Your Complete Guide to Finding a Unique Engagement Ring

engagement ring Your Complete Guide to Finding a Unique Engagement Ring

When it comes to engagement rings, some women favor the classics, and it’s easy to see why—a solitaire diamond with a thin platinum band is timeless and absolutely lovely—but others prefer something a little more unique.

MORE: Mary-Kate Olsen’s Engagement Ring: All the Details 

Take Mary-Kate Olsen, for example. When she got engaged to Olivier Sarkozy earlier this year, she was spotted rocking a vintage Cartier ring from 1953 purchased at auction at Sotheby’s. This got got us thinking about the best way to find a unique ring for your own engagement. After all, a conventional cut just isn’t right for every woman, and you might find that you get something you love for less if you’re willing to take the road less traveled.

That said, here are some tips for finding a unique engagement ring that’ll surely stand out from the (cushion-cut) pack.

Go Vintage.
One surefire way to ensure that your ring is different is to extend your search back a decade … or eight. If you’re an advocate of old-fashioned glamour, maybe an art-deco piece from the 1930’s or an ornate Victorian gem from 1900 is more your speed. Maybe you (or your sweetie) have a family heirloom with lots of long-standing sentimental value that you want to use.

MORE: How Much Should An Engagement Ring Really Cost?

Otherwise, you can hit up estate sales, auctions, eBay, and antique jewelry dealers to find your perfect piece. It’s definitely about the hunt with this; expect to really devote time to finding the perfect piece. It’s also important to keep in mind that you shouldn’t let size be too much of a factor. If you find a gorgeous stone, but it keeps slipping off your finger, you can probably get it resized at almost any jeweler for around $50. Just make sure to check with the dealer that your chosen ring can be resized before you drop major cash.

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Art Deco diamond and white gold ring from the 1920’s; $1,950.
Image via estate jewelry boutique Lang Antiques.

Check Out Local Boutiques.
Another way to stand out from the crowd is to source your ring to a local independent designer or jewelry boutique. That way, you’re likely to find a style that has a very limited run (or potentially is the only one made) and will almost certainly disappear again by next season, when the artisan needs to release a new collection.

You can search shopping websites for your metro, and try to find high-end boutiques that cater to an individualistic crowd, or try shopping from indie retailers online. A lot of high-end hip boutiques have great e-commerce. You can try jewelry hotspot Catbird in Brooklyn, cult retailer Love, Adorned in New York’s SoHo neighborhood, or Fiat Lux in San Francisco

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Black diamond, white diamond, and yellow-gold ring by Meredith Khan. Image via Love, Adorned.

Ditch the Diamond.
If cost is an issue, or you’re ethically opposed to the diamond industry, choose different gem. Alternatively, if you must have some ice, go for an alternative centerpiece stone, with tiny diamond accents.

There are lot of amazing stones with just as much illustrious engagement history as diamonds. In fact, diamond engagement rings are a relatively new tradition; they didn’t become widely popular until the second half of the 19th century.

Prior to that, enamel cameo rings were common, as were opal rings (before they acquired a reputation for bad luck in the 19th century), while sapphire rings were popular because they symbolized romantic commitment. Harken back to less diamond-centric days, and use your birthstone (or your joined birthstones!) instead.

opal Your Complete Guide to Finding a Unique Engagement Ring

Antique opal, diamond, and yellow-gold Art Nouveau ring, c. 1900. Retails for $2,300.
Image via jewelry dealer Erica Weiner.

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Sapphire and gold ring with white diamond accent, by Elisa Solomon, $1,925. Image via Catbird.

Get It Custom-Made.
Or maybe you’re a dyed-in-the-wool go-getter, and you’re pretty sure you won’t get the original look you want unless you do it yourself, dang it! In that case, there are ample options for getting your ring custom-made. Almost every mass-market jewelry retailer (Kay, Zales, Jared) has a DIY option on their website, where you can pick your metal, your stone, and your setting.

Of course, these designs are limited to fairly standard variations on a run-of-the-mill rock, so don’t expect to really get out of the box unless you head to a independent jeweler, whose prices will surely be higher, but whose skills are likely more suited to custom designs.

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Here’s an example of a marquise-cut diamond and yellow-gold ring we designed on, $1994.28.
Image via Zales.

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And here’s a truly custom design, a platinum and diamond piece made by jewelry designer Cynthia Britt for a private client.
Image via Cynthia Britt.

Do you have any other tips and tricks for finding a quirky engagement ring? Or a great story about how you found your own unusual rock? Let us know in the comments below!