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What impact will Meghan Markle altering her engagement ring have on bespoke jewellery sales?

LONDON, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 27: Prince Harry and actress Meghan Markle during an official photocall to announce their engagement at The Sunken Gardens at Kensington Palace on November 27, 2017 in London, England. Prince Harry and Meghan Markle have been a couple officially since November 2016 and are due to marry in Spring 2018. (Photo by Chris Jackson/Chris Jackson/Getty Images)

The Duchess of Sussex has made changes to the engagement ring Prince Harry created for her.

During her last two royal engagements – the official photocall following Archie’s birth and the Trooping of the Colour – Meghan Markle was spotted wearing an edited version of her engagement ring.

Instead of a plain gold band supporting the three diamonds handpicked by Prince Harry from the late Diana’s jewellery box and Botswana, the American actress has now got a thinner gold band adorned with micro pave diamonds.

Prince Harry designed the engagement ring himself and commissioned the British jeweller Cleave and Company to bring his vision to life.

The news that Meghan Markle has now altered the very piece he created for her has divided the public. While some see nothing wrong with it, others have slated the Duchess, accusing her of editing a piece of history.

But what impact do trade professionals think this will have on the bespoke jewellery business?

Bespoke has become increasingly popular over the last couple of years, with many citing Prince Harry’s decision to design his own piece as a reason for the accelerated growth. Will the fact his design has now been altered by the woman he made it for now steer consumers away from this option?

The short answer is – it shouldn’t.

While it may cause a few to have some doubts, the majority of bespoke sales come from couples creating a piece together (eliminating the fear factor altogether), and if someone does want to go solo jewellery retailers should have all the training and tools they need to make clients feel safe in their hands.

Furthermore, making old things new and updating pieces to meet new trends is a big part of the bespoke jewellery business. Therefore, Meghan Markle deciding to make a change should in fact have a positive effect on that side of the market.

Olivia Stewart-stead, the manager at Fitzgerald Jewellers, where bespoke is a large part of the business, shares her thoughts: “Personally I think that jewellery trends, skills and techniques change for a reason. One of those reasons is due to an ever changing consumer. What better way to demonstrate the beauty of a bespoke ring than having it altered to reflect this change.

“People shouldn’t be made to feel ashamed if a piece of jewellery they once loved isn’t ticking all their boxes anymore. If that piece isn’t bringing them joy anymore then why not adapt it! We pride ourselves on reimagining heirlooms that have been passed down through generations. It’s a wonderful thing to see those pieces of jewellery evolve and be loved again. I think, if anything, clients should take great comfort in knowing that this is a possibility.”

Domino Jewellery creative director, Naomi Newton-Sherlock, thinks the change simply cements Meghan Markle’s love for jewellery and how important accessories are to her overall look.

She shares: “Meghan’s decision to alter the band of her engagement ring from a plain metal to a diamond set band simply shows how comfortable she is in expressing her own style and how important it is to her that her jewellery reflects her own taste and personality. In this sense she is the epitome of today’s woman. We are increasingly comfortable with the concept of bespoke personalisation and I see many people altering and even completely changing their engagement and wedding bands to suit their taste as their style evolves over time.”

The creative director also predicts a new trend on the horizon following this.

“From a visual perspective, adding the micro-pave diamonds into the engagement ring shoulders has balanced the look of Meghan’s ring stack now that she has added the diamond set eternity ring to it.  I’m sure we will see an increase in the number of ladies opting for a very delicate micro-pave style engagement ring as the coming months,” Newton-Sherlock adds.

The namesake founder of Harriet Kelsall Bespoke Jewellery agrees with Newton-Sherlock, saying Meghan Markle’s decision to change her ring shows an “empowered woman”. Kelsall believes most men wouldn’t be offended, and they certainly shouldn’t be put off going down the bespoke route.

Kelsall tells Professional Jeweller:One of the wonderful things about jewellery is that is can be altered and reformed so easily. In terms of workmanship, the changes to her band don’t look to be difficult or extensive as far as I can see without inspecting the ring closely, the plain shank looks to have just been formed into some stone settings which is not a big job – the central stone probably didn’t even need to come out I imagine. And yet this must now, so simply, have been transformed into a look that she prefers. I think that most men would not be at all offended if their partner chose to tweak their engagement ring in such a way to ensure it is just right for them. It is only a tweak, not a dramatic overhaul involving completely different stones, colours and forms.”

Discussing the process of creating a bespoke ring in her own stores, Kelsall adds: “When we are working with partners who wish to propose with a new bespoke ring, we often advise them to propose with sketches unless they are sure their partner will love it, especially if they want to make a brave or unusual colour or form a design that would be hard to alter.  But the kind of tweak that Megan has made would be very easy for any good jeweller to make to the original ring after the proposal.”


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