In 2022, more and more women are becoming adventurous when it comes to engagement rings, whether that’s choosing a fancy-shaped diamond, incorporating multiple stones into a ring, or adding a funky ring jacket or nesting band to spice up their look. We take a look at three jewelry designers known for unique designs and gorgeous craftsmanship that every couple getting engaged this year should know about.
Los Angeles-based jewelry designer Maggi Simpkins is known for her exquisite designs and her strong focus on bridal jewelry. She jokes that she’s the “engagement ring whisperer.” Simpkins loves to create bespoke engagement rings that tell every couple’s personal love story.
How did you start designing engagement rings?
I’ve been making jewelry my whole life, but it was in 2016 that I discovered that bespoke engagement rings were what I was most passionate about.
I had a friend ask me to create an engagement ring for him. He was at a loss for words, he was choked up, he was tearing up. It was the most beautiful thing. I could see in his face that he knew his whole world was going to change.
I thought, if I’m going to bring more stuff into the world and I’m going to spend my time making things, I really want them to have this type of an impact. To be part of this process is such an honor and a gift that I feel couples give me. I like to help tell stories, and I like to create these things that live on forever to tell stories to future generations.
What is your engagement ring signature?
I like to include funny, little, sweet details inside of the rings. I hide all types of little symbols: constellations, animals — any type of bird, you name it! I’ve hidden monkeys, an elephant, and a special flower from a certain country.
My approach is different every time. My clients are generally thoughtful human beings. Instead of walking into a jewelry store and just buying something, they want to sit with me for 8-10 weeks to create something really perfect for their partner. But, everyone is different. I sit down and have conversations, and the things that are most important to them come out.
Also, there are no rules. That’s one thing I feel like I say in all of my calls: There are no rules. The whole point of creating a one-of-a-kind engagement ring is that we’re creating a ring to represent two people coming together, who innately have a unique relationship.
Many of your rings include ring jackets. What do you love about them?
I feel like ring jackets have gotten really popular over the last couple of years, I think just because of the versatility that it allows. Nowadays, women are having so much more fun with their engagement rings. I would say my most requested styles over the past couple years have been more single engagement rings. Then, the client can stack fun and playful pieces, either nesting bands or stacking bands, just to have some versatility to dress it up and dress it back down.
You frequently set diamonds at different angles in your nesting bands. What is the inspiration behind that?
I think it’s fun! I think it creates a bit of depth and dimension. Playing with the shapes and the sizes breaks up the sparkle that our eyes see. Pairing smaller shapes adds a whole different type of sparkle. It’s like a million mini-prisms shooting off in different directions. That’s one reason why I fight for the halo concept. I fight for a halo when the stone asks for it. I think the halo has a bad rep for trying to make a stone look bigger, as opposed to something that creates depth. I think it’s really interesting to look at.
What trends are you seeing for engagement rings in 2022?
Pear-shaped and oval diamonds have been my most requested diamonds over and over again. It’s either pear-shaped or an oval. Elongated shapes have been on fire! Emerald-cut diamonds would be in third place to that. East-west diamond orientation is something that people have wanted to play with. I’m also seeing lots of heavy yellow gold, including chunkier yellow gold.
This young Italian designer burst onto the jewelry scene with innovative designs featuring brightly colored enamel jewelry in curling, swirling designs. Bea Bongiasca has since elevated her collection to include natural diamonds, which allowed her to officially expand into engagement rings.
Why did you start designing engagement rings?
The first bridal piece that I made was for a colleague, which was appropriate because she does work for a jewelry company! This was the design that I used when I did a collaboration with De Beers for the Ten/Ten project. These two things happened around the same time… It was the jump off for everything.
What is your engagement ring style?
I wanted to do something very simple, because I think that’s really the key with engagement rings, or bridal in general. But, it’s very hard to make something simple and original. Also, I wanted it to have enamel, but I realized that enamel isn’t so traditional and people could have a hard time wanting it on a piece they would wear forever. There was a lot going on in terms of thoughts, because I wanted to incorporate all of these things.
I don’t think people are particularly adventurous when it comes to engagement rings, and I completely understand why. It’s associated with something that is in itself traditional: marriage. I feel like people are always a little bit scared to be daring or to have something that maybe even represents them more, but is different, because the engagement ring that we’re used to seeing is a solitaire.
I decided I was going to make the first ring composable, so the enamel was a jacket that was removable. To bring them in line with the designs I like in general, I didn’t use round cuts. I used heart, ovals, pears, and trillions, which, by the way, are really hard to find!
What does the enamel jacket bring to your designs?
It’s more unique, and it’s different from what other people have. But, it can also not be if you take it off! Initially, I made this for my colleague whose family lives in the south of Italy. I knew that if I had made the enamel permanent, they would have looked at her and said, “Why did you get a diamond you can’t see all the time?” So, I was trying to avoid that.
What do you love about designing engagement rings?
To be honest, I think it’s one of the most fun things I get to do! I understand how much love is going to go into this object on my part and on their part, and it’s so coveted. I really put a lot of effort into working with the client to make their perfect ring. Each time, because everyone is different, it will always be a little bit different. And I really enjoy that.
George Root of Milamore
Love and relationships are a central tenet to George Root’s design philosophy. Even the name of his company includes the word, “amore.” So, it’s rather surprising that he only recently is expanding into bridal jewelry. Milamore’s jewelry incorporates many design elements with hidden meanings and messages, which he brings to his engagement rings, too.
What interested you in making bridal jewelry?
A really good long-time friend of mine, Reika, asked me to design her engagement ring, which was the very first engagement ring I designed officially for bridal. I designed her ring based on her grandmother’s heirloom pear-shaped diamonds. Before this ring, I designed a wedding band back in 2014 for my husband. That was the first wedding band that I designed.
How would you describe your approach to bridal jewelry?
I would like Milamore to be unique from other brands but still wearable every day. By infusing the story of Kintsugi or Diamond Braille, it can make the bridal jewelry modern, personal, and original.
How has the process of designing been different from your normal collection?
The bridal rings are representative of traditional designs merging with the modern Milamore aesthetic. I like to think of this as marrying old and new concepts, to create a new vision. More and more, people are being creative in how they shape what true love means to them.
Is there anything you’ve changed since your clients will be wearing it every day for the rest of their lives?
What I change is subject to personalization. This is usually done by designing with respect to a story the client wants to tell. For Reika, I designed based upon her family heritage and the new family that she is going to build with her husband.
What is your signature style for engagement rings?
A signature style for engagement rings usually involves the Milamore Diamond Float-Pavé design, which combines floating marquise- and round-cut diamonds with pavé-set diamonds, which can be seen in my Kintsugi and Self Love collections.
Another signature style for Milamore is our Diamond Braille design. It has a classic wedding band aesthetic. But, you can personalize each band with a special word spelled in braille using rose-cut diamonds. Diamond Braille is a silent statement that whispers loving and motivating words. I love how the wearers can make it their own.
Do you have a favorite diamond shape for engagement rings?
I like to play with pear-shaped and marquise diamonds. Using two pear-shaped diamonds to create an abstract heart is my absolute favorite design. The idea of a “perfect family” or “perfect marriage” is a difficult notion for many. Using two stones to create a whole heart is significant to me. It symbolizes finding beauty in coming together, which is more important than perfection or a fairytale story. Realistically, marriage will have its share of challenges, but the beauty of building something with your soulmate is worth it. Just like Kintsugi, the more you repair the cracks, the stronger your relationship becomes.
These interviews have been edited for length and clarity.