How to Approach Your Custom Engagement Ring Design

How to Approach Your Custom Engagement Ring Design Cover Photo
15 min read20 March 2023

Summary / TLDR

  • Designing a custom engagement ring is now as affordable as buying one from the store in New Zealand if you know where to look. So why not get exactly what you want?

  • When designing your ring, there are only two things you need to think about: practicality and design. Everything else can be left to your designer. They will also make recommendations.

  • You don’t need to have everything figured out for your custom engagement ring design. A designer will provide you a lot of support in getting exactly what you want.

  • Getting a design done can cost up to $1000. But at Four Words, the design is part of our final price and rebated when you pay your final invoice.

Custom engagement rings in New Zealand are as affordable as buying one in a store. And yes there are many online stores that let you build a design online. But a designer does a much better job at making sure you get exactly what you want by paying attention to what is practical for the ‘wearer’ and turning your ideas into a reality.

But before you begin down the custom engagement ring path, it’s helpful to think about a couple of things that will make the process easier.

Find What You Love

You are getting a custom engagement ring for a reason. It represents something unique, care and thoughtfulness. For many couples, it is an ultimate symbol of their commitment, faith, and respect for one another. That's why so many people spend so much time dreaming of their future engagement ring.

And yes I know this all sounds fluffy. But all the ideas you and your partner have about what a relationship should be needs to be poured into the ring.

That's why it's so important for your engagement ring to be designed with an expert. You're not going to get another chance to get it right. And when you reveal the ring, you want it to be everything your partner has ever wanted.

But don't stress out about finding the perfect engagement ring right away. Coming up with the ideal ring design takes time and patience. The most important thing is that you're committing to the person you love.

And choosing an engagement ring should be a fun process. If it isn’t a surprise, talk with your partner and get a sense of the styles they like. You might look at rings together or propose a few options to get their feedback.

Remember, there's no "perfect" ring — as long as it's meaningful to both of you, that's all that really matters. Take your time exploring different styles and find something that makes you both smile.

At Four Words, we typically go through at least a couple of iterations before our clients are happy with the design. And this is completely normal, if not expected. For example, below is an example of us designing around four engagement rings for a client after she explained to us what she was looking for. This included the couple’s wedding band.

Four Words Design Sketches

So how exactly do you go about getting an idea in the first place? It depends if the engagement is a surprise or not. We have found many of our clients share images or boards from Instagram or Pinterest of what they like which has helps us design something with a clear understanding of expectations.

You Can Use Premade Designs for Inspiration

If your partner is a vet and lives on a lifestyle block gardening every weekend, the design considerations will be very different to someone who lives in the city and works in an office.

The Custom Engagement Ring Needs To Be Practical

Once you have decided to go down the custom engagement ring route and started to pin designs you like, the next thing that you should consider is if it will be practical. For example, what type of job or hobbies does your partner have? And what type of lifestyle do you both live?

If your partner is a vet and lives on a lifestyle block gardening every weekend, the design considerations will be very different to someone who lives in the city and works in an office.

For someone with a more active lifestyle, consider more prongs or bezels (things that hold the diamond in place), with a lower profile. This will ensure that the gemstones don’t jut out.

For example, one of our clients loved the outdoors and also had two dogs. With this in mind, we designed this 1 carat pear solitaire, paying particular attention to the security of the diamond.

Pear solitaire with gold band.jpg

But just because you have an active lifestyle doesn’t mean you have to settle with something simple.

One of our favourite designs comes from one of our clients who loves to cook and she mentioned that she wanted an engagement ring that she wouldn’t have to think about as she goes about day-to-day.

We designed this octagonal cut Emerald cut with a 14K yellow gold band with diamonds running along it.

Octoganal emerald with gold band.jpg

The Emerald is firmly held in place with 14K gold, and the smaller diamonds running along the band are securely held with four prongs each (two on each side).

For those that consider themselves “less active”, designing a ring that is structurally sound should also be given.

And this is what we do at Four Words. All our engagement rings are designed to last more than a lifetime, and are mounted and set right here in New Zealand.

For example, for this client who did not consider herself as too active wanted to ensure that her gemstones were nice and secure. We designed this three stone engagement ring featuring a 1 carat equivalent round blue sapphire with two accenting 0.5 carat pear diamonds with a silver coloured band done in platinum.

Three stone symmetrical diamond ring.jpg

Notice the number of prongs around each of the gemstones and the blue sapphire and the brackets under each gemstone? We designed this to ensure that they would remain in place.

