Ring Redesign Part III: The Final Reveal

(If you missed the earlier parts of this series, catch up here: Part I, Part II.)

I eagerly awaited the CAD renderings of my new rings. When the email with the drawings from Andre finally arrived, I could not contain my excitement. As I clicked open the files and laid eyes on the images for the first time, my immediate thought was: “Oh no, I don’t love them!”

The bands were too chunky and wholly disproportionate to the width of the diamond. I disliked that both bands were about the same width. The bezel setting was flat and uninteresting. All told, the virtual appearance of the rings did not at all match my vision of them:

(As an aside, how amazing are these renderings?!)

After relaying my concerns to Andre, he called so we could chat over the phone about how to improve things. Both Andre and the CAD drawer independently concluded that the proportions we initially mapped out were way off. Andre made further suggestions about altering where the band met the crown on the engagement ring, and adjusting the bezel setting to have angular instead of flat side walls, which would expose more of the diamond face. I felt relieved and hopeful that the next iteration of renderings would show more promise.

The revised drawings arrived a few days letter, and they were much improved! The rings looked balanced, harmonious with each other and the diamond, and elegant:

I gave the green light to move forward. Andre explained that the CAD drawings would be used to create wax molds with a 3D printer, and that the molds would then be used for pouring the gold into the shape of the rings. This process–called the “lost wax process“–has been used to make jewelry for thousands of years.

About two weeks later, I received a text from Andre with this image:

The rings were ready!

I visited Andre’s studio again the morning of Halloween to pick up my new beauties. They were gorgeous in person, and everything I’d hoped and dreamed!

The one thing I hadn’t considered was that my diamond eternity band would look too white and pristine next to the blackened crown of my new engagement ring. I asked Andre if he could blacken the eternity band, too, and much to my delight, he performed the rhodium plating process while I watched! It involved “painting” the platinum of my band with a charged electrode dipped in black rhodium solution. Andre politely humored my 700 or so questions as he worked:

The final stack is absolutely stunning:

I truly cannot say enough positive things about how easy and wonderful it was to work with Andre on this project. He understood my vision, included me at every step of the process, and was able to provide exactly what I wanted at a super reasonable price.

In addition to working with clients to redesign their existing jewelry, he also designs original jewelry. Here are some of his latest beautiful creations:

You can reach Andre directly at andrelukawski@gmail.com.

Thanks for joining me on this exciting journey!


Ring Redesign Part II: The Consultation

(If you missed the first installment of this series, catch up here: Part I.)

I met with Andre Lukawski on a beautiful, warm day in September to discuss my ring redesign. Andre’s workshop is located on the lower level of a three flat where he lives upstairs, on the northwest side of Chicago. He was waiting for me on his front porch when I arrived. I was so excited, it felt like I sprinted from my car to greet him.

I didn’t know what to expect as we made our way downstairs to Andre’s lair. I’ve never seen a jewelry workshop before—only jewelry store showrooms and the front counter of a jewelry repair shop. 

Upon seeing his workshop, my mind was blown by the scale of his operation. The wood-paneled room featured four separate workstations equipped with grinders, and buffers, and vices, and magnifying glasses, and all kinds of hand tools. In a smaller room off the main space (an erstwhile kitchen) sat an assortment of glass jars and vats of chemicals with tubing and wires coming out of them. It had the look of fully stocked high school science lab, and stirred within me giddiness at the prospect of all the jewelry alchemy that must happen within its walls:

Andre and I stationed ourselves at his large work table and, while maintaining proper distance with masks on, began to chat about my project. I had a clear vision of what I wanted my rings to look like, but didn’t appreciate beforehand just how many decisions were required to shape the design. Did I want the band to taper toward the stone or stay uniform in width? Did I want 14k or 18k yellow gold? How tall and wide should the bands be? What design did I want for the basket where the diamond would sit? As I contemplated the various options for each design element, Andre pulled out picture catalogs and sample rings from his behemoth safe to provide greater clarity for my choices. He made rough sketches and measurements as we talked, and paused throughout our conversation to pensively consider the design as it came to fruition in his mind. 

One of my concerns was whether I could save my original engagement ring setting, perhaps to gift to my kids someday. Andre had the wonderful idea that we could set a gemstone where the diamond had been. I’m planning to do that as a special gift for Sloane, maybe on her 16th birthday or as a high school graduation present.

Once we had worked through all the minutiae, Andre explained that he would convey the design to a CAD drawer, who would prepare renderings of my rings for my approval before making them. 

More to come about the renderings and the final product in Part III, the last installment in this series: The Final Reveal.

Seven-Year Itch

Don’t worry, this isn’t a post about infidelity. Or at least not about infidelity with my husband, Andy. It’s about my longing for something newer and different, to have and to hold forever and ever, on my ring finger.

That’s right, folks, I’m redesigning my engagement ring. And I’m bringing you along for the ride, from start to finish, in several installments.

Here is:

Part I – The Inspiration

I got engaged in 2013. Andy and I worked with a lovely consultant named Ellen at Steve Quick Jewelers in Chicago to design my original engagement ring. You’ve seen it here before: it features an oval diamond in a halo setting with a thin micropavé band, all set in platinum. It is feminine, sweet, young, and pretty vanilla:

Over the last seven years, I’ve had to resize my ring several times as my fingers expanded with pregnancy and the seasons. Following my daughter Sloane’s birth in 2019, my ring just didn’t fit anymore at all (for reference, I went from a size 4.5 at the time of my engagement to 6+ now!). Rather than re-size it yet again, I started wearing a single diamond eternity band in its place:

Apart from the sizing issue, I also started to feel a bit…disconnected from the ring over time. My jewelry style evolved to be less dainty and more bold. I began to covet rings that made an impact on the finger and reflected a stronger point of view. Frankly, the halo look also started to feel somewhat dated.

I have hated seeing the ring relegated to my jewelry box, unworn and unloved. I figured someday I would gift it to my children, but until then, it would just lay dormant.

And then, over the summer, I had brunch with a friend from high school, Kaya, whose dad is a jewelry designer. Kaya started telling me about how she was working with her dad to redesign her engagement ring using the existing diamond, to create an entirely new setting. This possibility had never occurred to me, but the thought was thrilling! Kaya encouraged me to reach out to her dad for a consultation.

I immediately raised the idea with Andy to gauge his feelings. He was initially saddened by the notion of changing something that carried so much sentimental weight, but then quickly agreed that I should have the ring I love that suits me now and, most importantly, that I will actually wear.

I scheduled an appointment to meet with Kaya’s dad and started to pull together inspiration photos. I already had a pretty clear vision of what I wanted, especially after having spent months writing this blog and studying literally thousands of ring designs.

My key parameters were this: I want to flip the orientation of the oval to horizontal (or “east-west,” as we say in the biz); change the band to plain yellow gold with a highly rounded profile; and set the diamond in a blackened gold collet. I also want a matching plain gold band that I can stack with the engagement ring and my existing diamond eternity band.

Perhaps my most loyal readers won’t be surprised to know that the primary inspiration for this look comes from my all-time favorite jewelry designer, Jessica McCormack. (As an aside, this style is an homage to Georgian jewelry, which is the subject of a future post.) Here are some of JM’s rings that inspired my new design:

I also found these Fred Leighton rings with a similar design:

This look is so different than my existing ring and just feels more sophisticated, unique, and bold. I think the change from platinum to yellow gold will be an exciting one, especially since I find myself wearing mostly yellow-gold-tone jewelry these days. I also think the east-west setting will give the diamond new life and a less traditional feel.

Stay tuned for the next installment…The Consultation. Coming soon!