Sparkles’ Spring Jewelry Trends, 2017

I’d like to venture that no one loves spring quite like Chicagoans. It’s long-awaited, elusive, coy – and completely bonkers, weather-wise.

Spring is extra fun here at Sparkles for all the ordinary reasons and then some. Beyond breaking out our umbrellas and waterproof boots, we’ve also brought in some fresh new jewelry looks!

Today I’d like to share some inspiration from haute couture as well as our own new pieces. We’re slightly more everyday than runway here at Sparkles, but we like to provide something special for all your occasions, from weddings to weekends to walks across the red carpet. And with our dazzling custom capabilities, there are few limits to what we can create together!


So what’s trending for Spring 2017?

We’re definitely seeing a continuation of the choker trend that began to resurface last year. Now some of us (ahem, Jen) remember our ’90s choker-wearing days and feel awfully nostalgic donning that short length again. For plenty others, this is a new look altogether. In high fashion, we’re seeing all kinds of necklaces in this hip, short cut:


Some are simple and sleek. Others are bold and beaded, then there’s the classic and chic black velvet or leather bands. Dainty, chunky, or layered, chokers are where it’s at for spring.

Here at Sparkles, we have some pretty, delicate pieces in various shades of gold with dancing, shimmering discs (14k, $350-375). We also love our leather choker with diamonds ($175).



Another noteworthy trend is the statement earring. Paired, mismatched, or one-at-a-time, go funky or sculptural, as large and dramatic as you can stand!



At Sparkles, we tend to sell earrings by the pair, but we have some designs in the store that we’re very taken with, such as the following style in sterling silver for $265:


We’re also seeing other pieces of jewelry in a similarly large scale. Enormous pendants in creative shapes and compositions are taking center stage in fashion houses and beyond.


Want to play designer yourself? Covet a bat pendant of your very own? Bring in your ideas, your broken or retired oversize brooches, and let’s consult on customizing your own statement piece! We recently collaborated with a client to convert several of her antique pins into whimsical and unique pendants. We’d love to do more this season!

Not feeling so into the license-plate-sized adornments? We hear you. We also carry new and quirky spring pieces that are more traditionally sized!




(top to bottom: 14k yellow gold interlocked loops pendant $250; sterling silver kissing emoji pendant $85; sterling silver, mother-of-pearl, and diamond pendant $270. Photos taken next door at the lovely Martha Mae’s.)

This spring, pearls are still feeling fresh, but we’re seeing them in more playful sizes, shapes, and settings.


We love pearls and offer several choices.


(Tahitian pearl choker $195, matching bracelets $250 apiece, freshwater cuff $375)

To see all our new additions, come on in any day except Mondays! We can’t offer you any alien-esque Maison Margiela bonnets (see first photo), but we’re confident we have something else you will love for spring!

Thanks for reading!

The Women of Sparkles

There’s still time for your Valentine!

Sure enough, it’s that time again – the New Year has begun (both Western and Chinese – what’s up, roosters!), you’ve received all your tax forms (right?), Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow, and we’re getting our confusing February-in-Chicago weather. Valentine’s Day is upon us!


Don’t worry – it’s completely normal if you’re still scrambling for a gift! (3 out of 3 Sparkles employees are a little behind on that count ourselves…) With that thought in mind, we wanted to show you some of our favorite options that you can still grab in plenty of time for Valentine’s Day! Plus we’re having a sale in honor of cupid’s holiday (ends 2/14 when we close at 6:30pm) so you can save money when you pick up something shiny for your sweetie!


First off is a diamond ring with real rustic appeal. The shank is made of 14k white gold and features a delicate wood texture. The gray diamond is faceted in an unusual domed cut and lends a unique vibe to this gorgeous piece. It’s also a tremendous value for the current sale price, which has been reduced from $650 to $325! If your Special Sparkle loves camping, crafts, and constellations, this just might be the perfect ring!

We also recommend these fun and modern triangle diamond studs in 14k white gold. If your loved one is classic with a little twist, these are a great choice. They’re super versatile, comfortable to wear, and elegantly crafted. Formerly $650, these earrings are also on sale for $325.


On the more colorful side, we love this pair of garnet dangles. The warm tone of the 14k rose gold lends a special glow to the wine-hued garnets. The bezel setting keeps the stones secure while giving a nice contemporary shape, and they also have great movement to them. If you’re looking for a romantic, valentine’s-themed piece without being too overtly floral or heart-shaped, we suggest these earrings! 50% off of $465 brings the price down to $232.50.



Feeling a little more fancy? Make a real impression with this heirloom-quality stunner. This 14k white gold and diamond pendant is a meticulously-set contemporary piece with gorgeous vintage flourishes like milgrain details and Art Nouveau curves. A 25% reduction in price gives you this beauty for $697.50.


Now, don’t think that Valentine’s Day is just a holiday for the ladies in your life! Just today, a client making a purchase for his partner mentioned his secret hope that he’d be gifted with a new watch. Watches make stellar Valentine’s gifts, as they’re inherently practical but also endlessly stylish. Also, there’s no need to limit oneself to only one. We offer a great range here, from casual to uber-cool, from traditional to high-tech – and our entire line of Citizen watches are 30% off!


This atomic time-keeping model, after 30% off, is $402.50. Come in to view our many options!


Lastly, for the serious romantics, we offer a 14k rose gold and diamond heart pendant. This dainty and delicate size makes it great for daily wear, for layering, and for dressing up or down. This sweetheart is on sale for $382.50.


