Making Heidi’s Engagement Ring

EngagementRing

Tomorrow is the two-year anniversary of our engagement, but since Heidi and I plan to be busy then, I thought I’d post about this ring tonight. I think I’ve gotten more questions about this ring than she has, which is a little strange, but then again, I spent a fair amount of time thinking about what Heidi might be looking for an engagement ring before she was probably ready to think about being engaged. It is, by far, the most special design project I’ve ever worked on.

When Heidi first saw this ring it marked the very special first day of our engagement. Interestingly, because I’d been working on it for so long, I more thought of it as marking the end of our wonderful but much more uncertain un-engaged relationship. I started working on it so early because I didn’t know how long it might take to learn how to make a ring like this. I only worked on it when we were apart. When things were going well, I’d sketch on it while I prayed about my hopes. When things were going not so well, I’d worry that I’d never be able to show it to her.

And two years ago, she saw it for the first time. And now, the boring technical background. This was only my second jewelry experiment (here’s the first), and I didn’t know anything about rings, but I knew what I wanted, and thanks to some undercover research that her sister Megan had done on my behalf, I thought that I had a pretty good idea of what Heidi would want.

That being said, my first design didn’t actually work. I sent drawings around to a few foundries that specialize in mechanical parts and jewelry casting, and I was told that I hadn’t made the prongs that hold the stone quite strong enough for the angle I had placed them in. I wanted a strong, practical ring that would last, so I tweaked the angle and thickness of a few parts, and ended up with this:

Ring3D

I made sure the stone is held high enough that light can hit it from all angles, even light that is reflected from below. A setting that high usually sticks out like a sore thumb, and if it holds a square-cut stone it can’t help but have sharp corners that snag on things easily, so I swooped the setting down and away, which also let more light in. The concave and convex curves on the band give the face three offset reflections that look like a lot of detail without having a lot of nooks and crannies to get dirty.

There were a number of specific reasons that I thought this design would suit Heidi, and several little symbolic aspects of the design that I’m not going to disclose here, but one thing that I wanted was a Trinitarian design. The engagement ring is meant to look like three rings in one. The two outside bands reach up to hold the stone, but neither band can hold it alone; they need each other, and they themselves are held together by the inner band. If Heidi and I are the outer bands, the stone is our marriage, and the inner band is God, without whom we can do nothing.

Even though I had a simple design nicely roughed out on paper, I still had to spend several hours in Lightwave attempting to get simple yet elegant shapes, comfortable curves and sharp creases that direct reflections, and flowing lines that were structurally sound. There is software made specifically for jewelry design, and Lightwave is not it. The final design was 3D printed in wax, and cast in sterling silver. A few days of polishing and stone-setting later, it looked like the real deal. After a few weeks of this ring burning a hole in my pocket, the moment was right, and I was able to give it to Heidi.

Technically, that engagement ring was a prototype. My plan was to cast this ring (and a matching wedding band) in palladium, but since it was my first ring design ever, and Heidi and I had never talked about jewelry before, I thought that a trial run might be wise. Fortunately, she said yes, and she loved the ring just the way it was (with one minor size adjustment). Six weeks later I had the final engagement ring and wedding band cast, set, polished, and, most importantly, on her finger!

The wedding band is an awfully simple shape. If you look at the cross section, you can tell that the pattern is the reverse of the engagement ring. They look good side by side and together they are the same width as my wedding band, but that’s about as much as I planned. Like I said, most of my thought and effort went into the design of the engagement ring, and then all that thought and effort and metallurgical research made a foundation and set a direction for the wedding ring, in the same way that our earlier relationship built a foundation and set the direction for our marriage.

RingHands

A note from Heidi:

While this post has lots of interesting technical details, there are also a flood of special memories associated with this ring, and with the days surrounding our engagement. My ring is a symbol of our love, and the fact that Isaac designed it especially for me makes it even more special. He put so much time, love and care into its design and symbolism, and it fits my style and personality perfectly. It’s also very cool to have a 3D computer model of my wedding and engagement ring.

We got engaged at a little park in downtown Denver, CO, and watched a beautiful sunset over the majestic Rocky Mountains, a sight that I often sorely miss now that we live in Tennessee. Our engagement was short and sweet, with just a little over 6 weeks from engagement to wedding. A short engagement was one of the best decisions we ever made. While it was so exciting and relieving to finally be engaged, marriage is infinitely better. Thanks for designing this beautiful ring, Isaac, and for asking me to marry you!

  1. Wow! This is so neat. I didn’t know your engagement ring was custom designed!

  2. Thanks for taking good care of my girl, Isaac! I enjoy seeing the two of you interact, and look forward to many years of seeing you grow together. Praise God for marriage!

    - Shalyn Roach

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