Diamond rings from made-to-order collections will always have an appeal, but the demand for unconventional engagement pieces is increasing. Discerning buyers are now curious about less-common gemstones and their origins, prompting designers to source alternative stones more sustainably and from traceable suppliers. We look at six designers who make beautiful engagement rings using non-traditional stones.
This New Zealand jewellery brand offers a broad range of engagement rings. Its aesthetic plays between darkness and lightness. Dark and moody stones, such as midnight sapphires and Thai garnets, are set in bold hexagons in weighty bands of metal. Fine diamonds wrap around bands and explode into celestial shapes.
The designers often find inspiration from antique cuts and unusual settings. “We don’t feel you have to be traditional when it comes to an engagement ring – we believe in no rules. If you get over your ring – change it!” says designer Claire Hammon. “Our current favourite stone is morganite, a soft, peachy-pink stone that looks beautiful set in gold.”
Pieces range from $300 to $15,000.
Hannah Stewart launched her jewellery label HLSK in 2012 in Melbourne. Her off-kilter style and unusual stone clusters have garnered attention at home and internationally, and her handcrafted pieces have shown at both Paris and New York Fashion weeks.
Stewart works predominantly with organically shaped metals that are free-hand sculpted into raw formations. Engagement pieces feature classic diamonds as well as opals, sapphires and topaz set in precious metals with elongated prongs that curl around the vivid gemstones.
“Each piece is specifically designed to suit each stone, and the metal work should always enhance the stone’s beauty. For me, this is the key to designing something truly unique and beautiful,” says Stewart.
Prices range from $300 to $650.
Courtesy of The Artist
Courtesy of The Artist is a contemporary jewellery and objects space in Sydney's Strand Arcade. It works with jewellers and artists who craft one-of-a-kind contemporary pieces. The artists are passionate about using Australian gemstones such as Australian parti sapphires and cognac diamonds. They work hard to build solid relationships with their miners and stonecutters across the country, meaning they have access to some impressive, locally-sourced stones.
At Courtesy of The Artist, artists work closely with their clients to create something deeply personal and lovingly handcrafted. “Most of the time the client is unsure when they come in, so by trying various rings on in the space I get an idea of which artist would be best suited for the client,” says Courtesy of The Artist director Nina Cueva. When a client decides which artist they want to work with, they meet and collaborate on a custom-made design.
“Each and every custom piece of jewellery not only has its own story, but there is a special connection between client and artist. It’s a truly one-of-a-kind experience,” says Cueva.
James & Irisa
Partners in business and in life, James Feng and Irisa Jang launched their eponymous label in August 2016 with a range inspired by the beauty of the natural Australian opal. “Opal is no doubt the best candidate to express our design concept because of its mystique,” says Feng. “It was this passion for the precious gem that became the final catalyst in launching a label that presented the opal in a different and more modern light.”
Each piece is hand crafted by the small team in Melbourne. Alongside opals it also uses small diamonds, elevating the milky palette of the opal to a brilliant effect.
Prices range from $450 to $4295.
Pearls aren’t for everyone, but they are still coveted for their natural beauty and timeless appeal. Kailis Jewellery in Western Australia makes engagement pieces with South Sea pearls, cultured from the Pinctada Maxima oyster. This species of oyster has been overfished in its natural habitat. Australia is the last place in the world where wild Pinctada maxima pearl oysters still exist in sufficient numbers for pearl cultivation.
“We are definitely seeing an increased interest in pearl engagement rings. We think people are recognising that South Sea pearls, which are farmed off the north-west coast of Australia, are the most lustrous and valuable pearls in the world. They are rare and untreated, meaning nothing has been done to the pearl after it has been carefully removed from the oyster,” says marketing manager Jacqui Moore. “No other gem is this naturally beautiful from birth, which means each Kailis pearl is as unique as the wearer, making it the perfect choice for a engagement ring.”
Prices range from $880 to $16750.
For its first jewellery collection, Bassike has worked with a local jeweller to create a range of seven, pared-back pieces in fine metal and bold stones. “We created the fine-jewellery line using premium 12-karat rose gold and semi-precious stones of garnet, onyx and green diopside in classic oval and emerald cuts,” says Bassike co-founder Deborah Sams. “The collection possesses a refined sophistication and an aesthetic that can be easily adapted to the wearer’s personal style.”
There are four rings in the collection that can work as engagement pieces, and, like everything Bassike does, they are no-fuss and sophisticated.
Prices range from $380 to $890.