There are alternative bridal rings...and then there are gleefully nonconformist, bordering-on-anarchistic engagement rings and wedding bands. Summer 2016 was a hotbed of exciting debuts from designers who specialize in the latter, giving uber-hip brides who are planning to get engaged within the year access to a treasure trove of untapped, non-traditional engagement ring options that no one else will have.
Held in late July, the JANY show brought together a sizzling sample of young, emerging talent. You can think of this post as a virtual meet-and-greet with 10 of these designers. Each has a unique perspective on the bridal category but all share a desire to push boundaries, chart new territory and redefine the look and feel of what typically constitutes an engagement ring or wedding band.
Are diamonds too vanilla for you? Consider Elisa Solomon's paraiba tourmaline. Or Alexis Kletjian's phenakite, a mineral from the beryl family that most people have never heard of but cool kids will find hard to resist.
These are the new rule-breakers. The new provocateurs. The new enfants terribles. They are young and fearless and they love rough stones and rose cuts. They revel in their metier and they have their fingers on the pulse. Some of their voices are more disruptive than others, but every designer highlighted here deserves your attention. Get to know them now.
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From Alexis Kletjian
Award-winning jewelry designer Alexis Kletjian spent her childhood learning the art of crafting fine jewelry in her parents’ shop in the Boston Jewelers’ Building. Sorting gems and playing with tools gave her hands-on experience at an early age and was the first step in a creative journey that led her first to a career in fashion, but ultimately compelled her to return to her roots. Today her collection spans a range of jewelry categories but her engagement rings and elegant-meets-edgy wedding bands are particularly strong, showcasing expertly hand-picked gems from the smallest accent diamond to exotic stones like phenakite, the star of the style shown above. It’s an exotic, colorless stone from the beryl family (emerald and topaz are sister minerals) with a not-too-shabby Mohs scale hardness of 7.5 to 8. Says the designer, “I believe that a piece of jewelry…can be an empowering style statement as well as a physical connection to our memories and to those we love.”Continue to 2 of 16 below.
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From Alexis Kletjian
Platinum Lucky Star signet ring with a .60-caat Old European cut diamond center stone, $9,680, Alexis KletijianContinue to 3 of 16 below.
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From Alexis Kletjian
Stack of 14k yellow gold and diamond wedding bands, $1,500 each, Alexis KletijianContinue to 4 of 16 below.
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From Hannah Blount
A native of Nantucket island, Hannah Blount specializes in jewelry with a unique hand-hewn character that’s equal parts organic, refined and nostalgic. Browsing her jewelry collection unearths several engagement ring-worthy pieces (including this turquoise stunner, perfect for brides-to-be born in December) featuring milky white diamonds, talon-like prongs, and silvery fish scale textures, all designed and created in Hannah's Boston arts district studio.
14k gold Mirage Study #15 engagement ring with a .72-carat Mine Cut diamond center stone, $4,850, Hannah BlountContinue to 5 of 16 below.
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From Elisa Solomon
Featuring free-spirited floral motifs and multicolored gemstones in dazzling “tie-dye” patterns, Elisa Solomon’s wedding rings reflect the designer’s affinity for the 1960s and the ideals that defined that decade: love, freedom, peace, and kindness. And yet the collection manages to also feel acutely fresh and modern with perfectly imperfect shapes, textures, and stones rarely seen in bridal: alexandrite, Paraiba tourmaline, rhodolite garnet, iolite and more.
From top: Platinum three-flower ring with multicolored precious and semiprecious stones including paraiba tourmaline, opal, turquoise, pink sapphire, red sapphire, emerald, tsavorite, aquamarine and alexandrite, $2,460; and platinum Tie Dye band with multicolored precious and semiprecious stones including garnet, citrine, yellow sapphire, peridot, tsavorite, blue sapphire, iolite, amethyst, rhodolite, and pink sapphire, $1,920, both Elisa SolomonContinue to 6 of 16 below.
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From Elisa Solomon
18k pink gold engagement ring with faceted paraiba tourmaline, rose-cut white diamonds, and white diamond mélee, $2,820, Elisa SolomonContinue to 7 of 16 below.
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From Emilie Shapiro
Designer Emilie Shapiro’s unique engagement rings are distinguished by her use of the ancient craft of lost wax casting. Sculptural settings and rough, amorphous gemstones are also the designer’s signature (her own engagement ring features a luminous moonstone center stone!). She received her B.F.A. from Syracuse University, concentrating on jewelry and metalsmithing, and also studied with master jewelers in Florence, Italy. Her professional background includes a stint as the production manager for leading jewelry designer Pamela Love, and Emilie is also the author of the recently published How to Create Your Own Jewelry Line (Lark Crafts) in case you’re in the market for a super cool engagement ring and a potential career in the jewelry biz.