Going through the design process

1. Choose a Stone They Will Be Proud to Wear

After understanding what you want to achieve out of a custom engagement ring and paying attention to its practicality, it's time to decide what stone(s) you want to use. The center stone is almost always the focal point of the design and the size and type is the biggest determinant of cost.

Most people go with diamonds — the tried and true stone in any engagement ring. And they are classic for a reason — they have a depth and sparkle that can’t be matched by any other stone. Because they are extremely tough (the hardest material on Earth),  they won’t ever chip, crack or lose their sparkle. Like they say ‘A diamond is forever.’

Gif of diamond sparkle

But just because diamonds are the most popular choice doesn’t mean you should shy away from other gemstones like sapphires, emeralds, rubies, aquamarines, or moissanites as options for engagement rings.

These stones are great if you have a special meaning attached to them (e.g. birthstones) or if you want some colour in your design. Often, gemstones can offer a more affordable price range as well if you are on a tighter budget. Here at Four Words we routinely work with customers who choose to go with gemstones as their center stone — contact a concierge to find out more.

For example, we designed and made an Oval Emerald engagement ring with a halo with melee diamonds running off the 14K gold band.

Oval Emerald with halo.jpg

How To Pick The Right Quality Stone

Diamonds (and gemstones) vary a lot in quality and subsequently, price. How do you pick a high-quality stone without paying too much?

Fortunately, diamonds have a standardised grading system called the ‘4 Cs’ where mined and lab-grown diamonds are independently graded according to their Cut, Carat, Colour and Clarity.

Unfortunately, this just introduces a new set of decisions to be made and can be really confusing — how do you pick the right combination of Cs?

Here at Four Words, our gemologists have come up with the Four Words Standard which makes the whole thing really simple. Our philosophy is to get the best-looking diamond to the naked eye because why pay for anything more and why settle for anything less?

Whatever stone you choose to go for your custom design, make sure that it is high quality and something that you and your partner feel good about.

2. Choose A Metal That Will Suit

After choosing the stone, the metal your ring will be set in is the next major decision to make. But luckily this is reasonably straightforward.

For fine jewellery like engagement rings you have four major options (there are others, but these will make up 99% of cases):

  • Yellow Gold
  • Rose Gold
  • White Gold or Platinum

Metal Choices Diagram

If you are looking for a custom design for your partner then one clue might be the colour of jewellery they already wear. If it is mainly yellow, then opt for yellow, and if mainly silver/white then opt for white gold or platinum. If they wear both or you don’t have an idea of what they like then a general rule of thumb is that warmer skin tones suit yellow gold and cooler skin tones suit white — here is how to find out about skin tones.

Karat vs Carat?

Just to add in another layer of confusion, gold comes in different Karats which is different from Carat (diamond weight).

Karat when in reference to gold is the amount of gold used in the metal. 24k gold is 100% pure gold and 18k gold is 18 parts gold and 6 parts alloy (other metals), 14k gold is 14 parts gold and 10 parts alloy and so on.

Pure gold (24k) is ‘too soft’ to make jewellery out of. It easily warps and changes shape. So to make it stronger, goldsmiths alloy it with other metals (zinc, copper metal). The type of alloy metals used can change the colour. For example, rose gold has a higher amount of copper to give it the rose colour.

Fine jewellery in New Zealand mainly comes in 14k or 18k gold. While 18k gold has a higher percentage of gold than 14k, we recommend choosing 14k gold to make your ring from. This is because it’s significantly more durable than 18k gold and has a slightly lower price point. 18k gold is still a great option if you prefer a richer yellow colour, but the trade-off is that it will require a little bit more care and upkeep. We don’t recommend going below 14k gold.

3. Bonus: Research Different Gemstone Cuts

When researching rings it may be difficult to even get started, but knowing the general styles can help you narrow down what you like and more importantly, what you don’t.

Here is a list of the main types of designs to search for (Pinterest is your friend here):

Solitaire: The most common design, featuring just a single main stone. These designs are a great way to show off the main gemstone or diamond.

Soliatire Sketch

Halo: A single stone with a ‘halo’ of smaller diamonds surrounding the main stone. Popular because they add a bit more sparkle and give more finger coverage

Halo Sketch Example

Three stone: A 3 stone ring (but you knew that), the three stones can either be all the same or different shapes. Symbolises ‘past, present and future’

three stone Sketch example

Moi et Toi: Two stones (usually different shapes) next to each other — means ‘You and Me’ and french and in vogue right now

moi ei toi Sketch example

Vintage: Rings with intricate designs and details, often with coloured gemstones

Vintage Sketch example

Multi-stone or Cluster: Ring with a cluster of diamonds without a center focal diamond

Multistone Sketch example

In our experience, if your partner wants a specific style of design that’s unique — they’ll let you know!

