December 18, 2019

 

Today we’re sitting down with ‘The Ring Whisperer’, Danielle Mainas, Founder of Little Bird Told You to chat Holiday Proposals, choosing that perfect ring, and popping the question with panache.

Whether you’re shopping for the perfect ring for your partner, or you want to point them in the right direction, keep reading for All The Advice from the guru, the guide, the sage – the shining beacon of engagement ring expertise. (Yes, we’re fans – can you tell?)

Tell us a little bit about your company, Little Bird Told You

We’re basically engagement ring experts for hire! We guide our clients through the process of imagining, searching and selecting or creating their ideal engagement ring. We try to bring peace of mind to the ring search experience – to transform anxiety and uncertainty into a fun exploration that feels more like a treasure hunt.

How did you get started in the jewelry industry?

I’ve worked in the diamond and engagement industry for 15 years. First, sourcing gems from around the world and overseeing their production into creative finished pieces. Then, I worked for years with the global leader in ethical diamond jewelry. After I while, I started thinking about going rogue.

I realized there was a huge hole in the industry: there was no unbiased guidance available for engagement ring shoppers. I knew I wanted to fill that void – to have no ties to any one jeweler, to provide limitless options for my clients, and to create truly one of a kind experiences and one of a kind rings.

THE RING

How much should you spend on an engagement ring?

As a test, you should be able to look at yourself in the mirror (and not feel like you’ve lost your mind) when you see that final number. When you’ve visualized a number that sits right with you, communicate that clearly with your designer and you can work together to find or create the perfect ring that’s in your price range.

What are some do's and don'ts of engagement ring selection?

DON’T - look up celebrity rings, ring trends, or try to copy or compare with other people’s rings. Think about what makes your partner unique, what you love about them – and try to find that energy or quality in a ring.

DO - ignore any rules you’ve ever heard about how much you’re supposed to spend. Focus on what speaks to your soul. Trust your intuition and don’t cave to societal pressure.

DO– shop around online. There’s an unbelievably vast array of designs out there that you may have never seen. You don’t have to settle on the same ring you’ve seen 1000x in stores! We can help you navigate this process too if you’re feeling overwhelmed.

 

DON’T – feel like you have to do this alone. Many couples shop together in the beginning, and some design the ring together from start to finish. Putting that ring on her finger will be a magical surprise either way!

DO – focus more on cut than carat weight. To make the centre diamond appear larger, cut is the far more important ‘C’.

DO – confirm the return and exchange policy for the ring your purchased. It’s pretty unlikely that she’ll exchange your ring, but just knowing you have a safety net might help you make a bolder/more heartfelt ring choice. (You can find the Gem Breakfast return policy here.)

One tip: if you’re thinking rose gold – here’s a little trick. 14kt and 18kt rose gold have very different hues, so look at both options to find which one you prefer. It’s a secret extra menu option that not many people know about.

How can I figure out her ring style? Any tips?

If you’re shopping covertly, there’s a couple things you can do:

  • Take pictures of your partner’s jewelry. You might not be able to describe their style to your jeweler, designer, or ring expert but her other jewels will help point them in the right direction.
  • Many women have engagement ring Pinterest boards that men don’t even know about. Have a look at her boards and ask her friends, sisters, or mom if they know about any secret #bts shopping she’s been doing. Even if it’s just a board of her favorite clothing/accessories, you can glean a lot from that.
  • Put together a little collection of 5-10 photos that capture her personal style. That really helps someone like me start finding pieces that align with her aesthetic and style.

Diamonds vs sapphires and other gemstones?

I love an alternative gemstone – it’s such a unique and memorable choice. The only thing to keep in mind: colored gemstones are softer than diamonds. So, make sure the hardness of the stone matches with your future fiancé’s daily life and how hard they are on things.

If they’re slightly accident prone or living life on the wild side, I would go with a diamond.

And that doesn’t mean you’re limited to a standard white solitaire – you can still go alternative with a salt & pepper diamond, a rose cut diamond, a black diamond, a hexagon cut, a champagne diamond, a kite cut diamond – there are endless unique options in the diamond realm.

However, if they’re someone that’s really gentle and careful with their possessions, you can definitely look at gemstones like Sapphire, Ruby, or Morganite!

(Rings top to bottom: Bianca, Yves)

What about choosing custom vs off-the-shelf?

Almost every single ring is made to order. Even the chain-store jewelers don’t sell many already assembled rings – you usually pick the stone, pick the setting, and they put the ring together for you.

The reason for that: jewelers don’t want to commit to a final design – that’s risky. They’d rather have the customer pick their desired combination. That way, no ring sits there unsold. Unfortunately, this means you don’t find a lot of unexpected designs this way - it’s pretty standardized.

What I love about Gem Breakfast: they create fabulously beautiful, truly custom rings AND they also stock completely unique dream rings you can purchase right off the shelf (rare). And the best part (and why I point many of my clients to Gem Breakfast), these magical, one-of-a-kind, same-day pieces are so reasonably priced! You can find your literal dream ring at a totally attainable price.

How do I figure out my partner's ring size?

Ok, get ready for all the tips – there’s a lot of them!

If your partner knows you’re going to be proposing to them at some point, I would just order a ring sizer online. Once it arrives, sit down with a bottle of wine, present them with the ring sizer, and be like ‘just in case, for the future…’. It can be a flirtatious, fun, and exciting moment.

Then have her try it on when’s she brushing her teeth the next morning, or right after a shower so you can check her size multiple times as her fingers fluctuate. Have fun with it and make it a little game! She’ll love it, I promise.  

