Unconventional Sparkle

Take a cue from Lady Gaga and Kate Middleton and keep up with the trend of an nontraditional engagement ring. Here are unusual styles that you can find in Pittsburgh.

Diamonds may be a girl’s best friend, but some brides prefer to mark their engagement with a nontraditional ring.

Pittsburgh Magazine Associate Editor Sean Collier proposed to his fiancée, Stephanie Rex, on Dec. 25 with a traditional Irish ring — a Claddagh design — placed in the bottom of her Christmas stocking.


Sean chose that style to represent their shared heritage. The Claddagh design is named for Claddagh, Ireland, a fishing village near Galway. The couple traveled to Ireland together last summer and connected with their Irish roots. They were able to trace Stephanie’s heritage on her mother’s side to family still living in Galway and spend time with her distant cousin while they were there. Sean has Irish ancestry on both sides of his family. 

“She wanted either a Claddagh or another Celtic design,” Sean says. “The one thing I really wanted was for it to be made in Ireland.”

Stephanie preferred an emerald instead of a traditional diamond engagement ring due to ethical concerns about diamond mining. She also was inclined to silver instead of gold jewelry.

Sean says he searched extensively before finding a ring that fit both his and Stephanie’s criteria.

He decided on a white-gold ring with an emerald stone from Shanore, a jeweler in Dublin. He purchased the ring through the Irish Design Center in Oakland and picked it up a few days before the Christmas proposal.

“She was very happy and surprised in the moment, but we had been talking about it a lot,” he says.


According to Robert Hallett, owner of Robert Hallett Goldsmiths in Oakmont, the nature of engagement rings and their symbolic meaning lead people to search for rings that stand out. Brides can put their own twist on tradition with unusual shapes, cuts, colors or by choosing a vintage piece.

Hallett says that couples often recycle pieces of family jewelry to create their own original engagement rings. Vintage jewelry is popular because it differs from a standard ring, but it generally still fits with current styles. For instance, the halo ring design is technically a vintage style that has become popular again.

“The trend in heavily advertised mall stores is the vintage look,” he says.

Here are a few nontraditional rings we found in the ’Burgh to inspire your creativity.

Take a page out of Princess Kate Middleton’s book and opt for a splash of blue. A sapphire surrounded by diamonds breaks from tradition while remaining classically beautiful. This Sri Lanka sapphire and diamond ring by Oscar Heyman [$140,000] can be found at Orr’s Jewelers in Squirrel Hill.



Caesar Azzam also offers a twist on the classic sapphire and the halo design with a pop of color at Caesar’s Designs in Shadyside. This 14-karat white gold ring is highlighted by a blue sapphire center and surrounded by a yellow sapphire halo, making for a colorful creation [$4750].

Go vintage. This Estate platinum ring features two round, old European-cut center stones weighing in at approximately .50 carats each [$3,300]. It can be purchased at Henne Jewelers in Shadyside.

Follow Lady Gaga’s lead and switch up the shape of your engagement ring. Todd Reed designed this ring set, available at Orr’s Jewelers in Squirrel Hill, which also made the list of “6 Rings We Love” in Pittsburgh Magazine’s Weddings edition. The set is topped off with a pear-shaped, 2.85-carat fancy green diamond set in 18-karat rose gold [$9,790]. Who doesn’t want a ring with “fancy” in its name? Of course, you can’t stop with the engagement ring. Stacked beneath is a palladium wedding band with brilliant-cut white, round diamonds [$3,095]; a rose-gold band with brilliant, round, white diamonds [$6,380]; and a palladium band featuring black brilliant-cut diamonds [$2,420].



Break from the norm by creating a custom architectural ring. Designed by Robert Hallett in Oakmont, this visually striking, 14-karat palladium ring with white gold alloy and a matte finish features a 1 carat round diamond [custom design and price].



Another way to make your engagement ring to stand out is to put your own spin on a traditional diamond ring. Also designed by Robert Hallett, this approximately ¾ carat, natural blue, rounded-marquise-cut diamond with white diamonds on each side [custom design and price] is sure to turn heads.



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