Custom Designing an Engagement Ring: Top 5 Tips

Couples choose to custom-design engagement rings for many reasons-- maybe you’re looking for something particular that’s not readily available in-stock, maybe you want the romance of a one-of-a-kind piece of jewelry for your one-of-a-kind spouse-to-be, maybe you want to incorporate family stones, or maybe it’s simply that you feel a level of trust and security by playing a role in the creation of your ring. For many couples, however, the custom-design process can be daunting. Secrète Fine Jewelry in Bethesda, MD, and Washington, DC, can help you start the process the right way with a few simple tips.

Custom emerald and diamond ring in 18k white and rose gold made by Secrète in 2017 for a couple looking for vintage charm.

Tip #1: Remember, this is your ring.

The first thing to remember when you’re custom-designing an engagement ring is that it’s your ring. At some jewelry stores, sales-people may try to push you towards something that doesn’t feel quite right to you. This can happen when they’re unable to source the stones that you want, unskilled in the type of craftsmanship your design requires, or simply trying to move old inventory. But an engagement ring is an important purchase that symbolizes a major moment in your life. It’s fine and actually quite common for your ideas to change once you’ve seen some design examples in person, but don’t be bullied into accepting something you don’t love.

At Secrète Fine Jewelry, we’re here to offer expertise and answer questions, but we’ll never push you away from what you want. Our master jewelry-maker Mr. Soo is capable of unmatched craftsmanship, and our decades-long relationships with stone-suppliers around the globe make us able to give you exactly what you want, so we can rise to any challenge you present us.


Custom engagement set- Art Deco style with marquise diamond and sapphires made by Secrète for a super-cool young couple in 2017.


This engagement and wedding ring set in diamonds and 18k white gold was created by our master craftsman for an upbeat young professional in DC who wanted something a little unconventional with lots of sparkle and personality. It's a perfect match for her charismatic approach to life!

Tip #2: It’s ok if you don’t know exactly what you want yet.

We can start a custom-design from any stage of the process. Some people come in with photographs, diamond specs, and graph-paper designs ready to go into action, and that’s awesome. Some start the process with a vague idea (ex. “I’m in love, so I guess I’d like some kind of ring.”), but the majority of people are somewhere in the middle. Don’t worry. Whether you’re designing this ring for a surprise proposal or designing it together, you may not be sure of what’s right for you at first.

At Secrète Fine Jewelry, we understand. If you haven’t been engaged so many times that you’re an old-pro at the whole ring shopping thing, good! Most people have never bought a diamond or custom-designed a piece of jewelry before, so it’s only natural if you aren’t quite sure what you want or need. Whether you come to our DC or Bethesda store, you can feel comfortable asking lots of questions, changing your mind a few times, or taking multiple visits to find “the one.”

You can absolutely start the process before you’re 100% sure what you want in a custom engagement ring. It’s actually helpful to come into one of our stores and see a few things in person to get a better idea of what speaks to you. As designer Elyahu always says, “Taste and smell you can’t discuss. The quality is undeniable.” And he’s right. You’ll need to take the time you need to figure out your tastes, but when it comes to the quality of the stones, metals, and craftsmanship, ours truly is the finest work.


Custom engagement ring with pear-shaped diamond and halo in 18k white and rose gold: Our client designed this ring to honor the women in his bride-to-be's family. He used her mother's diamond and chose to accent the ring in rose gold to honor her namesake, grandma Rose. We kept it white on-top because she preferred the more versatile color and kept the setting low profile because she's a nurse who needs to work with her hands.

Tip #3: Not all “custom” is created equal.

If you do an internet search for custom-designed engagement rings, you get a lot of results. Most of them are huge companies that let you choose a stone, choose a pre-fab setting, and choose a size.  If you buy a T-shirt online and they let you choose the color and size, it’s not a custom-made shirt. Even if the website lets you stitch a monogram on it, it’s still not a custom made shirt. The thing is… putting a stone in some machine-made setting is not custom jewelry.

