Before Alex asked The Question I had hinted rather heavily that – should he ever propose ;) – I would prefer to be able to choose my own ring as I am, to put it politely, quite particular. It wasn’t that I had something specific in mind, but I had some pretty specific ideas about what I didn’t want: nothing showy or ridiculously expensive, and certainly no giant flashy diamond. (I’ve read that some people have engagement rings that are so expensive they get cheap copies made just so they can wear them on holiday! No offence intended if this is you or your fiancée/wife, but that’s not me at all.)
Alex proposed after we had been together for more than six and a half years on the 15th of July 2012 (my dad’s birthday, coincidentally) at Rhaeadr Nantcol Waterfalls in Snowdonia National Park, during our farewell tour of the UK. Our big 5 month journey back to Australia was due to begin later that month and we thought it would be such a wonderful souvenir if we found my engagement ring on our travels: not only would it be the usual symbol of commitment but it would also forever be a reminder of what has been the biggest adventure of our lives (so far!).
I was quite taken with the idea of finding something in Scandinavia as we’re both big fans of good design and the
Scandiwegians are very good at that indeed, but we decided to keep our eyes open in the countries leading up to the Nordic leg of our trip as well. If I was looking for anything in particular it was something modest, contemporary, and ideally with a green stone – I’ve never been too keen on emeralds but was intrigued by the idea of a green sapphire or amethyst.
It took one Croatian jewellery store to realise we weren’t going to find what I was after there: too old fashioned and ostentatious. (There may very well be some great contemporary Croatian jewellery designers out there but unfortunately we didn’t find them.) I can’t remember browsing any jewellery stores in Germany… we may have been too busy drinking beer. (Although a quick Google search has revealed some lovely pieces by Oliver Schmidt.)
We started seriously looking in Denmark. We saw some interesting handmade rings at a craft market in Odense but nothing really suitable for everyday wear. We found a really lovely studio in Copenhagen where one of the designers personally talked us through the concepts behind each of their beautiful designs but they were unfortunately just a little out of our budget. (i.e. more than I was happy for Alex to spend!) I’d admired Efva Attling’s rings online but they were another step up in price again. Nothing else really jumped out at us in Norway or Sweden and before we knew it we had finished our travels in Scandinavia.
Next on our itinerary came the Baltics, famous for their amber. We saw some beautiful pieces of green amber and I rather liked the ancient connotations of fossils (and dinosaurs ;) but the perfect ring design didn’t present itself in combination with green amber.
I think Alex was starting to get a bit concerned by this point, but I had a good feeling about our next destination: Helsinki, World Design Capital 2012. Central Helsinki is packed with design shops which we would have browsed anyway, but we had that ultimate goal of finding this elusive ring powering our browsing as well.
The very first store we walked into was that of jewellery designer Anna Heino. After a cursory browse I spotted the first ring that has really held my attention since we started searching. It stayed with me throughout the day and we returned that afternoon to ask whether it would be possible to customise the stone (from memory I think the one on the shelf used aquamarine). Anna expertly talked us through the pros and cons of the different green gems available and showed us some that she had in stock: an emerald, a green sapphire, and something I never even knew existed: a green diamond. The green diamond stood out from the other two by a mile for its colour and sparkle.
We went away and thought about it for a day and the more I thought about it the more perfect it felt. We decided this was the one and went back yesterday morning to commission our own version of the ring using the green diamond. Anna took my measurements and we discussed customising the width of the band and other details. It was going to take four weeks to make but as we’re only in Helsinki until Sunday we asked if Anna could look into how much it would cost to ship the finished item to my parents in Australia. We agreed to meet again later that day to finalise the details.
We returned shortly before closing and Anna said there was good news and bad news. We asked for the good news first but we should have asked for the bad: I’ll deliver it to you first for the best dramatic impact!
The bad news was it isn’t possible to send precious metals to Australia by any means, including registered and insured post and international courier.
But the GOOD news was, because she saw how much we loved the ring and she wanted us to be happy, she had as an exception and ever so wonderfully made it for us that very afternoon!! It was a huge favour which we deeply appreciated and the ring is perfect: I’m absolutely delighted! Not only is it the perfect memento of all our European travels, from a city we enjoyed from the moment we arrived, it’s exactly what I wanted: something simple but elegant, no big gaudy rock but a beautiful diamond nonetheless, and one that’s my favourite colour at that. Designed by a lovely Finnish jeweller and handmade specifically for us, there isn’t another ring like it in the world. I love it. Here it is!
So of course, if you happen to find yourself in Helsinki do stop by Anna’s shop to admire her work. Many thanks again to Anna for completely making our day (week? month?) and of course much love and thanks to Alex who I am lucky enough to be able to look forward to spending the rest of my life with. ^_^