Creating an engagement ring with diamond pave on the INSIDE.
April 15, 2016 11:26 AM   Subscribe

The entire diamond industry is an immoral, ad-led con job believed by idiots. That said, I don't want to be the jerk who skimped on the ring. But I certainly don't want to show anyone that I've acquiesced to that nonsense other than her. Help this scrooge design a ring I don't hate.

So, I want to design a ring that has the diamonds (maybe emeralds – she's Colombian) hidden on the inside of the ring. Picture a normal silver ring, thicker than normal (and maybe a bit wider). On the inside of the band, all the way around the middle of the inside circumference, there is a groove. Within that groove lie the tiny little "micro pave" or (preferably) "diamond chip" diamonds. A ring within a ring.

On the outside, it just looks like a plain, normal silver ring. The beauty is on the inside. You have to take it off to see the ring of micro pave diamonds.

1. Forgetting taste for a second, would the band have to be so thick to allow for a groove on the inside that holds diamonds/emeralds, that it wouldn't be practical?
2. How do you even go about finding someone who can make that for you?

Help me be romantic without being disgusted with the result!! :)
posted by omnigut to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (51 answers total)
I think that this would have to be quite thick, not just to fit, but to be comfortable on her finger. I've gotten cut up on my rings and I cringed thinking about how much it would hurt if it got accidentally bumped too hard on her finger. I love this idea though and will be following with interest.
posted by Marinara at 11:29 AM on April 15, 2016 [2 favorites]

As a practical matter, be sure you insure the hell out of that bad boy. If you can only see the diamonds by taking the ring off, you have given her more reason to take the ring off. If she has more reason to take the ring off, there are more opportunities for her to put it down or drop it and lose it.
posted by kindall at 11:34 AM on April 15, 2016 [13 favorites]

You can "not skimp" on a ring and still not have diamonds. My engagement ring is a sapphire and god damned stunning. If you think she'd like an emerald then get her an emerald's ring. Done. Fabulous. Everyone wins, and you didn't support the super shifty diamond industry.

Have you talked to your future fiance about this? Do you think she would be happy having an outwardly very plain ring with gems hidden inside?
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 11:34 AM on April 15, 2016 [50 favorites]

What does SHE want, though? Your question is about acquiescing -- are you acquiescing to her? Because having to hide a pretty thing (in a fairly dangerous manner: what if she jams her finger and gets a nice cut on it?) because her fiancee considers it immoral seems like... not a lot of fun. Not a great start to a relationship.

I know your question wasn't "is this a good idea?" but it doesn't really seem like a good idea. Could you "not skimp" by buying a ring you can both respect?
posted by AmandaA at 11:36 AM on April 15, 2016 [53 favorites]

Having the jewels set inside the ring would have them constantly rubbing up against her hand- so much dry skin/dirt/etc would build up over them and setting they rest in. It's hard enough to keep a jeweled ring clean when the jewels are on the outside!
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 11:38 AM on April 15, 2016 [36 favorites]

Get a custom made piece with something other than diamonds. I can’t see how like that can be considered skimping.
posted by bongo_x at 11:40 AM on April 15, 2016 [3 favorites]

This sounds uncomfortable-- if she tends to retain water or gains a few lbs, I think the stones would be irritating on soft skin. Especially as the ring would have to be small enough to fit on her hand without sliding off, or looking oddly doughnutlike on the outside (which would irritate her neighboring fingers.)

Maybe I'm not picturing this correctly but what I'm envisioning also collects a lot of gunk. "Gunk" being sweat, skin cells, trapped dirt.

I understand your objections, but does she share them? Does she want to look at the stones and show them to others? Does she want to remove the ring to do these things? Is she opposed to the industry? Are there other stones she'd prefer that don't disgust you?
posted by kapers at 11:41 AM on April 15, 2016 [8 favorites]

Another thing to consider is keeping the ring clean. Some stones are delicate and would not do well constantly against skin, especially if she washes her hands, uses cream or cleaning chemicals with the ring one. That's all just going to get trapped in there.

I'm not sure where emerald sits on the hardness scale.
posted by MandaSayGrr at 11:42 AM on April 15, 2016 [2 favorites]

To clarify; buying the diamonds is the bad part, so hiding them doesn’t do much good. If she wants them and you want to give them then own up to it. Or choose another option.
posted by bongo_x at 11:43 AM on April 15, 2016 [31 favorites]

From experience with our own rings, pavé settings can accumulate a lot of dirt (lots of nooks and crannies) and jewelers are fairly nervous about cleaning them. Whenever my wife takes hers in, we get a long talk first about how we're doing this at our own risk, they can't guarantee anything, etc....

