Most couples probably don’t realize how privileged we, as their jeweler, feel knowing we have been part of a love story. I don’t think you would be able to find a single jeweler who doesn’t remember their first engagement ring sale, or each one thereafter – it’s simply too wonderful of an experience. Ask any jeweler and I can assure you they can describe the look on a customer’s face when they see the completed ring for the first time – they usually light up at first, then become a bit quiet and maybe a little emotional before finally exclaiming “it’s perfect” while shaking their head in wonder. The realization of, “This is real. I am proposing” washes over them. That moment, for us, is everything. At that moment we have done our job and made our customer incredibly happy. We box up their new treasure and send them on their way, to ask the most important question they may ever ask. We wonder what they’ve planned. We wonder how it goes and what their partner says. Well, we here at Sparkles have been lucky. Our customers almost always come back to tell us their proposal story, their now fiancé in tow with ring on hand, giddy to show it off. It is for Valentine’s Day, one of the most romantic days of year, we have chosen to share three of these love stories.
Shawn & Jessica
Love is patient, and so is our first couple. Shawn and Jessica met through mutual friends in college. They had each other laughing from the get-go, Shawn with his comical dance moves, Jessica with her corny jokes. Rachel Meyering, President of Sparkles Fine Jewelry, knew them both personally as they all attended Northern Illinois University together. Rachel was a first hand witness to their love story – from its inception in undergrad through Shawn walking into Sparkles to ask her to help create the perfect ring for Jessica. Shawn possessed a trait key to crafting the perfect proposal: patience. While Shawn knew after only a year of dating Jessica that she was the one, it would be a decade before he proposed. The same patience was in place when he began working on the ring and proposal. He came to Rachel at Sparkles with ideas flowing. He knew what he wanted and worked with the Sparkles team to create it. In the end he left with a custom round brilliant halo engagement ring which Jessica fell in love with the second he slipped it on her finger. However, ever the patient planner, Shawn waited six months from the ring’s completion before presenting it to Jessica, knowing he needed time to plan the perfect proposal. But present it to her he did, on a warm day at the Brookfield Zoo in front of the Wilderness Exhibit. She said yes! Shawn informed Jessica their parents were waiting at a nearby restaurant to celebrate with them, but little did Jessica know Shawn had another surprise up his sleeve. Shawn had actually conspired for months to make sure not only their parents but also fifty of their closest friends and family members would be able to join them to celebrate the proposal. It was perfect.
Shawn and Jessica are currently looking forward to continuing their life journeys together and to starting a family in the future. Their advice to couples wanting to get engaged? “Don’t rush it or put too much pressure on it. Take your time – it only happens once!”
Amy & Amanda
You can only make a first impression twice. Yes, you read that correctly. I am referring to the phenomenon of online dating wherein individuals get the opportunity to have two first impressions. The first first impression is the online profile, the second first impression comes with the initial face to face meeting. Amanda tried not to be too excited when she landed on Amy’s OkCupid profile. She did, however, have a very specific strategy to making sure Amy would reply to her message: dairy politics. In her profile Amy was adamant ice cream was the queen of desserts so Amanda asked for her thoughts on frozen yogurt. Amy replied in passionate detail how fro-yo simply could not come close to ice cream. Amanda, who didn’t actually care nearly as much as Amy did about which was better, was delighted her strategy worked and promptly asked Amy to coffee. Their second first impressions were even better; Amy seemed just as (if not more) fun, smart and cute as she did in her profile and Amanda’s infectious laugh delighted Amy. Their relationship developed from there and both use the same word to describe how it felt: natural. Their friends got along swimmingly, their adventurous natures led to spontaneous nerf gun wars, and they somehow managed to have entire conversations in their sleep. Their lives fit together seamlessly. When the pair took the next step and moved in to their own apartment they discovered they quite literally completed an aspect of each other’s lives: their Harry Potter Collection. Amy only had books 1,3 & 4. Amanda had everything except 1,3 & 4; talk about meant for each other.
