Anna Sheffield Helps Us Shop for Engagement Rings

The time has come: you want to pop the question to that special person in your life. It’s nerve racking enough trying to figure out whether she (or he) will say yes without thinking about everything that goes into the process. How and where will you ask? Do you want her to know you’re thinking about asking or should it be a surprise? And, most importantly, what engagement ring are you going to buy?

Obviously, this is a momentous decision because your lady should want to wear this piece of jewelry every single day. It needs to reflect her personal style and, we think, look different than the slew of cookie-cutter rings out there on the market. So we’ve enlisted the help of brilliant fine jewelry designer Anna Sheffield to answer some of our most burning questions about engagement ring shopping. Check out the Q&A below.

Okay, so a guy wants to pop the question. Where does he even begin to look for an engagement ring? Do you find men are getting their partners involved with the shopping process or do they reach out to mothers, sisters and girlfriends for advice? 

About half of our clients select an engagement ring as a couple.  It’s a beautiful process, especially when we are asked to design a custom piece for them.  Of course, the traditional surprise proposal is amazing as well! I encourage men to ask friends and family on the sly as well as look for hints on his partner’s Pinterest or Instagram account. Also, he can look at the jewelry she wears day to day to find out which of the three metal colors she favors. No matter what information he has, men – whether shopping with cohorts or solo – are in good hands with us.

As we have learned from your line, there is much more to an engagement ring than a traditional diamond. You use everything from rubies to stones made of precious metals. Besides standing out from the crowd, what are some other benefits of buying an unconventional ring?

I feel like the designs in our line really lend themselves to the use of alternative materials. But the ethos of the brand – and our clients’ – also sets forth a precedent that tradition is not always synonymous with convention, but high quality standards are. The rings are still really classic with a slight tweak that sets the design apart. There are stones and materials that maintain that classical feel but push the envelop, like rubies, sapphires and even tourmaline. One should bear in mind white diamond in white gold is a really new thing in a long history of devotional jewelry; the Victorians used semi-precious stones like garnets and amethysts, almost always set in yellow gold.

When buying a diamond, or any engagement ring for that matter, what are the main factors to look for and be wary of when choosing the perfect one?

The classic four C’s are a great place to start – Cut, Clarity, Color and Carat. Carat is actually a measure of weight, but it does correspond to size of the diamond. While the traditional ethos in the industry is “bigger is bigger,” other factors definitely play a huge role in the appearance of the diamond. We love to see a range of colors in diamonds from black to champagne to classic white. For us, color is an aesthetic choice that allows for a diversity of design, but it does also effect price.  Clarity too is very important. We only work with stones we refer to as eye clean (SI1, VS2 or better). Ultimately, we encourage our clients to choose a stone that speaks to them. Sometimes, too much technical information can just lead to splitting hairs!

You also design custom rings and settings. Do customers ever bring in vintage stones from family heirlooms and ask for them to be redesigned in a custom ring?

Yes, we fairly often have clients come in with heirloom stones. We get to see these truly unique (antique) diamonds, which have so much character. We also source stones like these for clients who don’t have them already but like the aesthetic and many other wonderful attributes of antique diamonds.

So now he has the ring, how should he ask? We know putting it in the bottom of a champagne glass is passé, but how can one be creative without being corny? Is it better to be planned or spontaneous? And are there any absolute no-no situations for popping the question?

Oh I think that’s something akin to beauty! Its in the eye of the beholder. Every person is so different and unique as is the love and story leading up to the bond that is marriage. I have heard from some of our clients before and others after about theirs proposal plans. They vary tremendously from romantic to clever to proper down-on-one-knee, which is exactly how it should be.

To shop Anna Sheffield, visit her online store at or her new NYC store at 47 Orchard Street between Grand & Hester.

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