Why I Proposed with an Emerald Ring—On Designing His Engagement Ring

Last month, I proposed to my partner. It was the perfect #HeSaidYes moment: I was joined with a group of our friends and loved ones in executing an elaborate scavenger hunt that culminated in a proposal and backyard engagement party. Planning an engagement during a pandemic was certainly a challenge, and designing a “mangagement ring” was a part of that exciting journey.

A lot of people have asked if there’s significance in the choice of a non-diamond center stone in our matching engagement rings. The answer… yes, lot’s of significance!

Watch our engagement video above and read more on The Knot’s How They Asked and Engagement 101.

As an aspiring gemologist and avid gem collector, I take ring design quite seriously. Engagement ring design is even more precious. In approaching Jordan’s ring design, I actually began the journey back in December 2018 to understanding what kind of ring he would like. I was a Gemologist Apprentice at Khan Diamonds, so talk of rings and gemstones didn’t put Jordan on the trail at all. I told Jordan Iqbal had assigned me a “fitting challenge” to see the difference in ring sizes from people’s right and left hands. I’m pretty sure he didn’t think anything of it, and I had actually created the “assignment” partly out of curiosity of if it’s true that our dominant hand ring sizes tend to be slightly larger. (Conclusion: yep!)

Ring size fitting challenge_Erica Swallow and Jordan Reynolds

I’m still so proud of my “fitting challenge” hoax to get Jordan’s ring size.

In any case, I had successfully retrieved his ring size for both 2mm bands and 6mm bands. That month, I also planned out the scavenger hunt I would do when I proposed. I chose checkpoints in his city of Concord, NH which were meaningful for our relationship and wrote clues for each stop. At the time, I knew I wasn’t ready to propose. We had a ways to go in our relationship before we were ready, but I had thought planning out a proposal would get me in the mindset. That way, it could feel “real” and I would have a plan when we were ready.

That following month, I applied the same theory to ring design and began designing a wedding band which I thought Jordan would love—it would be inlaid with birch and granite — New Hampshire’s state tree and rock. Jordan is a New Hampshire man through and through, and he cares about ethical and local sourcing. I thought, if *I* source the materials, how much more local and ethical could you get?

Unfortunately, New Hampshire isn’t a producer of gold, so I was unable to source gold for my design. But, I did reach out to Staghead Designs and Manly Bands to get quotes and discuss production. Both provided detailed explanations of their sourcing and production—to this day, I continue to follow their work, because I love the craftsmanship behind their rings. Alas, though, I chose Staghead Designs overall—I loved their vibe and willingness to work with my materials.

Staghead Designs Custom Design Inspiration

Staghead Designs had inspiring designs. (Manly Bands, though, had produced the mockup on the bottom-right of my vision.)

After researching the best way to acquire birch and granite, I found my suppliers:

  • For granite, I chose Swenson Granite Works in Concord. It had been in business since 1883, providing beautiful granite for homes and businesses around the state. Assistant Manager Mike Speikers selected what would typically be a sample piece and gave it to me free of charge.
  • For birch, I researched and learned that it is illegal to cut a birch tree in New Hampshire. So, I reached out to White Birch Brewing in Nashua to ask how they had made their white birch beer taps. Was there some workaround to the law? Owner Dave Herlicka was excited about the question and immediately offered up a free tap handle for the ring design. He shared that the wood was hand picked out of a track of land in Hooksett. It’s okay to pick up fallen birch, he shared.

I had a blast picking up the birch and granite. Nothing like local businesses.

So, the sizing was done, the design was done, the materials were sourced. But I still wasn’t sure that I had made the right design. So, I found a way to get Jordan’s insights without him realizing I had just spent months designing his potential future engagement ring.

Out for drinks one night—shout out to the Tunnel Bar in Northampton, Massachusetts for the setting of this moment—I showed Jordan the mockup nonchalantly and asked, “What do you think of men’s rings like this one?”

To my surprise, Jordan lamented that he didn’t like how only women get shiny rocks on their rings. He asked why men have to wear simple and often clunky/chunky bands and women get elaborately designed and elegant rings. I took that as a clear sign that I had gone astray in my design. Here I had thought I was getting it right and designing something so unique and perfect… and the baseline of the design was all wrong!

So, I started over. (There may still be hope for this design, though… we still have Jordan’s wedding band to design now! Perhaps he will rotate them in wear. To be determined!)

Designing a Men’s Stone Ring

Inspiration Rings for Jordan Reynolds engagement ring

People who know me wouldn’t be surprised to see all of the planning that went into this ring design. This was the starting point once I knew Emerald was the stone of choice.

Realizing that Jordan wanted a stone ring, I started looking around for inspiration. I created many mood boards and pulled many men’s stone rings for inspiration. Of greatest inspiration, in fact, was one of my favorite gemologists, Vlad Yavorskyy. As a customer and fan, I had noticed Yavorkskyy’s beautiful gem rings on many occasions.

I used these and many other inspiration rings to start this new journey of designing a men’s engagement ring with a center stone. As a gem lover, this was someone of an exciting transition, because now I could geek out with choosing a gem, selecting a cut, and finding the perfect gem for us.

Once Jordan indicated that he felt men should get to wear blingy stone rings, too, I went to town on trying to figure out which stone would be best. I had started planning with a blue sapphire, in fact, but as luck would have it, many months down the line, Jordan made an offhand comment that he would wear or wanted an emerald. My face lit up, and I silently filed the note away. We had our winning stone!

