I want to share with you an engagement ring commission that was an absolute pleasure to create.
As a designer, I am always trying to find things that inspire me. The best way to do this for me is to notice when something grabs my attention. It could be a song, a quote from a book, a place in nature, even a plate of food. Anything that makes me stop and think, isn’t that worth noticing. I use these moments as a library of ideas that I can pull on when needed. It’s one of the reasons I try not to look at other items of jewellery. I don’t want to imitate, I want to create.
One of my favourite places to visit is Barcelona so I was delighted when a customer got in touch to ask me to make a unique engagement ring for his partner inspired the city. I have visited Barcelona several times and had been planning at some stage to make something inspired by the inside of the Sagrada Familia.
If you haven’t been there, it is one of the most incredible manmade structures in the world. You might think this is an exaggerated statement but the moment I stepped inside it was as if the constraints of the physical world had been removed. Slender tree like structures made of stone drew my eyes up to a ceiling decorated with light and colour and texture. From the stone columns, light poured out of oval glass sections that burst from spherical parts before branching off into different even thinner sections. It made me feel incredibly small but also protected to be inside this magical realm. The Sagrada Familia goes beyond what is considered physically possible to a place that speaks to the soul.
My customer sent me a selection of images of buildings in Barcelona that he and his partner had visited, the Sagrada Familia being one of them.
I sent him an image that I had taken of a staircase inside the building. I was intrigued by how the light from the stained glass windows reflected on the pale stone. Being from Scotland, stained glass doesn’t light up the inside of churches in quite the same way as it does further south.
I sent my customer this image and asked if he would be interested in seeing designs inspired by this staircase and I was so excited when he said straight away that he did like this idea. I suggested a spiral design, hiding some coloured gemstones under the setting. This would add small details of colour that feature in much of Gaudi's mosaic sculptures and also be like coloured stained glass reflections. My brief from him was to have a single stone engagement ring with a narrow band and a four claw setting in a north south east west location.
I spent two months working on some ideas with coloured stones but nothing really felt right. The spiral design of the ring setting looked better being more open than filled in with stones. I decided to chat with him further and see what he thought of the design with just the spiral setting.
He liked the idea and asked me if I’d like to make any changes to it. I felt that without the coloured stones, the design lacked connection to the image. I suggested removing the supports on the side of the setting and making the band itself more like the form on the staircase by shaping it with scalloped sections on the top and sides.
I absolutely loved the CAD drawings of this idea but I was nervous that it was so different to a traditional engagement ring that he might not like it. I was also aware that the drawing would not be exactly like the finished ring. I planned to soften all the edges of the lines during the polishing process. In metal, a tiny change in the surface is easily detected due to the reflections so it doesn't have to be carved as deeply as something like stone. This softening of the curves would also make the ring smooth and comfortable to wear. I explained this and to my surprise he like it straight away. It is so rewarding to have a customer trust you when making something unique, something neither of us has seen before.
Another month was spent working on this idea. In total six versions of this ring were explored before the final one was made. The final ring took two months more to make and weeks of polishing to get the effect just right.
My customer proposed a few weeks after getting the ring, waiting for just the right moment. The ring fitted perfectly and he told me she was absolutely over the moon with the ring and couldn’t stop looking at it.
I absolutely love this design too and haven’t been able to stop looking at photos of it either. It has an organic structure, almost like the shape of a seahorse that rises up, branching off into four thinner sections that spiral to hold the flashing light from the diamond at the top. The Sagrada ring really is an unforgettable engagement ring.