I'd be concerned about dirt and want to know how easy it was to clean and repair, if one of the stones comes out with cleaning.
posted by bonehead at 11:43 AM on April 15, 2016 [1 favorite]

Not a good idea: having the stones on the inside of the ring would cause chafing and irritation on her skin. Also, as a ring-wearer for most of my life, I can absolutely confirm that the groove where the stones are will get super gross with a buildup of shed skin, dirt, old hand lotion, etc. -- she'd probably have to take it off and clean it at least once a day. It would turn from a symbol of "hidden beauty" quickly to "under the shiny surface hides a lot of badness." Also, an engagement/wedding ring should please the wearer since it's on their body. What does SHE like in jewelry? Hidden diamonds are a neat idea but won't work as a practical matter so I'd suggest another style of ring.
posted by cuddles.mcsnuggy at 11:44 AM on April 15, 2016 [5 favorites]

Seconding white sapphires.
posted by odinsdream at 11:45 AM on April 15, 2016

As a note to those with anecdotes about damaging their fingers on the inside points of their diamonds, I'm assuming this band would have the stones "upside down" i.e. with the flat side toward the finger. Much more comfortable.

If there were meshwork filigree along the sides of the band, you could see the stones if you peered very carefully from the side, and that might be kind of cool, especially with colored stones. If you can see them slightly from the side, then they don't have to be as nearly flush to the inner surface, a bit farther from flesh and more comfortable.
posted by aimedwander at 11:45 AM on April 15, 2016

Does she love this idea? Because a big part of the ring thing is not as a signal between you and her, but as a signal between her and others. Just take my word on this that it is not good to have a ring that you are not deeply proud of, however much you love the giver.

Stones on the inside would hurt and catch shedding skin cells and sweat. Honestly, if you hate the idea of any stone ring so much so that makes you contemptuous of her for wanting to show one off, get her something else.
posted by fingersandtoes at 11:46 AM on April 15, 2016 [13 favorites]

I know this doesn't answer your question, but: is it possible your future fiancée feels the same way about diamonds, and wouldn't want a diamond engagement ring at all?

I have a quartz druzy engagement ring and I think it's absolutely gorgeous. It sparkles and catches the light and looks lovely.

We got the stone in a store that had a lot of meaning for us but it was in a setting that was impractical, so we had a jeweler remove it and design the current setting and our wedding bands together.

I get compliments every day! And if anyone's thought that my husband is the jerk who skimped on the ring, they had the good sense to keep it to themselves.
posted by jesourie at 11:46 AM on April 15, 2016 [5 favorites]

I'm not sure where emerald sits on the hardness scale.

So part of the problem with emerald as an engagement ring (or any every day wear ring) is that the hardness simply isn't high enough to take normal daily abuse. However there are two other problems with emeralds. Almost all emerald material is at least lightly included and much of it heavily included. ... All of these inclusions in emeralds tend to mean the stone is much more fragile than other gem materials. However there is an additional problem. Emerald is routinely treated with either oil or various fracture filling substances in order to hide the inclusions. Oil, and some of the fracture fillers, can leach out over time simply due to normal wearing (washing hands, exposure to cleaning chemicals, etc.), or due to regular cleanings at your favorite jeweler. ...This will mean that the look of the stone can change over time as well, so one day you look down at your pretty stone and say that's not the beautiful gem I remember!
posted by bonehead at 11:46 AM on April 15, 2016 [5 favorites]

I'm not sure where emerald sits on the hardness scale.

My understanding is that emeralds are inadvisable for everyday wear for a long time, because they are too soft. I know at least one person whose emerald stone has cracked.
posted by vunder at 11:47 AM on April 15, 2016 [2 favorites]

An interior pave setting will just leave skin marks and collect junk. I'd go with a "surprise diamond" design. Instead of of having a diamond as the main stone, use some alternative that feels ethically comfortable and have a small surprise diamond set in the side.
posted by xyzzy at 11:47 AM on April 15, 2016

Would she be happy with this ring? Also, silver is pretty soft - I think you might want a silver metal but not sterling.