I also do online ring size estimations for free! Just send me pictures where I can see his/her hands, tell me their height, shoe size, and whether they’re left or right handed. It sounds weird, but it’s a special power of mine. (We told you – ring wizard).

One thing I wouldn’t recommend is taking a bunch of her rings to a jeweler. All our fingers are a different size and they vary between hands. So, unless you can find a ring she already wears on her ring finger, her other rings won’t be much help.

If you do get the size totally wrong, it’s really not the end of the world. Most jewelers offer free resizing (if there isn’t diamonds all the way around the band) so you can rest easy. Confirm this policy with your jeweler first so you can truly take the pressure off. For local clients Gem Breakfast offers a complimentary resizing within the first 90 days.

Who do you usually point towards Gem Breakfast rings?

I think Catherine (Gem Breakfast Founder) is brilliant at curating rings for a woman with interesting taste that doesn’t want to go too far into the wild territory. Every piece is tastefully unique.

Other brands offering alternative bridal push it too far or charge way too much. Gem Breakfast bridges the gap between distinctive and accessible.

These rings are not about size or style comparison. Every ring truly stands on its own and is striking and stunning in its own way. The lower price points rings are not just smaller versions of what a larger budget would buy (unlike most jewelry retailers) but still very well designed and totally unique.

THE PROPOSAL

How do you feel about holiday proposals?

I think it makes sense. You’re getting together with friends and family, there’s a festive, warm, communal energy in the air – it makes you think of growing and joining your family.

Plus, you don’t have to let down all those persistent family members asking ‘so, when’s it going to happen?’ ever again!

Tips for a holiday proposal?

Pop the question sooner rather than later! When you propose earlier in the Holiday season, every get together has a little extra dose of magic – it’s your first Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukah as an engaged couple. Plus, she gets to show off her shiny new treasure at all those family get togethers and holiday parties. And you both get to bask in the glow while surrounded by your friends and family.

The same goes when you’re thinking of proposing on vacation – ask her (or him) before you even get on the flight or in the car. Then every part of the trip is lit up with excitement – that first cocktail on the plane, your first hotel room as an engaged couple – you’ll add a layer of love and festivity to every minute of the trip!

Any common holiday proposal pitfalls to avoid?

My big one: buying the ring and letting it burn a hole in your pocket. Don’t let it get weird. The perfect moment is the moment you give it to her. No weather, or day, or song is more important than you just saying those words.

What's your favorite proposal story?

I love my proposal story! I designed my own ring - I completely knew the proposal was coming and what the ring was supposed to look like, yet I was still completely floored when I saw it. It was such a fairytale moment.

I think the simpler the better, to be honest. The proposal should feel like you – in a setting where you can feel comfortable, and be your most genuine self.

I had a client propose in the kitchen. His now wife had a towel on her head, dripping wet from the shower. And she still loved it, it was breathlessly exciting. Don’t feel like you have to craft an elaborate scene. The romance is in real life, and you can make it happen in real life.

How do you know if the holidays are the perfect time to propose?

Love works any season.You can create that perfect moment wherever you are.  

Should I gift wrap it as a present under the tree?

Love a ring gift wrapped under the tree. It builds the idea of suspense, of treasure and surprise. Also, there’s your holiday shopping done in one!

What about planning a celebration after the proposal?

Definitely! My recommendation: keep it simple and low-key. A fun (and easy) idea: head to a bar where all your friends will be. Just drinks after dinner, not too planned - it allows friends to celebrate you in a genuine, unstructured way that works for them. These nights always hold special memories and stories that last.

Elaborate public proposal or simple, intimate proposal? How do you know?

I think that oftentimes the person doing the proposing forgets about themselves and what they like. You’re entering into this collaboration, you’ve already done the work of picking out the ring that she’ll love, so for the proposal - do what makes you feel most present and comfortable.

If that’s in a big way with a flash mob, or under the covers on a Sunday morning, both are beautiful. When your partner sees you totally present and completely lit up in that moment, that’s what lets them know how in this you are. 

Does it help to have a bit of a speech written down?Or just speak from the heart?

I would think about it, write down some ideas and heartfelt intentions, then just see what follows you to that moment, and let it be what it is.

WORKING WITH DANIELLE

What's it like to work with you and your team?

With most of my clients, we start from the very beginning – the dreaming stage. Most people have never done this before and don’t know where to start.

We expose them to the full spectrum of what’s out there – they may never have been exposed to the dizzying array of true ring architecture and designs out there. I sit down with a client, learn about them, educate them, and work with them from start to finish to find the ring that was meant for them.

Do you work with just the person proposing or couples too?

Both! Sometimes it’s a complete surprise, sometimes they’re together for the whole process, and sometimes it starts out together in the ideation stages and then one person gets kicked out before the final ring is chosen.

Even the ones who know what’s coming, who were involved (either partly or totally) in the design process, they are still so surprised when they see the finished piece. 

What about your free consultations? What can people expect?

On that phone call, I jump to business really quick. I interview the client and get a good idea of who the recipient is, their style, what their lifestyle is like, budget, timeline, any jewelry store visits, hints, etc. Once I know all the background info, I tell them every single I think. I spill the beans and arm them with a mountain of insights and intel on the ring selection process. They usually takes notes – it’s a really informative half hour session.

Even if they don’t work with me, I love giving advice. I feel really good about sharing my knowledge and sending them on their way. It’s so hard to find an unbiased perspective with lots of experience – I'm happy to be that resource for people.

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