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Planning a wedding is basically an endless string of choices, from which font to use on the invitations to whether a wedding hashtag is really necessary. But the first piece of the puzzle—the engagement ring—is one of the most important, since it’s the only wedding-day decision you’ll live with long after your “I do’s” (besides, you know, your spouse).
That’s why we put together a list of New York City’s best places to shop for stunning, unique engagement rings that go way beyond traditional diamond solitaires. We left off the big guns (Tiffany & Co., Cartier) and the chains (Kay, Zales) in order to focus on the jewelry stores and local designers turning out personality-packed rings.
Anna Sheffield often gets billed as the go-to wedding jewelry designer for brides who want to look beyond Tiffany's—possibly because she took the traditional diamond solitaire and literally flipped it on its head. "One of the first things I ever did was to make a bunch of really simple pieces but with the gemstones set upside down," she says. "They're kind of like punk studs, but they're still very precious and pretty."
Drawing from Dada and her grandmother's jewelry box, Sheffield has filled her namesake Orchard Street shop with signature "sweet and salty" designs in unusual combos like ruby and rose gold. "I feel like most women have that in their nature—a sweetness and a fierce side. Where it comes out and how they highlight those attributes is up to them."
47 Orchard Street; (212) 925-7010
"My most literal inspiration is taken from pieces of twigs, seeds and flowers," Barcelona-born, Gowanus-based jeweler Blanca Monros Gomez says. "But I'm also inspired by pieces of hardware, trinkets and even furniture at times."
That mix of the natural and the functional is probably what makes Gomez's designs—which are made from recycled gold and recycled or conflict-free diamonds—so popular. Not to mention the fact that many of her rings are under $1,000.
612 Degraw Street, Brooklyn, NY; To make an appointment email firstname.lastname@example.org.
After hearing about Broken English owner Laura Freedman's upbringing, it's easy to see how she honed her magpie eye. Her mother was a Vegas showgirl ("I was impressed by the costumes...big feather headdresses, stone-encrusted bras and panties") who later moved the family to Zion National Park, where Laura scoured the desert for arrowheads and looked forward to the annual Tucson Gem & Mineral Show.
The Soho store carries an eclectic mix of earthy-meets-polished fine jewelry by designers like Jacquie Aiche and Xiao Wang, as well as an impressive selection of vintage rings picked up on Freedman's travels.
56 Crosby Street; (212) 219-1264
Located just around the corner from the original Catbird, the buzzy Williamsburg store's bridal offshoot is loaded with delicate wedding-day jewelry. Photos of the 20th Century's coolest couples— Serge Gainsbourg and Jane Birkin, Keith Richards and Anita Pallenberg—watch over rings by designers like ManiaMania and Polly Wales, as well as Catbird's in-house bridal line, which features unusual combinations like black diamonds set in rose gold.
Though the 200-square-foot shop is even teenier than its (constantly mobbed) big sister, it's currently open to appointments on weekdays and walk-ins on weekends.
540 Driggs Avenue, Brooklyn, NY; Book an appointment here.
Digby & Iona designer Aaron Ruff works out of the The Invisible Dog Art Center in Brooklyn, a light-drenched studio filled with diamond rings, wedding bands, signet necklaces, and collections inspired by nostalgia for past centuries (and in some cases, movies from the '80s).
If you're in the market for something extra-special, Ruff can create a custom ring with about a month's notice (check out his Instagram for loads of examples). While the Cobble Hill studio is open to visitors, it's best to email email@example.com if you have serious ring plans to discuss.
51 Bergen Street, Brooklyn, NY; (646) 462 2669
For a store full of very beautiful, very old things, vintage jewelry go-to Erie Basin is surprisingly modern. The Red Hook shop is open and airy (a conscious decision—owner Russell Whitmore believes that it's easier to see how timeless Edwardian and Deco designs can be when they're presented in an anything-but-stuffy environment).
Whitmore spends much of his time criss-crossing the country to shop estate sales, and standouts from recent hauls include a '40s Cartier diamond ring and a very 2015-looking ruby design from the 1890's.
388 Van Brunt Street, Brooklyn, NY; (718) 554-6147
"Everything is comfortable, it's light and it lays on you really well. Our pieces can be super dressy, but they can also be worn with a T-shirt and ripped jeans," jeweler Stephanie Wynne told us of Jemma Wynne, the line she co-designs with pal Jenny Klatt.
The pair's Fifth Avenue studio is kind of like a decade mixing lab—a recent Jemma Wynne collection combined Art Deco with '80s flash. And while select pieces can be found at Broken English, Wynne and Klatt also work with clients who in the market for something bespoke.
For more information email firstname.lastname@example.org or call (212) 980-8500.
Self-described "rock geek" Melissa Joy Manning is a gemologist's jeweler. It's not that she doesn't love traditional stones like diamonds (though she prefers them sliced and set in hammered gold rather than princess cut and nestled in a halo), she's just more interested in oddities like trapiche emeralds (which are shot through with stars) and dendritic agates (whose iron deposits take the shape of tiny trees).
In other words, Manning's Soho studio has endless options for women who prefer stones in shades other than "clear."
12 Wooster Street; (212) 219-2195
An interior awash with light allows the jewelry at designer Caitlin Mociun's Williamsburg boutique to shine. Organic shapes are framed by clean lines—think of a triangular hunk of turquoise surrounded by delicate 14k gold—with prices that range from $100 to $8,000.
If you're after something truly unique, Mociun often works with couples to create custom bridal jewelry. The designer's "cluster" engagement rings—artful, often asymmetrical arrangements of diamonds and colored gems—are her signature.
224 Wythe Ave, Brooklyn, NY; (718) 387-3731
Lots of designers toss around the word "eclectic" when describing their lines. But while they might mean it in the "My summer collection has solids and stripes!" way, Nora Kogan's off-kilter sensibilities run deep. "I'm like a butterfly," she says. "I flit from this to this to this."
Take a lap around the jeweler's Williamsburg shop and you'll find sweet, moonstone and diamond-studded love know engagement options cozied up next to knuckle-dusting enamel scorpions, evil eyes, and her latest hit—solid gold boob rings with diamond nipples.
103 Metropolitan Avenue, Brooklyn NY; (718) 398-4459
Couples on a budget will be happy to hear that many of Satomi Kawakita's stunning but simple engagement rings—some of which feature stones no bigger than a drop of water—are under a grand.
Despite their size, they're strong enough to be worn solo or stacked with something else. While Kawakita sells her designs at NYC staples like Catbird and Otte, your best bet is to make an appointment at her Tribeca studio, where you'll receive a complimentary 30-minute wedding jewelry consultation.
Winden's Rebecca Mapes started off making dainty pieces as a way to keep fine jewelry affordable—prices start at $25 for sterling silver studs—and that same budget-consciousness extends to her new bridal line, Winden Ceremonial. "I think that there is a hole in the market for affordable engagement rings—a lot of people are looking for something unique," the Brooklyn-based jeweler told us. "The main idea behind my ceremonial line was to use a nontraditional stone as the center stone to bring the price down, but to still have the glittery diamonds surrounding it."
Couples can choose from unexpected center stones like blue chalcedony, aquamarine, and rose quartz, and prices range from $1,320 to $2,530.
For more information about Winden Ceremonial, contact Rebecca Mapes here.