Here is what I would do, actually (assuming she's not into the interior stones deal) - I'd shop around and buy some used diamond rings, and take them to a jeweler and have them melted down and have the stones reset. Pick your jeweler first, come up with an approximate design (so you can look for the right kind of stones). Unless they are of particular interest in their design or provenance, rings with average sized fine stones don't hold a lot of value, especially dated ones from, say, the seventies and eighties. And there you are, reused stones instead of newly-mined, and while the reused ones were probably not mined under good conditions, establishing reuse of stones is a great way to undercut the industry.

You could easily get emeralds this way, for that matter.
posted by Frowner at 11:47 AM on April 15, 2016 [10 favorites]

Better idea: An antique ring that can be a family heirloom for generations to come, while not contributing to the enrichment of DeBeers. (Also yeah: how does your fiancee feel? Because I absolutely positively wanted to part of a diamond engagement ring, or actually a ring of any sort. The only ring I wear is a wedding ring that belonged to my grandmother. Never had an engagement ring, did not want one.)
posted by soren_lorensen at 11:48 AM on April 15, 2016 [10 favorites]

How do you even go about finding someone who can make that for you?

I found our custom jeweler by doing research, initially by looking for local artisan's web sites and browsing their galleries until I found a few whose portfolios matched our senses of taste, made us both say "wow". Then a site visits to the short list and interviews with the jewelers themselves to get a sense of them and their processes. After discussing the results, then we went together and talked to the man who did our rings. The fitting and design process took a few more visits (we talked over ideas, we had a design approval visit and finally a fitting).

We are quite happy with the result, but, like anything custom and hand-made, it cost more than just buying stock rings and getting them fitted. This isn't something to do to save money.
posted by bonehead at 11:55 AM on April 15, 2016

I have to second suggesting an antique engagement ring. Mine was my husband's great-grandmother's. If your family doesn't have any heirloom jewelry, there is no shortage of stunning and unusual estate pieces. The most important thing here is to choose something SHE would love. Assuaging your own conscience--although a reasonable concern--should be secondary to that, but it's also perfectly feasible.
posted by tully_monster at 11:58 AM on April 15, 2016 [2 favorites]

I have a ring with small inset stones, kind of like this one. The metal on mine is hammered so it has some texture and with my eyes closed I can't feel where the stones are, and they've never scratched up against my adjacent fingers or anything. I don't know that it would work the same on the concave part of the ring, but it at least seems somewhat feasible?

We found the guy who custom made our rings through a friend who had custom made their rings, but take a look at Etsy - there are a lot of legit people on there and you may be able to find someone who can do it for you.
posted by brainmouse at 11:58 AM on April 15, 2016

I agree with those who say that this sounds very uncomfortable. In addition to the possibility of getting cut on the stones if she bangs her finger, the groove itself sounds like it might be less comfortable than a regular smooth ring.

Aside from this, the issues with the diamond industry (things like conflict diamonds, etc.) are issues regardless of whether the stones are visible or not. You can mitigate these things by, for example, getting a diamond that is certified as conflict free or purchasing a vintage ring, although some people feel uncomfortable with even these options. There are tons of great stones out there that are not diamonds that you could choose from if you and/or your girlfriend aren't crazy about diamonds.

Also: you need to do some more sleuthing on what your girlfriend actually wants! Does she want a diamond, or does she actively not want a diamond, or would she be fine with a diamond but also happy with a different stone. Does she prefer a silver-colored metal (agreed with whoever mentioned above that you probably want to go with platinum or another silver-colored metal, not actual silver, because silver is soft and won't last as well) or a gold-colored metal? What types of ring styles does she like? She is the one who will be wearing the ring for at least the length of your engagement and possibly for the rest of her life, so her preferences are the most important here!

Finally, custom rings are totally doable once you figure out a design that your girlfriend actually likes/wants, if you're not seeing what you like in jewelry stores. I would start with a local independent jewelry shop (i.e. not Kay's at the mall) and ask who they recommend - a local shop was able to organize a custom ring order for my engagement ring, and it turned out amazing. You also might check out this post on ethical rings.
posted by rainbowbrite at 12:01 PM on April 15, 2016 [2 favorites]

If the idea of a hidden surprise is especially appealing to you, you might consider other materials as well. My friend's wedding band is white gold, and there is a single circle of very smooth, flat jade inlaid on the inside. It is beautiful and special (he actually made it himself).

