ring is the most valuable piece of jewellery a person will ever own, so they tend to keep it simple. So, for us as a brand, if they’re not buying diamonds, they’re buying sapphires. I think a lot of that is to do with Kate Middleton, because she had a sapphire ring, and along with Princess Anne’s love for sapphires, it really set a standard for what people were aiming for in their engagement rings.
More recently there’s also been a bit of a trend for people coming away from diamonds towards the coloured stones, because you get a lot more for your money.
Halos are very timeless and I don’t think they’ve ever gone out of fashion. We do a lot of four-claw settings, which are quite simple with four points on the corners around the diamond, and maybe there might be another embellishment down the shoulders of the ring.
But for us, I think our most popular design and probably the most popular for this era is the twist, which is where the four claws are set at north, south, east and west on the stone and the shank lifts up the diamond – it’s very pretty and simple. It’s generally a good option if you’re picking a ring without your partner.
One of my favourite commissions is when a couple have been married for maybe 30 or 40 years, and when they got married in their youth, they didn’t have a lot of money, and they’ve got a very small and modest ring.
And then they come to us having lived their lives, had children and decided they’re in a different situation now and they’d like to upgrade. They’re my favourite because they keep the stone and we just embellish it and make it something that reflects the people that they’ve become. So, they’re really exciting to work on.
We love the fact that we come across as a luxury brand but in truth we are a family jeweller at heart, and we’ll work with pretty much every budget possible. Our bespoke design service is complimentary; a client isn’t obligated to proceed with making the ring and we would welcome anyone to come and meet with our talented jewellery designers!
In terms of bespoke we’ve made things as low as £1,000 for an engagement ring. We can go lower still, and we can tweak different parts of the design to make it affordable. That could be working with white gold instead of platinum, for example.
What I really like about bespoke is that we’re so flexible, there’s no reason why anyone should be put off coming and talking to us.
Because our jewellery workshop is on-site it’s really easy for us to speak to the goldsmiths and stone setter about the design to make sure the client loves it! They can even visit the workshop to see their ring being crafted, which is one of the benefits of having your ring designed and made locally in Cheltenham. I think it adds to the couple’s history, and becomes part of their story – which is more special than if they had a mass-produced ring that could be from anywhere!
As well as the bespoke jewellery design service, we also have our own collection of engagement rings, and they’re designed and crafted in-house too. We love it when Beards becomes part of an engagement story, so I’d encourage anyone who’s thinking of getting engaged to come and visit us.
Monday 04 February 2019
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