With nine fine-jewelry retailers concentrated along the Main Street corridor, downtown Los Altos offers a wealth of options for engagement and wedding ring shoppers. From one end of Main to the other, the choices range from the traditional to the unorthodox.
Smythe & Cross Fine Jewelry at 350 Main St. sits at the traditional end of the spectrum.
“We try to keep things classic, especially with bridal jewelry,” the shop’s president, Khatchig Jingirian, said. “It’s a piece that you’re going to wear for your lifetime that you don’t want to get tired of from a design perspective.”
Smythe & Cross jeweler Pamela Smith said she cautions clients against choosing particularly fashionable or trendy rings, because “you’re not going to love it in 10 years, and that’s not a ring you take off.”
“You also want to be able to wear it with a bunch of different things as well, so it doesn’t contrast or clash,” Jingirian added.
While some trends have visual appeal, Jingirian noted, they can have functional drawbacks. In recent years, for example, commercial jewelers such as Tiffany & Co. and Blue Nile have popularized engagement rings with halos of tiny diamonds that surround the ring’s center diamond. Halos enhance the prominence of the center stone, which appears especially large relative to the micro-pavé diamonds that make up the halo.
Jingirian and Smith pointed out that given their small size, individual stones tend to come loose from the ring and are difficult to keep clean.
“It’s not the most practical,” Jingirian said. “It looks pretty, but it’s not the most practical.”
Pratima Sethi of Sethi Couture, located at 290 Main St., also highlighted practicality as a virtue in bridal jewelry.
“It is balancing what speaks to your personality that is still practical for the everyday,” she said. “And I think that’s how people live life today.”
Sethi Couture carries 20 designers, some of which sell the traditional designs the jewelers at Smythe & Cross favor. The less conventional designs include elements such as hammered and swirled metal.
Sethi also designs a line of jewelry with her sister and co-owner, Prerna. Sethi described their designs as romantic and dainty. With features such as rose-cut diamonds and delicate stones, the sisters’ rings maintain a vintage quality that departs from both the traditional and the modern. Their best-selling engagement ring, for example, features a neat row of small natural green diamonds on either side of the band. The green stones give way to burnt orange diamonds before reappearing in a halo that surrounds a single rose-cut diamond.
Although the sisters did not originally intend to make the piece an engagement ring, it has become their best-selling engagement ring since they first created the design in 2009.
“With the colors and this type of a cut, each ring is going to be a little bit unique,” Sethi said, “versus with modern-day stones, which will always look the same.”
She finds that there is a growing appetite in the bridal market for unique engagement and wedding rings. With more social media, she noted, people are exposed to more styles and are better able to distinguish niche looks and brands from more common items.
Despite this development, Connoisseur of Los Altos, located at 111 Main St., Suite C, has distinguished itself as a source of personalized engagement and wedding rings since it opened 26 years ago. The shop’s lone designer, Mahmood Gorjestani, creates custom designs in close collaboration with his clients. He estimates that engagement and wedding rings account for 80 to 85 percent of his business.
“The people who come to me for custom design, they expect me to hand over something that is unique,” Gorjestani said.
Sketches of the designs Gorjestani has made for previous clients reveal the breadth of his work. Some of the rings are heavy on imagery, while others feature asymmetrical structures and unexpected color choices.
“I’m a little unorthodox,” he said. “I think that jewelry is actually a mini sculpture, and that it’s going to be on somebody’s finger for life.”
If a client lacks a clear vision for a ring, Gorjestani provides bridal ring catalogs for inspiration and asks a series of questions to deduce the client’s preferences.
The questions start broad and become increasingly specific, according to Gorjestani.
“First thing I ask is, ‘Do you know what you like?’” he said. “Some people say, ‘No, I don’t.’”
Gorjestani follows up with: “Do you like nature, or do you like something very abstract?” If the client chooses nature, he then asks, “Do you like the sky? Do you like the ocean? Do you like trees?”
Gorjestani recalled one client who wanted to purchase a ring for his wife, who liked daffodils and the ocean. The ring he ultimately made for the client’s wife included yellow sapphire stones, which encircled a single pearl and sat atop a bezel setting shaped to mimic ocean waves.
For another client, Gorjestani designed a wedding band to invoke the great bear constellation, Ursa Major. While small white diamonds formed the constellation, the band’s main feature was a large blue sapphire that symbolized Polaris, the guiding star.
Gorjestani has also crafted traditional rings. For example, a client once requested that he design a ring based on one discovered on the Titanic. The ring from the sunken ship consisted of a platinum band with a 2-carat, pear-shaped diamond in between two 1-carat diamonds. After researching popular styles from the early 20th century, Gorjestani made a ring with a 1.5-carat diamond surrounded by four 1-carat diamonds.
According to Gorjestani, he usually takes four weeks to design and make an individual ring.
By engaging clients through each step of the process, Gorjestani said he leaves them feeling as if they have created the final product. With a high level of personalization, Gorjestani believes, he achieves timelessness with his bridal creations.
“Once you’re unique, that means you’re timeless,” he said.