When it comes to virtual jewellery consultations, bespoke engagement ring maker Taylor & Hart had the jump on everyone else. Long before lockdown barrelled to the top of our lexicon and jewellers scrambled to modernise their digital offering, this online retailer had already mastered the art of proposals from a distance.
“In a way, we have always been offering virtual consultations, since the majority of our customers never visit our showrooms,” says Jason D’Heureux, creative director at Taylor & Hart, which was founded in 2013 to disrupt the jewellery world by offering transparently priced, digitally accessible diamond jewels.
Being cooped up over the past few months has inevitably caused couples to re-evaluate their relationship, and while headlines of an uptick in lockdown divorce rates have emerged, so too have romantic tales of couples who have used this intimate time to seal the deal. And for those planning to pop the question as we start to re-emerge from our unexpected social hibernation, has there ever been a better time to slow down and plan a dream bespoke engagement ring?
“We’re thrilled at the number of couples getting engaged – love conquers all,” says D’Heureux, who oversees the design of Taylor & Hart’s collections, which have found customers in six of the seven continents. “While there is tremendous uncertainty in the world because of Covid-19, people are affirming their love and commitment to each other. Human beings have a natural affinity for connection.”
Modern love stories
The bespoke jeweller’s team has been working hard during this time to ensure that the Taylor & Hart experience has remained seamless during lockdown, by offering virtual consultations that mimic the personal shopping experience of its London and New York showrooms. “Innovation is one of our core principles and while we already had many of the processes in place to offer virtual consultations, we challenged ourselves to refine the process even further,” says D’Heureux. “Our consultants are now available to answer questions face-to-face over Google Hangouts, and they can try on the rings so our clients can see exactly what they look like on the finger. We wanted to ensure we could offer as much of what makes Taylor & Hart special during virtual consultations.”
One of the elements that makes Taylor & Hart special is diversity. The jeweller has a strong focus on celebrating all types of relationships, and as such has many clients from the LGBTQ+ community. “Our customers are anyone in love and they should see their relationship represented in our brand,” says D’Heureux. “We never want anyone to feel restricted by the one-size-fits-all approach of most jewellers.”
This mantra of inclusivity extends to design, and in 2018 Taylor & Hart launched a simple but effective advertising campaign on the London Underground. It asked: “Are you wearing someone else’s engagement ring?” A provocative question, indeed, but one that cuts to the heart of couples everywhere; nobody wants to imagine that their engagement ring, an adornment so infused with love and ready to absorb a new family’s personal history, could be a generic, mass-produced item.
This is why the trend for bespoke engagement rings has boomed over the past few years. From simple tweaks that nod to your personality, to full commissions that take you on a creative journey with a jewellery designer, personalisation is everything. Taylor & Hart offers both.
How to buy an engagement ring
Whether you start your journey by sitting down with a consultant in one of the Taylor & Hart private showrooms or by browsing online from home, the first thing that will hit you is choice. The jeweller has nearly 200 designs to choose from, all of which can be modified to swap in different cuts of ethically sourced diamonds and gemstones as well as a choice of precious metals. The online Taylor & Hart virtual ring builder is a rabbit hole of toggle options and real-time pricing alterations, in which you can happily lose yourself for hours as you tinker with unions until you hit on that dream combination.
You can take this further by making additional amendments, such as changing the width of the band, adding or removing gemstones. Taylor & Hart’s design team will create sketches of how the ring will look along the way to ensure customers love the final result.
What this means is that Taylor & Hart is opening up the often intimidating world of bespoke jewellery at an affordable price. Indeed, the prices of its jewels are entirely competitive. For example, its minimalist Grace six-claw solitaire engagement ring in platinum with a 1.01ct round brilliant H VS1 diamond comes in at half the price of a directly comparable example at a well-known luxury jeweller that is famed for that style of setting.
For some couples, subtle tweaks are not enough; a full bespoke commission is required. D’Heureux advises adding an extra 15% to your budget should you wish to go down this route, which will pay for a designer to create your dream ring from scratch. And no matter how unusual the request, Taylor & Hart is always up to the challenge.
“A local London chef wanted to create an engagement ring with lobster pincers holding the centre diamond,” recalls D’Heureux, giving an example of one of the more creative Taylor & Hart bespoke engagement rings. “It was our first animal-inspired ring and, initially, we were a little worried we wouldn’t be able to capture the detail of the pincers, but everything came together in the end and the ring turned out perfectly.” More proposals of note include: a platinum Lilo & Stitch engagement ring, with Lilo hugging a solitaire diamond; a fantasy-fuelled diamond halo engagement ring with hidden unicorn horns; and a yellow gold dragon wrapped protectively around a ruby.
Designing your future heirloom
Other bespoke commissions are more sentimental, and Taylor & Hart can work with family heirlooms to create upcycled jewellery that carries all the memories of the past into a design that is right for the future. D’Heureux recalls one special engagement ring crafted using two old European-cut diamonds – a term that refers to diamonds cut between 1890 and 1930 – that were set in an engagement ring that had belonged to the bride-to-be’s late grandmother.
“I was hesitant at first to remove the stones, because I was essentially ruining her grandmother’s ring and it was a surprise – what if she wanted to keep the ring as an heirloom?” says D’Heureux, whose fears were eventually allayed by the woman’s prospective fiancé. “The stones were both around a carat each and my first thought was a Moi et Toi design. He told me that she loved pink, so I chose 18ct rose gold and pink diamonds. As a further nod towards vintage, I decided to use a crown setting for the large diamonds and added millegrain on the band. I really love how the design turned out.”
But what about the bride, whose cherished family heirloom had been forever changed? “She said ‘yes’,” laughs D’Heureux. “She was thrilled to have her grandmother’s diamonds incorporated into her engagement ring.”
And this is the magic of a bespoke engagement ring journey. Such attention to detail, as well as its open embrace of diversity in tastes, relationships, budgets and how couples want to shop for engagement rings today is what has made Taylor & Hart the go-to jeweller for a new generation of personalised proposals.
“As a company, we are always questioning convention, challenging our industry to do better through our business model, technology and inventive spirit,” says D’Heureux. “Throughout the Coronavirus pandemic, we have been using this time to strengthen our business from within. Expect to see some transformative changes at Taylor & Hart in the next few months.”