When we got engaged the proposal wasn’t planned and so there was no engagement ring – Phil fashioned one from a paper napkin as a token gesture! However, the up side to this was that I then got to choose the ring.
As I collect and wear a lot of vintage clothing, accessories and jewellery my first thought was to go for a vintage or antique ring. I love the styling from the Art Deco period, so an old ring from this era would have a unique design and history to it. We are fortunate to have Mann Jewellers in Stroud, established in 1741 and stocking an extensive collection of second hand pieces.
There were a few rings that caught my eye, but I quickly realised I had expensive taste that went way beyond the budget – even the tradition of spending a months wages seems like too much to me!
A second hand ring is an ethical and sustainable option. Mining for precious metals and gem stones uses a lot of labour, equipment and resources. To produce one gold band, five tonnes of environmental waste are produced. This waste pollutes the top soil as well as nearby water sources, affecting the health of local communities and wildlife. The miners work long hours in terrible conditions and are poorly paid. So if you do buy new then look for ethical and fair trade options from jewellers that provide full traceability.
Now, I already own a beautiful pendant by my friend Elaine Day Jewellery. She makes each piece from scratch and recycles old silver, gold and gemstones. I had a plain rose gold band which belonged to my Grandma and thought it would be really special if Elaine could use this to make a bespoke engagement ring for me.
There are many artisan jewellers who will do this for you, Elaine is a member of the Gloucestershire Guild of Craftsmen, but there are other regional Guilds as well as The Society of Designer Craftsmen who can connect you with a UK jewellery designer who can custom make a piece for you.
I met with Elaine and she drew up some sketches, working with the idea of incorporating motifs into the design that had significance to us, as well as working on a shape that would ultimately interlock with a matching wedding band.
The final piece has a hedgehog, feathers and leaves on it as well as part of a needle & thread on the back, which lines up with the rest of the needle on the back of the wedding band. To finish it off, there are pressed forget-me-not flowers on the inside of both rings.
So, although there are no diamonds this engagement ring is precious to me and has great personal and significant meaning, both in the motifs and because it re-uses a piece of heirloom jewellery from my Grandma. The wedding band doesn’t look like much on it’s own but worn together they interlock and represent the union of marriage.
By choosing second hand or custom made jewellery you will have a piece that steps away from the exploitative practices of commercial mining and the finished piece will have so much more meaning to you, which is truly something to treasure.