Alongside graduation, getting the keys to your first property and, for the sartorial-inclined, purchasing your first pair of Goodyear-welted shoes, an engagement is one of the most significant junctures in a man's life, one that symbolises the time-old value of commitment. As such, the physical symbol of the moment – the engagement ring – has to match the lofty heights of the occasion. Yet, finding the ‘perfect’ one, as is the case with trying to secure any item that’s weaved with meaning, can be a tasking experience, one whose apparent complexity and intimidating outlook is brought about by a combination of seemingly obscure terminology, varying tastes, a universe of minutiae and the question of whether to go fully bespoke or lean towards the chain names.
'The typical gentleman has, historically, often become totally fixated on the analysis of diamond specifications,' as if they were an investment banker or market analyst, says Sam Stirrat, founder of Blackacre, a leading London jeweller. Obsessing endlessly over diamond criteria and each one’s microscopic details can, despite the rock's clear appearance, blur the whole process – the best thing, Stirrat advises, is to focus on the intention that goes into the purchase. 'What matters is not the detailed diamond certification, or the stone's appearance under a microscope – but, rather, the thought that has gone into a piece, the meaning behind it and finding a jeweller who deeply cares.'
Blackacre – named after the location where the company’s first customer proposal occurred – is itself a venture founded on several thoughtful pillars, including a desire to source hard-of-reach, singular gems via ethical channels, and a willingness to provide jargon-free, personal service to its clients.
With this in mind, we talk to Stirrat about the key points that contribute to finding the perfect ring, and why, as they say, it’s all in the detail…
Be driven by the thought that goes into it
Begin with a general starting point and mindset: just remember that the significance of an engagement ring is pretty major, especially given that, in its purest meaning, it signifies a lifelong commitment to your partner (and, in many cases, the piece will be passed down the generations). Ultimately, then, it should be seen as a sort of investment, one imbued with emotion and meaning – after all, does your life-long partner really deserve you running last-minute into a shop to purchase something off the shelf, on a discount or without too much thought? 'An engagement ring should be a considered purchase with months of planning,' says Stirrat.
Care should be the underpinning factor, here, as this isn't an improvised decision, and a great point from which to launch the process lies within the Warren Buffet quote, “If you don't know jewellery, know the jeweller.”
At Blackacre, there is no blanket approach to the creation process – every client is seen as an individual and each person receives a tailored experience. The process typically begins with an introduction to the company and answering any questions the client may have, before moving to initial ideas and budget, mockups and moodboarding, all the way to the final creation, with every decision done in tandem with what’s been requested. ‘We pride ourselves on the immersive nature of our jewellery’, so says the company.
Imbue it with meaning
All details considered, the one that matters most is meaning. The small, thoughtful things – ones tinged with significance – can really make a difference. By this, we don't mean that you have to buy or create a ring that’s heavily embellished or extravagant in appearance – rather, having something personal means making use of subtle features and touches. (They also don’t have to be visible to all.) ‘What is more important is that you and your partner know it is there,’ says Stirrat, before mentioning that plenty of little details also allow for your partner to take great joy in explaining their meaning to friends and family.
If working with Blackacre to create a ring, one such detail that can be included is an engraving, whether written or more symbol-based. Moreover, one could also incorporate a gemstone whose geographic origin plays a significant role in your partner’s life; there’s also the option to include a hidden birthstone or lucky stone; a small coloured stone to match the colour of your partner’s eyes; a hidden initial; and myriad other options.
Think about the overall appearance
Like an evergreen menswear item – a white poplin shirt, say, or a houndstooth coat – the ring design should, most always, be dictated by a timeless and elegant design. After all, this is an item that will be worn throughout the decades, from the moment she says yes all the way down to next of kin and beyond. So, don’t go for anything too whacky, and, instead, focus on quality, as there is no substitute for it. In practice, this means leaning towards something classic and is, therefore, immune to fluctuating trends and fashions. But, that doesn’t mean boring – the aforementioned details will help you from veering too far towards something that’s uninspiring.
'There is no one thing in particular that makes a piece of jewellery high quality; instead, it is a multitude of tiny details that collectively create a special piece,' says Stirrat. Some things to consider are whether or not the stones are set nicely; whether the stones allow for an optimum amount of light to shine through; whether the metal used is elegant, subtle and tasteful. Overall, we’d say, it has to look balanced and refined, as opposed to statement and loud. Chiming in with this is the fact that Blackacre is, today, celebrated for its clean, stone-led creations, which focus particularly on the flow of light and the setting of the stones. There’s an aversion to flashiness here, with a emphasis, instead, on marrying a timeless feel with contemporary finishes; the Somerset, for example, features an 18kt yellow-gold ring with a flawless-cut diamond centre stone that’s flanked by trapezoid and round diamonds.
Make sure it’s sourced properly
Given its love-inflected symbolism, it’s likely your partner will want to know that her jewellery was bought from people that have care, quality and sustainability at the fore of their intentions. Moreover, as jewellery is highly personal and, often, an extension of the wearer, she’ll need to know that the venture behind it will be reliable and continue to provide excellent service, as, in many cases, that same jeweller will be catering for a string of future occasions, including weddings, anniversaries and birthdays.
Blackacre is, with little doubt, driven by the client. 'I feel a personal service is one of the greatest means of differentiating a luxury experience,’ Stirrat told us, in 2022. ‘I wanted to make our experience as far removed from traditional retail as possible. It is more like visiting a friend who is an expert and is willing to spend some time talking you through their passion.’ Such is the extent of the company’s services that, one Christmas, Stirrat himself cycled through the London snow to deliver a ring in time for a proposal.
The gemstones are also procured ethically – one source, Sri Lanka, for example, has a lower impact and a more progressive ethos to its mining practices than most nations – and the company only draws upon recycled materials. (B-Corp certification is also due this year.)
Ultimately, we know that this is new to you, and you are probably out of your comfort zone. But, that’s where Blackacre plays its hand. 'Education is a core component of the process,' said Stirrat, in our most recent conversation.
'Our primary objective is to get each person to the point where, with the right support, they can tell us the exact details of the dream ring they wish for us to create. If this is the case, it means that an informed and affirmative decision is being made in a subject area they may well have known little about prior to starting this special journey.'
By dovetailing those notions of thought, care, timeless aesthetics and responsible sourcing – in other words, the details that matter – Blackacre should be your go-to to produce pieces that will last the years. And, better still, she will love you all the more for having created a ring with the company.
Now, it’s your turn. These are 3 classic, easy-to-master looks for your wedding…
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