Also, agreeing with those who suggested asking what she actually wants. I personally did not want a diamond either (mining issues, the type of work I do, not a stone I really like much), and I appreciate that when I told my husband this, he actually listened, and went with a patterned ring made of titanium instead - it's indestructible, like our love.
posted by JubileeRubaloo at 12:03 PM on April 15, 2016 [3 favorites]

I found a ring with an inner lining of diamonds, so you can assess the visual potential, ask designers.
posted by lizbunny at 12:03 PM on April 15, 2016

Nth-ing what everybody else says about getting a ring that SHE will be happy wearing. (If you hate the diamond industry then this seems like a weird way to show that. Just go with a non-diamond ring unless SHE wants diamonds or buy a conflict-free diamond from Canada.)

That said, there are a couple variations on the hidden diamond idea that might be a little more comfortable/practical than the total internal pave you describe. This kind has a single diamond. The thing to notice on this is that it is embedded in the gold, so the stone never touches her finger. And this style has a center flat part that touches the finger. Both styles will get gunked up with soap and skin cells and other stuff, but at least they're less likely to rub and hurt.
posted by belladonna at 12:03 PM on April 15, 2016 [1 favorite]

As an alternate option, one that would probably be a bit more comfortable than pave on the inside, here is a ring with diamonds on the side. If this is paired with another ring it would be hidden.
posted by lizbunny at 12:06 PM on April 15, 2016

I don't really understand the concept- not supporting the diamond industry by hiding the diamonds?

You could do moisanitte.

I have a number of friends who have it. Everything is really quite spectacular
posted by Ftsqg at 12:09 PM on April 15, 2016 [2 favorites]

I once got to try on a very finely made pave diamond and platinum ring (all the way around) and I was incredibly impressed with how smooth it was. There must have been edges in it somewhere, but I couldn't feel it at all. So I don't think it's as impractical as some others are suggesting, but you'd want to be 100% confident in the quality of the workmanship.

That said, what does your future wife want? Personally, I think it's sort of messed up that you are willing to compromise for your wife, but only if no one knows about it. (And it's not like your wife isn't going to show the ring off, anyway, especially with hidden diamonds.) Why not select/design a ring together that represents something more about your relationship than "I don't want to be perceived as a sucker"? My husband and I designed our rings with a local jeweler. Not conventional looking at all and abstractly represents a place special to us. You could do something like that!
posted by stowaway at 12:12 PM on April 15, 2016 [4 favorites]

there is no law that says the engagement stone must be a diamond. mine is aquamarine (my birth stone, and I love it) sapphires are often used, as are emeralds.

I would go for emerald myself, but you can also look at her birth stone (unless its diamond!) or moisanite, tanzanite etc., ruby. there are so many options...
posted by supermedusa at 12:16 PM on April 15, 2016

Seconding moissanite as an alternate (visible) stone, though it's even more sparkly than a diamond (throws way more rainbows in the light).

But I definitely agree with everyone else that it's best to decide together, especially because of what the ring symbolizes, and your future fiancée might be dreaming of a totally different ring than what you have in mind.
posted by dire at 12:16 PM on April 15, 2016 [3 favorites]

But I certainly don't want to show anyone that I've acquiesced to that nonsense other than her.

Just before you begin the process of designing/buying a really nice piece of jewelry to symbolize a really serious commitment, re-evaluate that statement and examine your motives. If you acquiesce to the nonsense, you acquiesce to the nonsense. If you're really embarrassed by that, don't acquiesce to the nonsense and figure out an alternative together.

All of that said, it was important for me to pick out the ring with my fiance, because of my belief that our engagement is a mutual decision (as opposed to the icky unilateral decision by the man to "pop the question" as a surprise). We had a set budget for the ring, because he wanted to pay for it and I didn't want him to go into debt just to impress others. We went shopping together and had a lovely romantic afternoon doing so. And I surprised myself by really wanting a diamond. I never thought I would, but it turns out they are really sparkly and beautiful. Don't sweat it too much.

I'd feel out your beloved's preferences and see if this might be an option.
posted by witchen at 12:25 PM on April 15, 2016 [11 favorites]

I'm joining the chorus of those worried about gems on the inside scratching up the wearer's hand. Sturdy gemstones are scratchy, and I can't tell you how many scrapes have appears on my headboard because I was stretching and banged my ring against the wood.