The couple came to Sparkles on a sunny afternoon to design the engagement ring. They had been very open with talking about marriage together and Amy wanted to make sure she presented Amanda with a ring she would adore. Amy inherited her mother’s engagement ring and an anniversary band after her passing, and it was important to them both to be able to incorporate the diamonds into the custom engagement ring they wanted to create. Inspired by an art deco diamond band we had in the shop, we worked with Amy and Amanda to craft a stunning yellow gold vintage inspired ring with diamonds and mil-grain detailing on the band. Clearly, Amanda knew the proposal was coming. Amy, however, still wanted to surprise her. And surprise her she did.
Amy skillfully dropped hints about possible times for Amanda to expect the proposal, none of which were for when Amy was actually planning on proposing. Amanda was convinced the proposal would come in January (for their anniversary), so much so she was actively reminding herself to act surprised when it came. This made the actual proposal, on the day after Thanksgiving, all the more special as Amanda was completely oblivious to the true meaning behind why the good beer was in the fridge and why Amy was frantically biting her nails. The two traditionally spent the day after Thanksgiving cooking, decorating the apartment for the holidays, and putting up the Christmas tree. Halfway through decorating the tree, Amy excused herself and returned with a present for Amanda. Amanda unwrapped eleven handmade (by Amy), framed, hand-painted ornaments dated with important mile stones from their relationship (e.g., their first date, when they moved in together, etc.). The gifts brought Amanda to tears but she still didn’t realize what was coming. They finished decorating the tree, turned off the apartment lights, lit the tree and stepped back to admire it. Amy presented Amanda with another box. Inside was one last ornament, blank except for the date: that day’s date. It was only then did Amanda start to catch on. From there, both Amy and Amanda have trouble remembering exactly what happened or what was said. They both agree that Amy asked Amanda to marry her, Amanda said yes, and they somehow made their way to the couch to cuddle. On the couch, Amanda looked at Amy and declared, “We have had very different days.”
In the future Amy and Amanda are looking forward to going on adventures both big and small, such as becoming part of each other’s families, having kids and continuing to enjoy their routine after dinner walks. They both have great advice for couples looking to get engaged;
Amy says, “Well, Sparkles is definitely a great place to get a ring! The staff is very friendly and incredibly helpful. They did a wonderful job with a ring that means so much to both of us. I really felt like they cared. Other than that? Remember to breathe and eat on the day of the proposal. Don’t over-caffeinate yourself. And nothing tops off a proposal like a heart-shaped pizza.”
Amanda offers, “TALK ABOUT IT. This whole process has been so much more exciting than stressful, because we have talked about it every step of the way. That has helped us be so much more sure and confident that we are getting and giving what the other needs (like, for example, that I didn’t want to have to worry about hating the ring). I totally understand the appeal of springing the question with no warning, but make sure you’ve talked enough that both of you know it’s on the table, and that you know what the answer will be. “
Mark & Scott
We have all seen it happen in the movies: the protagonist walks into a bar and suddenly everything is in slow motion, the crowd parts to reveal their perfect partner, highlighted by a spotlight. The camera frame changes to the partner’s perspective and we see the protagonist is standing in a spotlight as well. Their eyes lock; they’ve found each other. Well, as it turns out, movies actually do imitate real life and did so for our third couple; Mark and Scott. Scott meandered into a bar in Denver one evening after a theatre outing with friends and was instantly pulled towards Mark, the dashing guy leaning on the bar who was seemingly lit by his own personal follow spot. Mark had spotted Scott as well and noted how the light was hitting his face in the most perfect way. Sensing the connection, Scott made his way to the bar where Mark bought him a drink – something he had never done before. Before they knew it, it was 2 o’clock in the morning and they had accidentally ditched their friends for several hours, having been lost in laughs and deep conversation. Scott was enchanted by how energetic and outgoing Mark was and Mark couldn’t believe how humble, intelligent and kind Scott was. The connection was obvious and instantaneous. Mark had never met anyone so comfortable with who they were — Scott had an uncanny ability to laugh at himself and never take himself too seriously. Scott was constantly amazed by Mark’s creativity and could spend hours on end listening to Mark play the piano or sing. Six months after meeting, Scott asked Mark to move in.
