April’s birthstone is the diamond, so it’s a good time to feature a custom engagement-ring redesign as the Jewel of the Month. This ring is particularly close to my heart because it’s now adorning the ring finger of my right-hand woman and branding chief, Eryn Patton.
Before Eryn’s boyfriend Donnie popped the question, he and I held top-secret meetings during which we discussed not just the ring, but the proposal. I often wind up consulting with gentlemen on their proposals, and my No. 1 tip is: You don’t need the ring to create a thrilling moment. That might seem odd coming from a jewelry designer, but, as I’ve said before, I prefer the woman to be involved with the design to guarantee satisfaction, unless we have specific instructions (for example, the bride-to-be has said, “I want an Asscher-cut stone in a four-prong setting”; or she’s torn out photos from a magazine; or she’s shared her preferences with me.) If there is no guidance, I’d rather not risk it. Trust me, guys. If she gets a proposal with the promise of a custom-designed Wendy Brandes ring, she will feel elated. If you propose to her with a ring she doesn’t like, she’s more likely to feel deflated. (This is what will be running through her mind: “Do I tell him? No, it will hurt his feelings. I will wear a ring I don’t like for the rest of my life rather than hurt his feelings.”)
Donnie and I had enough information for a surprise ring. I had nagged Eryn into creating a Pinterest board of engagement rings, so I understood the organic, delicate, nontraditional setting she preferred. Eryn had known for years that when the time came, her grandmother would pass along her mother’s ring, meaning the diamond was a done deal. I started doodling designs. But you know how you put things in a safe place and never see them again? We feared that was going to be the fate of Nana’s ring. By the time Eryn’s mom located the ring in a safe-deposit box, it was too late for me to make anything because Donnie had a post-proposal vacation booked. The original ring would have to suffice. (Luckily, in this case, that wasn’t going to a problem: Eryn had always speculated that she’d get the ring in its original setting and redesign it later.)
Here’s another tip for the fellas: You don’t need to propose via the Jumbotron at a sports arena. There are other fun ways to catch your beloved off guard. In Donnie’s case, he hustled Eryn out of bed at the crack of dawn one day in February, having previously persuaded her to go to an early-morning exercise class with him. It was bitterly cold outside and she wanted to back out, but he said he had already paid for the class. Eryn is thrifty — no way would she let a class go to waste. She grumbled all the way to Central Park where Donnie’s sister Jessica was hiding behind a tree ready to photograph the big moment.
In between shots of the loving couple …
… Jessica took photos of her own happy-crying face. Those gave me life. Something else that gave me life: Eryn’s early-morning visit to the office to collect her laptop and other things she had left there the day before. I knew she would want them for her trip, but what could I say? I also didn’t stop her from scheduling appointments for the time I knew she’d be away. Eryn was in her gym clothes and in a daze — she kept saying to me, “But I’ve told all my friends that you’re a terrible liar!” I was like, “Please, child, being able to lie about engagements is a prerequisite for this business.”
Eryn and Donnie left for Amsterdam, while Nana’s ring stayed with me. There was never any doubt about doing a redesign for this. Don’t be deceived by the front view of the original setting, which made the ring look basic, but okay …
… because this was the side view.
Eryn, like me, appreciates an engagement ring that’s as flush to the finger as possible. This is the opposite of that. I’m not sure I’ve encountered such a tall setting before. We could have fit a second diamond under the original, which, of course, is now something I want to do — but only as a cocktail ring, not for everyday wear. Here’s another look at the side. You could put your eye out with this ring.
So I sketched a little more …
… and finalized the design of the shank of the ring on the computer. (Prongs aren’t shown.)
If the setting reminds you of my Marie Antoinette settings — you guessed right. That vine-like look was among Eryn’s inspirations.
I showed Eryn the computer file for her approval and that was the last she saw of the ring for a while. Whenever she asked about it, I would say, “Oh, it’s coming along.” I was still saying that after the ring had been finished for a week, so Donnie was able to surprise her again by presenting it to her at our pop-up shop in March.
Here it is at last! Eryn’s redesigned engagement ring.
This covered all of Eryn’s requests: rose gold, nontraditional, viney, organic, and delicate, with claw-like prongs.
You can see that some things changed from the initial sketches — mainly the number of prongs and their material. I decided platinum prongs were too traditional for this ring; besides, rose gold is hard enough for prong duty.
My customer was satisfied. Phew!
You can see before-and-after videos here.
P.S. Nana loves the new ring!