We have nothing against someone seeing something in a showcase or on a website, falling in love with it, and buying it-- we hope that happens when people look in our showcases or look on our site. We made all of it and we’re proud of it. But we believe that if you want a custom-designed piece, it should actually be custom designed. The type where a master artist carves a wax model, hand casts the gold, and hand-sets each stone. The type where a designer who has spoken with you, who knows your name, is there advising about the proportions of your beloved’s hands, about the exact details you told us because you wanted the ring made for you.

If you want custom, don’t fall for the online Build-a-Bear workshop equivalent of rings. Some things are best done by hand, some things are best done in person, some things are best left untouched by the latest app. Secrète creates heirlooms, the heirloom way.


The process of making a custom engagement ring starts with loose stones and a sketch (upper right), after we cast a setting (middle right), the ring is ready. This custom-designed diamond and ruby ring set in platinum featured an elongated oval-cut diamond surrounded by diamonds and rubies for a romantic and one-of-a-kind end result. The woman who wears this ring loves the larger-scale of the halo and the fact that she's the only woman in the world whho has it. Both she and her husband-to-be were highly involved in the process.


This diamond and platinum solitaire created by Secrète is anything but basic. Mr. Soo created each detail of this unique ring by hand, and the craftsmanship is flawless. 

Tip #4: Custom doesn’t necessarily mean expensive.

Some people are wary of starting the custom design process because “custom” connotes “costly.” Don’t worry! Custom-designed rings are hand-tailored in every way, even to your budget. In fact, if you’re on a budget, having a ring custom-designed is a great way to make something special and meaningful. Instead of going for the smallest diamond ring at a mall-store or choosing an imitation-diamond or a pawn-shop buy, you could design a beautiful heirloom ring using gemstones, pearls, or an artistic arrangement of diamonds that gives your ring the sparkle you want with a very romantic story of how you created it, no matter what your financial situation is.

Some of our favorite engagement ring designs at Secrète have been those that were created within the confines of a budget: so much creativity, joy, and personality can come into play at any price-point. Often, such parameters encourage us to think outside the box, yielding some of the most amazing and personal pieces of jewelry!

In fact, engagement clients at all price-points can benefit financially by choosing to custom-design their rings. Because you’re working with the experts and artists at Secrète, you’ll be informed and part of the process. We’ll be able to help you comparison shop stones and answer all your pricing questions up-front and face-to-face.

An incredibly lovely young couple got this amazing custom ring at the beginning of 2018. Her favorite thing in the world is pineapples, their playfulness, their happiness, their upside-down cakes! We used a checkerboard cut citrine and emeralds to create this pineapple-inspired design in 14k white gold. It's unique, original, and perfect for her, proving that it's not just big flawless diamonds that make a lasting impression. 

Tip #5: Don’t stress out!

Sometimes taking on the responsibility of designing an engagement ring can start to feel like a burden, whether you’re doing it on your own or with your spouse-to-be. There are so many choices, the possibilities and the details can be overwhelming. It’s great to be informed and to have a say in details. But there’s a difference between being a well-informed consumer and trying to become a self-taught professional jeweler.

The best thing you can do to reduce anxiety is to choose a jeweler you can trust. Secrète has earned an outstanding reputation in over three decades work in the greater Washington area, and our policy of transparency assures you you’re receiving exactly what you wanted. The lab certifications of stones are always presented to each client, and the process is transparent from start to finish. You don’t have to try to become a diamond expert by reading Wikipedia articles on diamond depth percentages and pavilions all night when you know you’ve received a diamond graded by the GIA to have an excellent cut.

If you’re ever stressed about whether you’re getting the materials or craftsmanship you want, definitely communicate with your jeweler! Ask questions, look at certificates, and ask a friend who has been through the process. When you know you’re informed and you trust the people who are helping you, it’s easy to breathe!

At the end of the day, remember that this is a joyous occasion, not a stressful task. You’ve decided to marry someone, and that’s about the happiest thing in the world!


These rings were custom designed and created using stones from family-heirloom necklaces in 2017. We were able to source a beautiful GIA-certified center stone to complement the family stones perfectly. This new couple is so romantic we can't help but smile just thinking about them!


Interested in starting the custom-design process for an engagement ring? Whether you're local or farther away, contact us to get started. We're happy to help!