They talked openly about marriage and knew they would wed if it ever became legal in Illinois. Once it did, Scott knew he wanted to propose. He imagined something special, something they would never forget. They were returning to Maui on vacation that fall with Mark’s parents and Scott knew it would be a romantic location for the proposal but wasn’t sure when he would ask or how. On their second day in Hawaii Mark and Scott stopped to talk to a guide about SNUBA diving. The guide, Matt, revealed they had chosen the best week of the entire year for SCUBA/SNUBA/snorkeling in Maui. Recognizing serendipity, they immediately signed up for the SNUBA instructional class taking place that morning at the pool so they could dive the next day. At the practice class Scott had an idea for the proposal – but he would need help to make it happen. Later, while Mark was with his parents, Scott discreetly excused himself to the restroom but made his way back to the pool to find the SNUBA instructor, Matt, instead. Scott asked Matt if he had some sort of underwater tablet available for use on the dive – explaining he planned to propose to Mark during the underwater dive by writing “Will you marry me?” on the tablet. Matt, the quintessential surfer dude, exclaimed “Yo, brah, I would totally love to help you guys out.” Matt bought an underwater tablet that night especially for Scott’s proposal. It was happening!
The morning of the dive was stunning, the weather and water conditions ideal. Mark was a more experienced diver than Scott and couldn’t quite grasp why their instructor, Matt, kept going over and over and over the hand signal for “yes” (pointer finger to thumb, other fingers extended up) versus the signal for “I am going up to the surface” (thumbs up). Scott, of course, knew why. The dive was everything they hoped for, they saw two large sea turtles, a live coral reef, held star fish, glimpsed a vast school of fish, etc. Towards the end of the dive the instructor had the group kneel in the sand and motioned for Scott. Scott swam over and grabbed the tablet he had written “Will you marry me?” on earlier. He then swam to Mark, knelt in front of him and presented him with the tablet. It took Mark a moment to grasp what was happening, he even thought the instructor was playing a joke on them, but once it sank in he, to Scott’s delight, enthusiastically gave the “yes” signal. Overwhelmed with excitement, they made their way to the surface where crying and hugging ensued. Most of the hotel staff was waiting on the beach to congratulate them after the dive. Matt (the instructor) revealed he had been so excited about the proposal he had told all of his coworkers about it. Scott and Mark didn’t mind at all, it made the moment that much more special, like a scene from a movie.
Scott and Mark returned home and began the search for matching rings. They were on the hunt for something special, something that would represent their individuality and their relationship and something that would complement both of their skin tones. After much debate and many visits to Sparkles, they decided on Mokume rings. Mokume rings derive their name from the centuries old Japanese practice which translates to “wood grain metal”. These rings are the definition of “special”. Mokume rings are crafted by taking different types of precious metals, heating them, twisting them together and hand working them to create stunning one of a kind patterns. It was almost too good to believe: the rings would match yet be unique to the wearer, the multiple metals forged into one ring clearly represented the combining of their lives and the rings also somehow managed to compliment both Scott and Mark’s individual skin tones. They were thrilled. The night they finalized their ring choice was the night they told us their engagement story. They both cried as they told it, as did all three of us Sparkles girls.
Mark and Scott have been together for over ten years and can’t wait to spend another fifty or so together. They look forward to being able to call each other “husband” – a word they weren’t sure they would get to use in their lifetime. I asked them for their advice to anyone looking to get engaged and they offered these wise words;
Mark: “Make the proposal something that represents your life with your love. Celebrate what you love about one another and create a special moment that the two of you will cherish for the rest of your lives. The engagement doesn’t have to be special to anyone else– just the two of you. Revisiting an experience, a place, or a memory can be a magical time.”
Scott: “Don’t put too much pressure on yourself. You know what special places and special times you have shared together, pick one of those places or special times and make that the place! Speak from the heart and be nervous, and excited and lose your train of thought! It’s getting to be with your favorite person in your life for the rest of your life!”
Dearest readers, I hope you have enjoyed reading these love stories as much as I enjoyed retelling them. My sincerest gratitude to all three couples for taking the time to share their stories and for allowing us to share them again here. Happy Valentine’s Day!
“You know you’re in love when you can’t fall asleep because reality is finally better than your dreams.”
Claire LaJeunesse, GIA AJP, Sparkles Jewelry Consultant.