I love estate jewelry and the history that goes with it. Diamonds and gemstones were cut by hand, by a craftsman devoted to coaxing the most beauty, light, and personality out of the rough material. Settings were usually painstakingly handcrafted using techniques that are now rare or almost extinct.
With the prominence of platinum and white metals for engagement rings, and an embrace of pave and vintage styling, it’s no wonder that some brides would want to choose an estate or vintage ring. But there are some obstacles to actually finding an estate ring. First of all, they are pretty rare. Sometimes, the settings are worn to the point of being frail, and a hazard for losing the precious diamonds. Finding someone who can repair them could be a challenge, as the exquisite workmanship might be lost in the wrong hands.
I recently saw some amazing rings at one of my favorite jewelry retailers, Greenwich Jewelers. They had just received a collection of rings from Single Stone that featured center vintage diamonds, in new settings that are made using hand fabrication techniques from previous eras. This is a pretty unusual concept, combining the best of both worlds. The diamond has the depth and character that comes from being cut by hand many years ago, but it is set into a mounting that evokes the style of the original, and is secure and fresh for a lifetime of wear. Since some of these styles suggest rather than copy exact styles, you get an interesting combination of vintage and modern in the same ring. There are also some amazing designs made in yellow and rose gold, which are extraordinarily rare in actual estate rings.
Single Stone History
For about 23 years, Single Stone founder Ari Madilian was in the wholesale business of modern diamonds. In the early 1990s, Ari started buying antique jewelry, with the intention of re-cutting the old diamonds into modern proportions, since modern diamonds typically sell for more in the marketplace. At some point, his conscience intervened, and it occurred to him that he was turning the beautiful original diamonds into cookie-cutter commodities. He refused artistically to re-fashion the older diamonds, and instead looked to cultivate a customer base that appreciated the vintage styling. Ari started buying anything that was old. Some jewelry pieces needed lots of restoration work, so he hired bench jewelers who had the skills to repair the intricate details of Edwardian and Art Deco-era jewelry. Eventually customers started asking for replicas of original settings using the antique diamonds, and this demand turned into the modern reproductions that I saw at Greenwich Jewelers.
In the Single Stone showroom in Los Angeles, these modern replicas sit alongside a substantial collection of actual estate and vintage jewelry that has been meticulously restored. A new, custom ring can take 4-8 weeks to hand make in their Los Angeles studio, but the finished result is an amazingly detailed, totally unique expression of style. No two rings will ever be exactly alike, due to the individuality of the center diamond. I find this to be incredibly romantic: a ring as interesting and deeply personal as the relationship it represents.
As Ari himself states, “in today’s disposable society, it’s nice to know that this diamond has survived 100 years, and with the right person, for the next 100 years.” He feels like his company functions as foster parents of these diamonds, carefully passing them on to their next family to love them.
Interview with Single Stone Founder Ari Madilian
idazzle: Do you look for specific eras of diamonds and jewelry for your collection?
Ari Madilian: I look for anything old or pretty. We tend to focus on the late 1890′s to the 1920′s.
What do you find so intriguing about jewelry from that era?
That time frame seems to speak to young people getting engaged. Today’s consumer values the timeless style of the Art Deco period: it is classic and ornate, without being over the top.
I saw some Single Stone wedding bands that incorporate French Cuts. I wear an estate piece, an early 20th century eternity band with lovely french cuts, and I rarely see them used anywhere else. Is it difficult to find a source for these?
Yes, very. No one cuts them exactly the way we want them, so we buy modern cut stones, and then have them recut to our exact specifications. These are usually cut to fit into a particular setting we design around the diamonds, so the finished piece is very special.
If someone is looking for a rather specific set of diamond parameters, can you find it for them?
Of course, as long as they are visual and beauty parameters, versus extremely rigid modern diamond criteria.
What would you say to someone who might be looking at modern diamonds, and are considering, for example, only certain table and depth angles and percentages?
I like to show them actual diamonds and see if I can help convert them. I usually get in around a half dozen diamonds from modern to vintage with characteristics similar to what they are looking for. I show the stones loose, and see if they can pick out the ones with the 57% table. Always, 100% of the time, they will pick at least one diamond that is not in the range of what they were asking for, which challenges their perception. What good is a certain percentage if you can’t actually see it with the eye? You should choose the stone for beauty, the one that speaks to you.
What is the most interesting original diamond you have ever worked with? Do you have a favorite?
That’s like picking a favorite child! They all have such unique personalities. It’s not always the largest or most expensive stone that is the most beautiful.
Can you set someone’s diamond from a family heirloom that has a setting that is unwearable or not quite their style?
We do tons of that! We can re-polish, re-work, and re-mount any heirloom. We also do insurance replacement. Once, we were asked to remake a half pair of earrings for an auction house, it had disappeared and they needed a replacement. No one, not us or the auction house, could end up telling the difference!
Where can people find your designs?
We have a second floor showroom in the Los Angeles diamond district where we carry our modern reproductions and a collection of actual antique and vintage rings. We also have a store, named Single Stone on Mission Street, where you can see our designs alongside an exclusive collection of designer jewelry. We love having our designs in Greenwich Jewelers in NYC, as they are the perfect place to represent our work. They can really tell our story and have a nice selection.
Thank you, Ari, for preserving these precious stones and creating something with integrity! I love the individual diamonds and your settings that you craft specifically around them. You can call, email or visit Greenwich Jewelers in person or online to view these remarkable rings.