When Ray Tomaselli popped the question to his girlfriend, Helen Bird, she knew what she was getting. It would be the rose-cut Indian diamond in a 22K gold setting of her dreams. But before Tomaselli proposed, he wanted to make sure he got it right. “Ray said, ‘Is it okay if I ask for your help with the ring?’” Bird says. “I said, ‘I hope you do!’” Working with Shelley King of Shelley K Gallery in Saugerties, Bird detailed her vision and was thrilled with the results. “I had an idea in my head of what I wanted,” says Bird. “She interpreted it and it came out exactly right.”
Being delighted with an engagement ring—as well as the rest of the
wedding-day jewelry—is something everyone desires. After all, the most durable and valuable keepsakes from your wedding should arguably be your jewelry, and nothing could be more symbolic. For this reason, it’s often a purchase that comes with much anxiety. Three local jewelers—King, Bruce Lubman of Rhinebeck’s Hummingbird Jewelers, and Jocelyn Klastow of Zimmer Brothers in Poughkeepsie—weighed in with some advice for prospective prenuptial patrons, resounding that no matter how unusual your taste or how petite your budget, there are pieces than will make you feel like a million bucks.
A current trend in wedding jewelry is taking a classic cue from the past. “For several years now I’ve seen great interest in antique style and actual antique settings, mostly from the period known as Edwardian to Art Deco,” Lubman says. “The first 30 years of the 20th century, I believe, were the highest state of the jeweler’s art in the past 100 years.” According to Lubman, this period included a tremendous attention to detail and intricate techniques like hand engraving and bead setting. Zimmer Brothers offers a range of estate and antique jewelry that is constantly changing. You can find a beautiful piece like an elegant, rectangular 14K white gold filigree pendant with a .5ct diamond in the center that is estimated to have been made in 1925. If you can’t find a piece you like, Hummingbird represents 45 individual designers who can accommodate custom requests and often specialize in the techniques of traditional jewelers. “While this is a process,” Lubman says, “it’s one that leads to a unique statement of the client and the artist working together to create a one-of-a-kind-piece. What could be more significant with an engagement ring or wedding band than one that you have actually helped to create?”
If antiques styles are not your forte, one of the many selections of modern diamond adornments might be. The Hearts on Fire collection at Zimmer Brothers is a breathtaking offering of engagement rings, wedding bands, necklaces, and more. Hearts on Fire, which dubs itself “the world’s most perfectly cut diamond” is indeed a stunning combination of precision and brilliancy. “The simplest styles are still the most popular,” Klastow says, and this is evident in the choice of solitaires, like the princess-cut platinum engagement ring she shows. Slightly more elaborate is their private label’s square solitaire in 18K white gold and platinum, which has a micropavé, or .5 ct of tiny diamonds, down the sides of the ring. For what Klastow calls a “modern, architectural look” ask to see the Michael Bondanza collection. Bondanza’s pieces are bold and arching, like Madison, a round center diamond with two diamonds on the side and a vaulted shank.
At Hummingbird, customers can purchase Polar Bear diamonds, which he calls the “greenest” diamond sold. Although he says all stones at Hummingbird are conflict-free, these diamonds are mined, cut, polished, and lab certified in Canada. “Indigenous people in the Northwest territories are employed on all levels of production and management,” Lubman says, “and the environmental impact is closely monitored by the Canadian government. For those people who are still leery of South African diamonds this is a perfect alternative.” (Lubman warns against boycotting South African diamonds altogether, though. “Twelve million people are employed in the diamond industry there and in some countries, like Botswana, they have been very successful in achieving a much higher standard of living than in surrounding countries,” he says.) The Polar Bear line sells a diamond named Polar Ice, which, similar to the Hearts on Fire diamond, is certified by the American Gem Society as a triple-0 make, which means perfect symmetry, proportions, and polish.
Get something totally new by custom designing a piece at the Shelley K Gallery. King works with a variety of talented designers that can turn any vision into reality. One example is the unique engagement ring that designer Wei Zheng painstakingly brought to life for a customer. The man’s girlfriend was Native American, and he scribbled the outline of her totem, a dragonfly, on a cocktail napkin and brought it to King. Zheng then spent the next eight weeks creating an 18K white gold replica of the sketch set with moonstone and sunstone. “I think people want meaning now,” King says. “They don’t want something that 900 other people have.” Apparently so, because in six months of business King has already commissioned more than a dozen custom wedding and engagement rings.
Shelley K designed a special collection of rings using material lent from an aging barn. King recycled scrap nails from a 100-year-old Massachusetts barn that belonged to her husband’s family and fashioned them into rings, lining them with 18K gold. After 10 years of marriage, she melted her husband’s wedding band down and created a new one with one of the barn’s nails, lining it with his old ring. King says the style, which is bulky and rustic, is not for everyone, but there’s something special about these pieces. “You can see the hand-forged marks in them,” she says. Women’s versions include settings with the nontraditional diamonds that King favors, in colors like orange, yellow, and cognac.