If you both want something simple and not too fussy, I'd really think that getting some etching or engraving on the inside of the ring would be more meaningful and less hazardous to one's hand.
posted by PearlRose at 12:29 PM on April 15, 2016

Here's an Etsy shop that does something similar to what you want with the gems on the outside. Maybe contact them and ask whether they could do the same look with the gems on the inside.
posted by MsMolly at 12:43 PM on April 15, 2016

Nthing that this whole question, not to put too fine a point on it, makes no sense whatsoever. If you buy diamonds, you're supporting the industry, full stop; it doesn't matter if no one can actually see what you've bought. All you're really saying is that you don't want to appear to others to support a bad industry even though, by buying a diamond, that's exactly what you're doing. If anything, what you're considering is far less principled than considering the pros and cons and then buying a diamond anyway because you've thought about it and decided it's a decision you can live with morally. All you're doing this way is pretending to be someone you're not.

Anyway, plenty of women don't wear diamond engagement rings and don't consider our partners to be cheap or weak or stingy or whatever it is you're envisioning a man to be when he gives a non-diamond engagement ring. (I'm one of them, married 11 years next week.) Ask your fiancee what she wants.
posted by holborne at 12:47 PM on April 15, 2016 [19 favorites]

+1 for lots above. Go with what she wants. Don't buy diamonds of you don't want.

My ring is hand cut cubic zerconia in white gold. It's stunning and sparking. Cz don't seem to get as dirty as quickly as white sapphire does (a co worker had a sapphire ring.) I clean my ring maybe every few months at home. My wedding band is man made pink sapphire in rose gold. I got the ring from eBay from a place in CA and the band from Etsy. I'm a big fan of lab-created.
posted by Crystalinne at 12:53 PM on April 15, 2016 [3 favorites]

I think you are approaching this the wrong way. If neither of you are that big on diamonds then don't get diamonds (the Lady Lurgi's ring has a honking great ruby on it because she's Chinese and red = awesome and she's not into diamonds. Exactly zero people have commented on what a loser I am for not getting her a diamond ring). If she does want a diamond ring then suck it up and get her a diamond ring. This ring is an expression of your love for her and I think that her feelings on the matter should take priority. She's the one who will be wearing it.
posted by It's Never Lurgi at 12:56 PM on April 15, 2016 [6 favorites]

Thing is, you may not want to deal with being "that jerk who skimped on the ring," but if you do this, SHE will have to deal with "poor Susie, she's engaged to that jerk who skimped on the ring." Which is fine if she's on board and willing to handle it for the sake of a mutual moral conviction, but I would not surprise her with this.

Seconding alternative gems if the two of you don't even want to give the appearance of supporting the industry. Pearl engagement rings have a more traditional look than colored gems -- same "visual space" as a diamond while still obviously not a diamond.
posted by ostro at 1:04 PM on April 15, 2016 [6 favorites]

Get an antique or a gorgeous moissanite ring. Don't make an important gift to *her* all about how you haven't bought into the diamond industry. Make the gift to her something she'll treasure and think is beautiful and that she won't have to endlessly explain to friends and family. If you want to resist the diamond industry, the best thing to do is not purchase a new diamond. Either get another stone or an antique.

Also, from a logistical standpoint, this idea isn't the best due to potential for injury/discomfort as well as it getting pretty filthy.
posted by quince at 1:09 PM on April 15, 2016 [1 favorite]

You want to get the nicest engagement ring within your budget that will put the biggest smile on the face of your fiancée. That ring will be forever hers and her thoughts for her ring will always be more important than yours.

Totally agree with others that you should ask her what kind of ring she wants.

(FWIW, I agree with your sentiments about the diamond industry. I gave my wife an emerald set in a gold ring and we shopped for it together. If she had been a fan of diamonds, I would have given her one because my love for her supersedes my hate for diamonds. )
posted by praiseb at 1:55 PM on April 15, 2016 [2 favorites]

If you're worried about stone hardness, look at Mohs scale of mineral hardness. As noted by others upthread, it's not advised to wear emeralds daily - they're relatively soft and easily get damaged.

