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Custom engagement rings NZ: The design guide

February 6, 2022 • 9 min read • #engagement ring


Designing your own custom engagement ring with your partner is one of the most exciting parts of the engagement proposal. It also says a lot about how you view the other person. It is also a lot more special than going into a jewellery store and picking out a piece that is mass manufactured.

But at the same time, it can be a daunting task, especially if you are keeping the proposal a surprise and want to impress. Below is a complete step by step guide on how to go about designing a custom engagement ring in New Zealand that will be within your budget.


Decide on the method of your engagement

There are two types of ways you can propose — with or without the final ring. When you propose with a “promise ring” you are telling your partner that you would like to go through the custom ring design process together. When you propose with the custom engagement ring, you are telling your partner that this is not just a symbol of love, but also a labour of love as you have gone through the custom design process yourself.

Now neither approach is right or wrong. It depends on the style of your relationship. If your partner is particular and likes things in a certain way, it may be that you propose with a promise ring. If your partner is less particular and trusts your tastes, then it is a wonderful gesture to design a custom engagement ring for them. Read this guide here for a full breakdown of the pros and cons of each approach.

Note down all your special moments

Before you even think of getting to the design stage, it is best to start by writing out all your special moments together. This will better inform your design decisions as you move forward. It also provides you with a strong foundation for actually going about the proposal itself!

Things that you may want to note include:

  • Your first date.
  • A running joke that you share.
  • Something that you always say to each other.
  • Special places or moments.

These memories may not be explicit in the ring that you design but they can influence your design decisions. For example, the date that you met could then be matched to the specific night sky and then incorporated in some form of a cluster into your ring. Another idea could be to include engravings that are meaningful to both of you.

Remember, an engagement ring is something you expect your partner wears for the rest of their life. So take into account as much as you possibly can and be considerate to the fact that it is a symbol of your love.

If you are designing a ring together, this is also a very important step. Skipping this stage may mean that you regret some design decisions later down the track.

Speak to your families

Your engagement is the first step that you take in bringing two families together. For this reason, you should talk to your family, and theirs. When talking to your family — especially your parents, you may want to ask the following questions:

  • What was the story of your proposal?

  • What was important when you bought a ring?

  • What does the engagement ring mean to you?

  • Where was the proposal done?

  • What do you look back on fondly about the proposal and engagement ring?

    After speaking to your family, you should then talk to their family. During this stage, there is a couple of things that you can do that would be respectful and considered ‘best practice.’

  • Ask your partner’s parents for your partner’s hand in marriage.

  • Mentioning that you will be designing their ring.

  • Stories of them growing up as a child.

  • Special memories that they have as parents.

  • Things that your partner loves (you may be surprised!).

  • Some of their favourite things to do and go (this can be good inspiration for where you propose)

  • Anything that they may have mentioned about what they are looking for in their engagement ring.

A nice thing to do is to take their family out for dinner (typically just parents). They will eventually be your in-laws and it is very meaningful to your partner to show that you can get along with their parents.

Make sure to note all of this down as it will be important in a couple of steps.

Speaking to their friends

Once you have got permission from their parents, the next step is to spend time with their best friend. This also needs to be done discreetly if you are planning a surprise proposal. Ideally, you want to collect the following information:

  • Their ring size. This is very important.
  • Any ring designs that they like.
  • If they have any suspicion on a proposal.

If you are planning for a surprise, it is incredibly suspicious if you randomly mention to your partner that you are going to hang out with their best friend without them. It is reasonable for this to be a phone conversation. But if you do have a lot of alone time (i.e., you work different shift times), then it may be worth going into a couple of stores.

Typical jewellers, especially those in malls tend to be quite pushy. Remember that you are in the design process and you do not need to be sold on a design. Take your time, and be aware of some of the tricks that these stores play like the excessive use of bright lights to make even low-quality diamonds sparkle.

Collecting custom engagement ring designs

Now for the fun part. After going through all these steps, you should have a very good idea of your partner’s taste and what they like.

This is the part you start collecting pictures and sketching a few out. During your sketch phase, you don’t need to be an artist. You just need to be able to articulate what you are thinking. Feel free to use words and phrases so that when you talk to a designer, it is easy for you to get your point across.

As you start putting together designs, it is also a good idea to jump onto Pinterest and Instagram to start having a look at some custom engagement rings. Put all the rings that match the information that you have collected so far into a folder that your partner can’t access. This could be in a hidden folder. Ideally, you want to have around ten to twelve rings that you have found online and one or two basic sketches. This will be an amazing foundation when you talk to your designer.

You don’t need to necessarily go through this stage on your own. You can start talking to a designer as you go through this process. But if you go through this process on your own, you will be able to make decisions quickly and be more sure of the decisions that you make.

Engage with a designer to design your custom engagement ring

To get the best value out of working with a designer is to go through all the steps above first. This will ensure that your designer has as much information as possible to create a ring that is unique to your relationship. It also ensures that you have taken into account all the information needed to get exactly what you are both looking for. The value in a designer is in providing them enough of a brief so they can create your custom engagement ring in the exact way you have imagined.

Working with an engagement ring designer can be difficult especially if they are freelancers. Finding a good designer can be an arduous process and sometimes it can also cost a lot of money. But with Four Words, the design process is completely free and their designers are world-class and they have designed rings for international clients.

A designer may not get the custom engagement ring design right in their first go. It is up to you (and your partner) to provide them feedback. It is also common for a designer to make recommendations on the design to ensure the quality of the custom engagement ring. For example, they may make recommendations on:

  • The quality and size of the centre stone.
  • The karat of the ring itself — if you are using gold for the band.
  • A walkthrough of the 4Cs and what you should and shouldn’t pay for.
  • Engravings

Finalise your design

After going through the final iterations, you should be ready to get your ring made. It is best to work with a jewellery store that has both their designers and jewellers working together. A risk of working with a freelance jeweller is that their designs may be incompatible with the jewellers. To know the intricacies of designing a ring, check out this piece here.

Where to from here?

This guide represents the “best practice” of designing a custom engagement ring. But you may not have the luxury of doing all of this. You may be in a rush or their family may be overseas. Whatever the situation, you are always welcome to reach out to Four Words to start the design process. Even if you are just starting, we will make the design process seamless and walk you through all the things that you need to think about as you go about your engagement ring journey.

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