Finally, I was ready to get down to the nitty gritty of setting and stone selection. I wanted the entire ring to have meaning.

After much deliberation, I chose an emerald-cut emerald, set between two diamonds. Not only did Jordan want an emerald, but I felt the emerald was also a better representation of our relationship than a diamond. Emeralds are not only more colorful and vibrant than diamonds, but they are also 20 times more rare than diamonds and come with flaws and inclusions that are seen as not only acceptable, but oftentimes unique and desirable, which is how we should look at flaws and imperfections in our partners.

Emerald Ring by Erica Swallow for Jordan Reynolds engagement proposal

Our matching engagement rings were custom designed and produced by Khan Diamonds in Boston.

Secondly, unlike diamonds—the hardest material on earth—emeralds demand more care. They’re a resilient rock, but they aren’t the hardest. As we all know, relationships can break, and that’s why we have to put effort into them. That, to me, is a realistic expectation for a relationship. But when the times get tough, that’s when our friends and family come in—those are the diamonds that surround our emeralds. I chose two brilliant cut diamonds for Jordan, one symbolizing friends and one symbolizing family. Mine, I admit is a smattering of “friends and family” diamonds on my setting, because, hey, I love halos, and truthfully, that actually kind of fits—my friends and family are a smattering of individuals all around the world.

Matching Engagement Rings Say “Connected”

Finally, I designed our rings to complement one another—they aren’t a perfect match, but they are a great pair—because Jordan and I are unique in our own ways, but when we come together, we are a dynamic duo.

I hope all of the love and care I put into designing our rings will help us always feel connected to each other. When we look down at our rings, I hope we’ll always remember our love for each other and the friends and family that have supported us throughout our lives as individuals, as well as now as an engaged and soon-to-be-married couple.

Thank you to GIA Gemologist and jeweler Iqbal Khan at Khan Diamonds for custom-designing, ethically sourcing, and producing the rings I dreamed up. The emeralds were sourced from Colombia while the diamonds were sourced from America’s leading jewelry manufacturer and distributor Stuller. And thank you to the team at Loon Weddings for capturing the engagement on video and photo, so we can continue to relive the moment!

On Being in the 3%

Erica Swallow proposes to Jordan Reynolds - engagement proposal

He said yes!

It is quite rare for women to propose to men—97% of grooms report having proposed to their brides.

I am lucky, however, that Jordan is such an empathetic partner. When we started dating, Jordan said he had one stipulation to us becoming a couple: that I would be the one to propose if and when we became ready for that next step.

Not only is he a super feminist, but he also is just so in-tuned with what others need. When we met, I was not truly ready to date—I had had my heart torn out and shredded with a lawn mover (ok, not literally, but it felt like it). The fact that Jordan was attuned to that and willing to “give me the reins” meant so much to me.

When I asked Jordan post-proposal why he had wanted me to propose, he said that he had known early on that he was ready to get married—and that he knew I needed time to heal and make that decision for myself. He wanted me to be fully ready for marriage, too.

And that’s why it made me so happy to hear him say yes on July 5th this year, when my drawn-out proposal planning finally paid off and we began our journey as an engaged couple.

I can only imagine what wedding planning is going to be like, but gratefully, Jordan is leading on that, and I’m following this time!

Why Not Kneel on One Knee?

I’ll leave you with one more thought, on how we propose today. Typically, the man drops to a knee, then asks the question while popping open the ring box.

You’ll notice in the picture above and the video (at the top of this post) that I proposed to Jordan while seated comfortably side-by-side on a bench, facing the same direction, at the same eye-level height. This was another example of intentional design.

I had practiced the knee proposal for days to make sure I was kneeling on the correct knee and holding the correct hand… but the day of, when we were setting up the proposal area, I decided that it wasn’t quite right. Why would one partner kneel on a knee? What was the significance of being on different levels, seemingly begging for the other partner’s hand in marriage? Furthermore, the partner on the knee is just kneeling there, waiting uncomfortably for an answer.

I decided that symbolically, I would like us to be on the same level, looking in the same direction, and comfortable. This was more representative of the future I saw for us—a shared future, an equal future, and a relaxed and enjoyable future.

I think more people should design untraditional rings that have symbolism and reflect their relationship, and people should not feel boxed into the “kneeling” tradition or any tradition(!) either. An engagement is a special moment, and it should be unique to the couple.

I hope that my journey toward proposing to Jordan provides some inspiration for other lovers planning their engagement proposal. Wishing you all the best!

2 thoughts on “Why I Proposed with an Emerald Ring—On Designing His Engagement Ring

  1. Congratulations, Erica!
    Everyone has an engagement story (even I think mine is unique) that has meaning and can be a source of reminiscing for years to come. What makes yours so special is the sharing and intimate communication of not just the event or announcement, but the personal and careful attention you give to detailing your thoughts and exchanges with your fiancé during this evolution. You are truly blessed to have found one another. I hope you will share your future adventures with those whose lives you have already touched in some way.
    Dreams + Reality = Fulfillment

    • Aww, thank you for your thoughtful comment, Debbie! And you’re right—every engagement is special in that it is the celebration of a unique love. ❤

      I wish the “wedding industry” encouraged more thoughtful design and process, though. A lot of proposers get sucked into the “must get a diamond” “must kneel” “man must ask” paradigm. Luckily, with social media and the Internet, it’s a lot easier now to see the thinking people put into these moments. There’s a lot of inspiration out there, and it seems like people are more and more comfortable thinking outside of the box, which is great to see.

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