Otherwise for more inspiration on engagement ring styles, just look at the latest jewellery trends. It can inspire you to show off and create something interesting. And most jewellers are constantly coming up with unique ideas for engagement ring design.

4. Bring Your Ideas Into Life

Once you’ve got some idea of what you’re looking for you should reach out to a few jewellers you can work with to turn your design vision into reality.

At Four Words, we can help people anywhere on the design journey, whether you have a clear direction of what you want or don't know where to even start. We can help you bring your design ideas to life in a series of sketches and 3D renders which are used to craft your ring.

Four Words Annotated Render

Our process walks you through each of the steps of engagement ring design from stone selection, metal choice and design styles to ensure that what we create will be something you both will love.


What are my options for a bespoke engagement ring?

We think about bespoke engagement rings in three ways:

  1. Recreate: You find something that you like and would like to recreate the design exactly.
  2. Remix: You find a design that you like but want to change a few things.
  3. Completely bespoke: You send us through your thoughts and some images that you like and we put together a collection of rings for you to choose from.

Can I change my design if I don’t like it?

You can refine your designs as many times as you want with Four Words. We only go to production once you are 100% happy with it. Once we go to production, it becomes incredibly difficult to change the design.

How long does it take to go from signing off on a design to a ring on my hand?

With Four Words, it typically takes four to eight weeks. With other jewellers, the standard is up to 12 weeks.

Are custom engagement rings more expensive than ready made diamond engagement rings?

Getting a custom engagement ring is about the same price as buying one from a retail store from the display. The price of your engagement ring depends more on the size and type of gemstone more than its design, or going through the design process.

How long does it take to get a custom engagement ring made?

At Four Words we advise our clients to give the ring design process at least two weeks. While it takes 4 - 8 weeks to make the ring, the design process can take anywhere between a couple of days all the way up to three months. The variance comes from the number of revisions and how quickly you can get back to emails.

Who makes custom engagement rings?

In New Zealand, there are a couple of places you can get a truly custom and bespoke engagement ring. Four Words, Partridge, Walker and Hall and Village Goldsmith are the leaders. There are also designers who have a signature style but will take your requests into consideration such as Layla Kaisi and Meadowlark.

How much does a custom engagement ring cost?

Custom engagement rings can cost anywhere from NZD2,000 all the way up to NZD200,000. At Four Words, we typically see custom diamond rings starting at around NZD4,000, and for other gemstones starting at NZD2,000. The determinant of the price will depend on the gemstone, size of gemstone and amount of material used for the band.

Can you design a custom wedding ring?

At Four Words, we can design any type of jewellery. Many of our clients also design their wedding rings and eternity bands.

Who does lab grown custom engagement rings?

Four Words is the original lab grown diamond specialist in New Zealand who also do custom engagement rings. New jewellers are always popping up so it is always important to see their reviews. Four Words is rated 5/5 with more than 100 reviews on Google.

Other jewellers that do lab grown diamonds in New Zealand include Diamonds on Richmond, and The Diamond Shop.

Are online ring builders good?

Ring builders are great to get an idea of what is possible but we don’t recommend them to make a purchase. Oftentimes, these online companies take shortcuts in the diamond quality and diamond setting. If you do decide to buy from an online retailer that does offer a ring builder like Novita Diamonds or Blue Nile, we highly recommend you first ask the following questions so you don't get a poor-quality diamond (you generally get what you pay for in this industry):

  • Are the diamonds HPHT or CVD?
  • If they are HPHT, do they have any blue nuance?
  • If they are CVD, do they have any CVD strain?
  • Are they Type IIA diamonds? Does it have any boron or nitrogen impurities?
  • Where were they made? Are the mounts made here in NZ? Are they mass produced?
  • Do they come with a certification and video inspection?

If they don't know or don’t reply adequately to your questions this would be a red flag because we've noticed more an introduction of poor quality diamonds coming into the market at discounted prices because the diamond miners or growers are cutting corners to save costs.

Where are the best places to look for custom engagement ring inspiration?

Pinterest and Instagram are the best places to look for custom engagement ring ideas. You can also follow Four Words on Instagram. We post a new ring every day.

Get started

Diamond Illustration

Whether you’re just starting out or have done all your research, we are here to help.

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