My wife didn't want a diamond, so she has a sapphire in her white gold engagement ring, which looks fantastic. When we looking at rings, we did some research about alternative stones, and saw that sapphires were second in hardness to diamonds (so are rubies, as both sapphires and rubies are major varieties of Corundum). Yet a jeweler tried to up-sell us on diamonds, warning us that sapphires weren't the hardest stone. "What's harder?" we asked, knowing the answer. "Uh, diamonds."
posted by filthy light thief at 2:31 PM on April 15, 2016

Your question contains so much contempt and negativity (jerk, nonsense, scrooge, acquiesced, skimp, hate, disgusted) when the topic at hand could be joyful and full of love and positivity. Contempt for the diamond industry? Sure, conflict diamonds are bad and the marketing hype is overblown. But there's also tradition that is meaningful to some people, and there's the social cost/benefit for a woman whose mate has seemed to indulge/scrimp on a ring, which sucks too but it's not her fault and she may be sensitive to it (particularly if you are in an inter-cultural marriage). Those things are valuable to many people, perhaps to her, and you could choose consider them more carefully- if you have, your question doesn't reflect this. You also seem to have contempt for her friends' opinions and nothing in your question reflects her preferences or experience; you mention your own tastes and reputation more than hers.

I suggest you could re-frame this whole issue. So here are some questions for you:

1. What does an engagement ring symbolize to her?
2. Why does she want one?
3. What comments has she made about other engagement rings she's seen, on friends or in ads?
4. Has she ever said anything that indicates what she thinks a given ring "means" in the context of another couple's relationship?
5. What kind of jewelry does she favour? (Think of the rings she has bought for herself and wears often)
6. When she chooses her own jewellery, does she tend to like white metals? Yellow gold? Rose gold? Unusual coloured metals?
7. In general, what kind of styles and shapes and colours does she like and gravitate towards in other items? ornate, simple, elegant, modern, feminine, masculine, rounded, square-ish, wavy, asymmetical, etc?
8. What ring would SHE choose?

I think you should get her a ring she will think is beautiful.
You should like it and agree with its political implications too.
But her feelings towards it matter more, because the ring is a symbol of your love and care for her, and buying her a ring that suits you more than it suits her doesn't set a great precedent for a marriage in which she feels valued and considered.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 2:36 PM on April 15, 2016 [12 favorites]

You could also buy a vintage ring. I did and we both are very happy with it.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 3:13 PM on April 15, 2016

My husband is very anti the diamond industry too. We got an antique ring (1900s, so pre-deBeers) with an Indian diamond (so hopefully not a blood diamond, though I accept no diamond mine is going to be a wonderful workplace).

It's a very pretty delicate little ring. It's also much more individual than the standard solitaire-in-white-gold that all my friends and colleagues seem to have - the style is different, the cut of the diamond is different, the balance of stone to ring is different. We both really love it, and my husband was far happier giving his cash to an independent antiques dealer than he was to the diamond industry. I'd recommend that route if you live anywhere with access to a decent antiques trade.
posted by tinkletown at 9:57 PM on April 15, 2016

A ring like you're describing isn't going to be able to be stretched if she gains any weight ever during the 50+ years we all hope you'll be married for, unless you leave at least part of the ring as just a plain band.
posted by MexicanYenta at 5:05 AM on April 16, 2016 [1 favorite]

Sorry for taking a while to respond, I was out soon after I posted yesterday. We've joked about how much I dislike diamonds. I told her, "why don't we just look at what your birthstone is?" So we did, and it's diamond. Great.

The point of buying tiny diamonds is not to support the industry too much, while still showing I'm happy to get the gem she would probably prefer over the others. But, I don't want to advertise the diamonds, so hiding them works. And the metaphor, among others, of "beauty is on the inside", is quite romantic.

a) Might hurt
b) She might not like it (but I believe she will)
c) Difficult (if not impossible) to clean
d) It could be uncomfortable, now and/or in the future

Different suggestions:
a) white sapphire, or other stones, but emeralds probably aren't hard enough
b) having the groove on the side, not the inside
c) look on artisinal jewelers' websites to find one I like, maybe someone like this
d) custom will be expensive
e) design the ring together
f) antique/2nd hand rings could be the way forwards
g) people are worried about my mentality going into this :)

So, not the answers I was hoping for, but very good answers all the same! I had no idea about the cleanliness problem. Thank you everyone!
posted by omnigut at 8:39 AM on April 16, 2016

I am a custom goldsmith. I work for a bridal shop.

