How A Wedding Expert Customized Her Diamond Engagement Ring

Working with diamond jewelry designer Ashley Zhang was a dream come true for this former bridal editor.

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(Courtesy of Shelley Brown)

A lot of women dream about their future engagement ring. I probably dreamt about my engagement ring a million times more. As the fashion editor at a popular wedding publication for almost a decade, trying on bridal jewelry was quite literally my profession. By the end of my tenure, I’d attended countless appointments with jewelers and slipped thousands of rings onto my finger. I’d spoken on panels, planned photoshoots, and appeared on TV segments about engagement rings—I’d even helped coworkers and friends design theirs. After so much obsessing over, writing about, and modeling a seemingly endless array of jewels, I started to worry that I would never decide on my own ring when the time came. I had crushes on numerous styles: I loved the sentimental history of toi et moi rings, the boldness of standalone bands, and the artful movement of floating settings. Sometimes I fantasized about a marquise solitaire that would make Marquise de Pompadour swoon.

Then I met Edith.

I requested Ashley Zhang’s Edith ring for a magazine trend shoot in 2019 and fell in love. Edith is an Art Deco-inspired design with modern influences. It has an Asscher-cut center stone set in a thin bezel, framed by baguettes and small round diamonds in platinum set atop a delicate band of yellow gold. While I’d never really thought of myself as a “vintage bride,” Edith possessed an heirloom quality that was also contemporary. It felt like a treasure you’d find sifting through the jewelry box of a very glamorous relative—one who understood the enduring value of rare and beautiful things.

Shelley Brown's Customized Engagement Ring by Ashley Zhang
Shelley Brown’s Customized Engagement Ring by Ashley Zhang (Courtesy of Shelley Brown)

As a person with
an incessant need
to create, I’m constantly finding inspiration in my surroundings.

I’d admired Ashley Zhang since discovering her designs years before at the Baccarat Hotel with my dear friend, publicist Francesca Simons. Her aesthetic was both timeless and current, a refreshing departure from a lot of the more expected bridal designs I encountered day in and day out. “As a person with an incessant need to create, I’m constantly finding inspiration in my surroundings. I tend to view the world around me through the lens of fine jewelry and designs will pop into my head when I least expect it,” Zhang says about her design aesthetic. “Living in New York, there’s so much history and art to absorb on every block, down every avenue. The past blends with the present so seamlessly and I approach my collection with the same spirit of dichotomy.”

Fast forward to 2023, and my then-boyfriend Max and I started to discuss getting engaged. Just as I was certain I wanted to marry Max, I was also certain I wanted Edith on my finger forever. I expected to feel a tinge of doubt after so many years of engagement ring overload, but I didn’t. Edith was my dream ring. Fortunately, Max was open to my input. His exact words were, “There’s absolutely no way I can handle the pressure of choosing a ring for YOU of all people.” I sent him some inspiration (read: a long email detailing exactly what I wanted) and then tried very hard not to ask questions. 

Ashley Zhang Edith Asscher-Cut Diamond Engagement Ring

I tend to view the world around me through the lens of fine jewelry.

Besides the designer and the setting, I knew I wanted an Asscher-cut diamond center stone and I knew it had to be a natural diamond. Choosing an engagement ring that would retain its value and positively impact communities all over the world was important to me due to my work at NDC. I later learned that my diamond is from Botswana, and it makes me so happy to know that, given everything I’ve learned about how the diamond industry supports the infrastructure, workforce, and overall prosperity of the country. It was also important to me that Max chose the diamond himself because I wanted him to also feel a connection to the ring. I love knowing that he handpicked my diamond specifically because its unique characteristics spoke to him—it made the whole experience extra meaningful. 

Behind the scenes, Max and Ashley worked closely on a bespoke version of the Edith ring — my very own customized engagement ring. The center stone Max chose changed the original design. “Together, we decided to forgo the 45º rotation for the setting as this particular Asscher was not perfectly square and the straighter orientation better complemented its shape,” Zhang says. “Since Max fell in love with this stone, we were able to create something a little different from our other Edith offerings!” 

Shelley Brown's Customized Engagement Ring by Ashley Zhang
Shelley Brown’s Customized Engagement Ring by Ashley Zhang (Courtesy of Shelley Brown)

After 3D-scanning the diamond, Ashley and her team built a custom CAD file for my ring which was then printed in wax before being cast in two pieces. Natural melee diamonds in baguette and round shapes in the appropriate sizes were sourced before the final assembly and setting by master jewelers. “The Edith style is always a little challenging because the length of the baguettes in the “halo” have to match the long sides of the Asscher exactly. This style is always given to our most senior setter as it requires precision that only decades of experience bring,” Zhang says. While it took slightly less time to create my ring because the center stone was already provided, Zhang tells her clients to expect a six-to-eight-week timeframe from start to finish. 

Shelley Brown's Customized Engagement Ring by Ashley Zhang
After Max popped the question with an Ashley Zhang customized engagement ring (Courtesy of Shelley Brown)

Afterward, I asked Ashley if it was nerve-wracking to design for someone, she knew personally who worked in the jewelry industry. “It’s always such an honor to create jewelry for those who understand and appreciate the craft,” she says. “We hold the highest possible standards for all our pieces, regardless of who the client is; however, I will say that it’s extra fun to be able to discuss the design with someone who knows the ins and outs of the jewelry industry! The pressure we experience, if any, is usually due to how busy we are production-wise and is completely independent of our clients.”

Max proposed on a rainy Wednesday night in New York. He chose a random weeknight to throw me off the scent. I might be biased, but it was a perfect evening. He rented out one of our favorite restaurants, hired a jazz band to play our songs, and planned a surprise dinner with our friends immediately following the proposal. The rush of happiness I felt was unlike anything else I’d experienced. I was, for once, lost for words. And while I had envisioned my dream ring before, it was more beautiful than I even remembered. It was the Edith ring but better because it was imbued with so much attention to detail and love. Best of all?  This one was mine to keep.