When choosing an engagement ring, the focus on the classic white diamond – driven to popularity by De Beers throughout the 20th century – has shifted. Though diamonds are still prevalent, they now share the limelight with emeralds, sapphires, black diamonds and other less-common gemstone choices in unusual clusters and shapes. Finding something that suits one’s personality, is becoming more important
Here’s our pick of Australian designers who don’t necessarily specialise in engagement rings, but which are making beautiful ones anyway.
Natalie Marie Jewellery
Natalie Marie Fitch’s aesthetic is fine and feminine. Each piece is made by hand by the small team of two in its Avalon studio. “It’s always been important to me to maintain the creative, personal input and quality control across the brand in all that we create,” says Fitch.
When working on engagement-ring commissions, Fitch likes to stay in close contact with the client throughout the project. “Working with engagement and wedding rings means you are involved at a critical time in people's lives, full of emotion and sentiment,” Fitch says. “Hands down the highlights for me have been receiving cards, letters or emails from clients expressing their gratitude for the pieces we’ve created for them.”
With a heavy focus on gemology and original sources, this is the place for rare and unusual stones, such as grey spinel and Muzo emeralds, and interesting cut styles, such as lozenges and hexagons. “I really love the sophistication of our antique-style diamond cuts, such as the hexagon and asscher cut, where it's all about broad flashes of light and lustre, as opposed to the in-your-face sparkle of more modern-cut diamonds,” says Cushla. “Our customers can hand-select a gemstone from our inventory and we work with them to design something unique.” Every Cushla Whiting piece is made in Melbourne.
Mania Mania launched its MANIAMANIA FINE range last year. It features a large range of rings suitable for brides.
“There is always a discussion with our clients about their own style, especially what other pieces of jewellery they wear,” says stylist TamilaPurvis. Each stone, such as dendrite quartz, andalusite and champagne diamonds, has a kaleidoscopic appearance, set in white or yellow 14-karat gold. Most pieces are elaborate and detailed with a slightly antique look about them.
Purvis loves working with a range of stones and is particularly fond of white rustic diamonds for engagement rings. “Each stone has its own salt-and-pepper looking inclusions, which give them a really unique and otherworldly look, like looking into another galaxy,” she says.
MANIAMANIA also offers a customisation service, where you can modify any piece with a stone of your choice.
Talk to Lucy Folk if you want an engagement ring with personality. “Our customer is rarely looking for a traditional solitaire-style engagement ring,” says Folk. “Rather, they are keen to focus on the design and the combination of stones/diamonds that put a spin on classic shapes that we expect to see.”
Creating bespoke pieces is one of Folk’s most-treasured aspects of her business. She takes appointments in her Melbourne studio, and on location when travelling the world.
“There is nothing we won’t do,” she says. “We have a lot of banter with our clients and are very honest about what we think will work best and how to keep our brand identity within the constraints of the brief.”
Marina Antoniou is known for her work with the Australian opal, a stone she is particularly passionate about for its form and cultural reverence. Antoniou approaches the ring-making process as a deeply personal affair.
Direct relationships with fossickers and cutters around the country means Antoniou has access to some of the highest quality local stones. She recently worked with Australian gemstones as part of the Courtesy of the Artist project Rare Earth: Australian Made, using argyle diamonds from Western Australia, sapphires from central and northern Queensland and opals from Andamooka, South Australia.
“There is a lot of pressure to not just make something that fits my client's brief,” she says, “but something their partner will fall in love with, too.”