Is a Custom Engagement Ring Right for You? 3 Steps in the Selection Process

Hi, I’m Stephanie Gottlieb, a fine jewelry designer, curator, and rainbow lover based in NYC. I have always had a love and respect for ‘all things sparkly’ but I have truly fallen in love with natural diamonds and their unique characteristics throughout my career.

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Photo: Stephanie Gottlieb

Hi, I’m Stephanie Gottlieb, a fine jewellery designer, curator, and rainbow lover based in NYC. I established my jewellery collection and bridal concierge service in 2013 after pursuing my Diamond Certification from the Gemological Institute of America. I have always had a love and respect for ‘all things sparkly’ but I have truly fallen in love with natural diamonds and their unique characteristics throughout my career.

In my day to day, I work with clients who are often making their first important jewellery purchase. I love helping them explore my jewellery collection, where I add modern twists to classic designs for beautiful, wearable fashion. And for more special occasions like an engagement ring purchase, I love the opportunity to custom create a piece from start to finish that best represents the person who will wear it.

When you choose to go through the custom process, you can be selective about every element of the piece—from the diamonds and metals used to the smallest unique design details that will make the piece feel special to you. If you are considering going the custom diamond engagement ring selection route, there will be several decisions to be made.

Loose emerald cut diamonds, pave diamond ring, emerald cut diamond ring with wrap around band by Stephanie Gottlieb
Photo: Stephanie Gottlieb
Hand featuring two custom cushion cut diamond rings with pave bands, oval cut diamond custom engagement ring, pave diamond ring by Stephanie Gottlieb
Photo: Stephanie Gottlieb

3 Things You’ll Do During the Custom Engagement Ring Selection Process:

  1. Learn to understand how to assess natural diamond quality
  2. Consider diamond design details that will affect the overall look but also sentimentality of the finished piece
  3. Establish the parameters that will achieve the look you’re going for while sticking to your desired budget and timeline

Step 1: Research Information on Diamonds

First, we encourage you to do homework with your partner. Do some online research to understand diamond quality and assess whether size or quality is a higher priority within your given budget. What’s great about the custom engagement ring process is you get to define your budget, and then play with the different characteristics of the 4C’s of diamonds to figure out where you can make compromises to get what you want within that price point. This decision of quality versus size may not be solidified until you see diamonds in person, but you will get a sense of what direction you lean while doing some research.

Step 2: Find Your Engagement Ring Inspiration

Now, it’s time for inspiration! There’s no shortage of great jewellery accounts on Instagram and Pinterest to get ideas. You can also get more educational and trend-forward information on When you’re ready to do in-person browsing, you and your partner can visit local jewellery stores to try on different stone shapes, carat sizes, metal colors, and ring designs. This way, you can learn your partner’s preferences so that you feel confident when you’re ready to purchase the ring. Sometimes a “process of elimination” approach can be the best way to narrow down options if your partner is not quite sure what they want.

During this phase, don’t forget this important piece of the puzzle — your partner’s ring size! You can ask a jeweller to measure, or if you’re looking to be more discreet, try having a family or friend “compare” ring sizes or tracing one of the rings they already wear. However! Fingers on our dominant hands tend to be bigger than our non-dominant ones, so keep this in mind when choosing a ring to trace, and be mindful of which finger your significant other wears that ring on.

Photo: Stephanie Gottlieb

Step 3: Finding the Right Diamond Jeweller

Once you have a basic understanding of what your partner wants, visit a trusted diamond jeweller to begin looking at loose diamonds. We prepare a selection of diamonds for you to consider, based on our discussions about your preferences for diamond shape and size, ring design, overall budget and timeline. We hand select each and every stone option, talk you through the pros and cons, and then narrow down to a final selection that you feel good about. Together we then brainstorm beautiful and modern diamond ring designs. This process can take anywhere from 4-6 weeks, depending on whether the first round stone selection includes “the one”, or if an additional selection is needed. We work endlessly until we find the perfect stone for you.

Did you know? Natural diamonds are one-of-a-kind. Even stones of the exact same carat weight can face-up differently and look larger or smaller depending on their cut. So if you find one you love, you should go for it! You may not find anything quite like it again. A natural diamond is a miracle of nature, made over billions of years within the earth; this piece of history ends up in your ring, which is one of the coolest parts about my job.

Custom vs Preset Engagement Rings

Now if the steps above feel overwhelming for you, there are pre-made options that most jewellery stores and private jewellers offer. In this scenario, you provide your desired budget, possibly a stone shape that you like, and review an inventory of in-stock items. This is a much faster process, with less pre-planning. If you want a ring in a quicker turnaround time, or if you’re not confident in how to differentiate between qualities, shapes, and designs, this may be the best route for you.

Both paths can lead you to the perfect ring, it’s just a matter of how you want to get there. The biggest benefit to the custom process is that you can be picky with your choices and elect to include personal and sentimental elements into the piece.

Helpful Tips to Consider:

  • Do you have a family stone or piece of jewellery? Consider using components from family heirlooms in your new engagement ring.
  • Try adding side stones or a halo around your center diamond to make it pop even more.
  • Talk to your jeweller about ways to make your band even more special. You can add things like additional jewels or engravings.

Of course, if you need something in a fast timeline, forego the custom engagement ring route and visit a few trusted diamond jewellery stores or websites to make your choice. These rings can still be personal and special to you and your partner. Remember, it’s hard to ‘go wrong’ when selecting a natural diamond.