14k yellow gold and diamond engagement ring with a pear-shaped rough gray diamond center stone, $2,046, Emilie ShapiroContinue to 8 of 16 below.
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From Emilie Shapiro
14k yellow gold and diamond halo engagement ring with a gray diamond center stone, $2,134, Emilie ShapiroContinue to 9 of 16 below.
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From Salt + Stone
Salt + Stone encompasses the work of New York-based designer Jacqueline Stone, an accomplished jewelry industry professional who has worked with several indie designers and also served as a product development specialist at Tiffany & Co. Refined with a sense of whimsy, her Summer 2016 collection reveals a fascination with marine life as well as the poetry of line and form. The decision to bring her bridal collection to a larger audience stems from a desire to explore the evolution of love as a romantic journey expressed in exquisite examples of diamond cutting, architectural settings and design stories that push the limits of a typical engagement ring.
Diamond Castle set, from top: 18k yellow gold wedding band with 1.04 carats of a custom-cut square- ad Asscher-cut diamonds, $15,500; and 18k yellow gold engagement ring with a 2.16-carat emerald-cut diamond and 1.17 carats of a custom-cut square- and Asscher-cut diamonds, $50,000, both Salt + StoneContinue to 10 of 16 below.
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From Santi Rom Jewelry
A strong Byzantine aesthetic radiates from Santi Rom, the rustic-meets-exotic jewelry collection from designer Roman Drake. Though he has only been crafting fine jewelry at the professional level for a few years, his background is rich in fine arts training, from painting and sculpture to lithographs and ceramics. A ring from his collection will likely bear the mark of his personal touch—he “roughs up” the precious metals he works with to take on a visibly hand-hewn quality.
“I like the idea of feeling that these pieces were left behind by some lost civilization, for the future to find,” says Roman.
Each piece is individually cast and molded with intentionally imperfect details: Custom blended, matte, almost gritty 14k gold. Rose-cut black and champagne diamonds in not-quite-symmetrical patterns. Bands with a slightly uneven shape. “Sometimes when I’m designing I imagine a time in an ancient city—the architecture, clothing, culture,” says the designer. “I'm in love with making each piece feel like a lost treasure.”
14k yellow gold ring with rose-cut diamonds, $1,045, Santi Rom JewelryContinue to 12 of 16 below.
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From Santi Rom Jewelry
14k yellow gold ring with a rustic rose-cut diamond center stone surrounded by rose-cut diamonds, $3,365, Santi Rom JewelryContinue to 13 of 16 below.
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From Dana Bronfman
An extremely cool lady metalsmith inspired by Native American and Southwestern art, New York-based designer Dana Bronfman has a unique point of view that lends itself perfectly to the creation of wedding rings with an organic, sculptural, feminine- but-not-too-girlie slant. She’s dipped a toe in with a few one-off bridal designs as in the example above and we can’t wait to see more. Using certified reclaimed 18k gold and sterling silver, Dana hand-sculpts each piece out of wax in her Brooklyn workshop; later, master jewelers produce the collection in NYC’s Diamond District.
18k yellow gold Open Dots Solitaire Ring with a .52-carat Old European cut diamond center stone, $4,970, Dana BronfmanContinue to 14 of 16 below.
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From Acanthus Jewelry
Minnesota-based jewelry designer Nicole McIver uses her innate creativity and background in art history to create her collection of handcrafted, elegant pieces. Called Acanthus Jewelry, the line starring mystical stones like tourmalated quartz, moonstone, and opal in textured, rustic settings of oxidized silver streaked with gold patterns.
Oxidized silver Artemis ring with an inverted tourmelated quartz center stone and 24k gold accents, $200, Acanthus JewelryContinue to 15 of 16 below.
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One look at the offerings from Adriatic, the architectural-meets-organic jewelry collection from designer Rebecca Fragola, and there’s no question: Her engagement rings telegraph a “cool girls only” vibe—the bride wearing one of her pieces is almost certain to have the most unique style in the room.
14k yellow gold engagement ring with white sapphire trillions, $875, AdriaticContinue to 16 of 16 below.
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From Rachael Sarc
NYC-based jewelry designer and certified gemologist Rachael Sarc has worked in-house at some of the biggest names in fine jewelry and has cultivated an impressive fan and client base since launching her own collection. In less than two years, she has created a beautiful bespoke engagement ring line led mainly by clean, elegant solitaire styles designed to showcase incredible diamond center stones. Her ready-to-wear rings are slightly edgier, ensnaring chunky quartz and topaz stones in pavé diamond “cages.” Love topaz for a bride-to-be born in November!
18k rose, white and yellow gold Julia ring with multicolored topaz and .14 carats of pavé diamonds, $3,100, Rachael Sarc