We could do this (as any custom goldsmith could as long as they have the right tools) but it will be hard to pave set on the inside of the band, as it's hard to get at it from all angles. so if you want to do pave set all through the inside, it might be kind of expensive, just because the person who is setting the little diamonds is going to have a struggle. However, I've set LOTS of stones on the inside of bands, but usually just one or two or three small diamonds, and they're usually flush set. Pave MIGHT be scratchy on the inside, and will certainly get dirty which might cause her to itch. but putting a couple diamonds on the inside of a ring isn't too unusual, we do it often for men's rings, who their fiances or wives often want to buy them a diamond or something to make the ring special, but many men don't prefer to wear a diamond ring. We call them "Secret diamonds" or "Surprise diamonds" when we put them on the inside.

The ring would not have to be any more thick, we put diamonds on the outside of the rings all the time that aren't too thick, and they are the same diamonds.

IF you're interested in getting a more traditional engagement look, but without supporting the diamond industry:

If you'd like a diamond "look" but no diamond, I would investigate moissanite. It's really stunning, it has some scintillation in the blue and green spectrum that diamond doesn't have, and it's very hard and durable. We're like, a high end bridal diamond shop, and we have started suggesting it to people who are looking for something more economical, or who don't like diamonds. Charles & Colvard just released a newer, whiter line "forever one" that is great. The "forever brilliants" are also beautiful, I have a radiant cut one that I'm using to make a ring RIGHT NOW.

Also, my personal engagement ring is a paraiba tourmaline as its main stone, and my wedding band I wear for regular days when I don't want to bother with a big ring is rubies. I've made quite a few engagement rings for people with tourmalines in different colours, and zircons (particularly in blue.) Ruby and Sapphire are both good choices, hard and durable. I would recommend a coloured sapphire, as white tends to look cloudy when not totally clean. CZs are pretty when new, but they are negatively charged and will absorb ions from the environment (water in particular) and cloud up eventually. They're cheap though, so can be replaced readily. You could look into an "Asha Diamond" which is a CZ with a layer of lab created diamond grown on the outside of it, so it should prevent that clouding. I've never seen one of these in real life so I can't vouch.

Lab created diamonds are also commercially available now, Brilliant Earth carries them. They're not much cheaper than mined diamonds though, and their colour is not QUITE as white as you would probably get in a natural diamond, yet.

Feel free to memail me about any questions you have if you want! engagement ring buying should be fun and pleasant and exciting, and I'd be happy to help you find something that makes you feel that way instead of like you're supporting a dirty industry, the way your question sounds!!
posted by euphoria066 at 6:51 PM on April 16, 2016 [10 favorites]

Thank you Euphorie, very helpful! I'll pm you :)
posted by omnigut at 7:45 AM on April 17, 2016

I feel the same way you do about diamonds, and also have a strong aversion to spending a lot of money on engagement rings.

We found a beautiful Art Deco vintage ring from Etsy. Can't confirm that the (very small) diamond is from a conflict-free mine, but far more likely than rings manufactured recently. Vintage is an awesome way to choose to opt out of the wedding industrial complex.
posted by guster4lovers at 9:38 PM on April 18, 2016 [1 favorite]

I also am not crazy about the diamond industry. My engagement ring was lab-created blue sapphire, and it is GORGEOUS and I ADORE it.

It was also very affordable.

If she really loves the diamond look but not buying mined diamonds, seriously look at moissanite. It is synthesized for jewelry purposes, it has a connection to space (the mineral was discovered in a meteorite, IIRC) which is fun for geeks, it is more affordable than diamond, and it is GORGEOUS and sparkly. I have two pairs of moissanite solitaire earrings, and they are often mistaken, even by people who work in jewelry stores, for high-end diamonds. Just super, super pretty. I also have some white sapphire earrings, and they are visually duller by comparison.

Natural emerald isn't hard/sturdy enough for something you'll wear every day. There is "created" emerald, which I think is actually the same as the created sapphires and rubies, just green. They are very pretty stones but they don't look exactly like natural emeralds (the way created sapphire and ruby look like perfect natural sapphires and rubies) because emeralds are, as has been said above, nearly always included to some degree and usually have a more milky look unless you're talking an emerald so stunningly flawless it's in a museum or something.

Also when choosing a ring design, make sure you get something you can change the size of over time. (channel-set, pave-set, and tension-set rings are very expensive/tricky to size, and some metals (titanium, tungsten carbide) can't be sized at all.)
posted by oblique red at 1:20 PM on April 19, 2016

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