If you like these suggestions or if you’d like to see something a little more personalized, be sure to stop in between now and Tuesday evening. We’re open Sunday 11am-5pm and Tuesday 11am-6:30pm.

Also, we have candy.

Hugs, kisses, and see you soon!

Love, the Women of Sparkles



As many of you know, our dear Annabelle bid us bon voyage this past spring to move to New York City where she’s pursuing bench jewelry! Rachel and Claire were then joined by Jen to form the newest Sparkles squad. Take a moment to re-introduce yourself and learn some interesting trivia about your friendly neighborhood jewelers!



Rachel, aka “Rikishi:” President and owner of Sparkles Fine Jewelry, Diamond Lover. (Note: rikishi is the Japanese word for “sumo wrestler.” This nickname was bestowed upon Rachel by her younger sis! Thanks, Amy!)


Claire: Jewelry Consultant, Novice Yogi and Candle Hoarder.


Jen: Jewelry Consultant, Champion Napper, Rogue Poet.


What’s your favorite piece of jewelry?

Rachel: My engagement ring! The emotion and beauty of this ring is irreplaceable!

Claire: A few months ago, I found a vintage yellow gold swallow charm and turned it into a pendant. The charm is from England, where I studied abroad in college. Swallows represent freedom and hope, which is really resonating with me lately. Additionally, I am almost never without my grandmother’s engagement ring.

Jen: I have my late grandfather’s dog tags from WWII. I love them.


What’s your favorite piece of jewelry in the store?

Rachel: The diamond drop necklace. 7.79 carats of diamond deliciousness!


Claire: A white gold diamond cluster band. The band consists of small clusters of round diamonds that look like ovals from far away. I’m not usually draw to white gold, but I try this ring on almost every day at the store! I keep dropping less than subtle hints to my boyfriend about it. I may just have to treat myself 😉


Jen: The vintage pieces are always my favorites – I’m a vintage girl through and through.



What’s your favorite Chicago small business?

Rachel: I have a few favorites in the Andersonville hood: Murray & White, Milk Handmade, Let them Eat Chocolate, and Martha Mae.

Claire: Vincent restaurant in Andersonville. Their food is something to write home about, their décor is delightful, and they leave chalk in the restrooms so you can write on the walls. Sorry not sorry for how long I spend tagging Harry Potter and Doctor Who references all over them! #always #badwolf 

Jen: I’m a huge fan of Rotofugi, which is a toy store for grown-ups down on Lincoln, Racine, and Diversey. I also love everything about Women and Children First.



When I’m not at Sparkles, I’m:

Rachel: …traveling to a jewelry show or meeting friends for dinner.

Claire: …in exotic locations risking my life to recover precious artifacts and save the world from complete devastation. Wait. That’s Lara Croft. Lara Croft does that. I’m not Lara Croft. Me? You can find me on the couch with my dogs binge-watching Netflix and drinking my weight in tea.

Jen: …reading, writing, walking my dog, demanding food.



What made you go into the jewelry business?

Rachel: I started at the young age of 18. A family friend owned a jewelry store and they needed some extra holiday help. I fell in love with the industry and had a blast helping people find the perfect gift and sharing in the excitement of so many special moments.

Claire: I’ve always been drawn to jewelry. Some of my earliest childhood memories are of playing with my mother’s rings. Being able to work with sparkly gemstones and rich precious metals on a daily basis seemed like the perfect fit.

Jen: I started backwards! I was working an admin position at a jewelry store as well as the project manager of the back-end of custom jewelry, which was super-fun and a great learning experience. I also loved meeting all the jewelers who worked by hand on each piece the company manufactured. My clients were jewelry stores across the country and beyond. I really love working with people face-to-face, so I came to Sparkles, and it’s wonderful here. I love our clients so much, and I love Andersonville, too!


Identifying features:

Rachel: Blonde hair, always laughing, yellow-green cat eyes.

Claire: Red hair, flawless makeup, grandpa sweaters.

Jen: Curly hair, goofball expression, tattoo of baby driving car.


Secret talents:

Rachel: Untangling necklace chains!

Claire: Excessive knowledge of all things British including but not limited to Harry Potter, Doctor Who, Benedict Cumberbatch, and making a perfect cuppa.

Jen: Competitive gluten-free eating, baby whispering, and toddler-level Mandarin. I’ve also got mad haiku skills.



I would be voted Most Likely To __________:

Rachel: Shop ’til I Drop!

Claire: spend money on clothes, makeup, or books before food.

Jen: Okay, in high school I was voted Most Fun-Loving, and at one point in college I was voted Most Likely To Get Hit on the Head with a Raw Potato. (Yes, that happened – at a show, when the Irish band threw a potato into the crowd. Maybe not super-thought out beforehand.) Now? I’m Most Likely to Sing You a Song Written on the Spot.


Who’s your hero/heroine?

Rachel: My hero is anyone who has gone through a large struggle in their lives and tries to see positivity.

Claire: Imaginary: Hermione Granger. Real life: Dame Helen Mirren.

Jen: Roxane Gay.


Favorite book:

Rachel: A Man Called Ove.

Claire: The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern.

Jen: Anything by Louise Erdrich, especially The Last Report of the Miracles at Little No Horse. I also love George Saunders. This is a hard question for me. This could be its own blog post, or its own entire blog: 33 Years of Reading, Alphabetized. 



Favorite movie or TV show:

Rachel: Movie, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory and TV show Parenthood or Scandal.

Claire: Movie: Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, Show: BBC’s Sherlock.

Jen: Deadwood is the best thing I’ve ever seen on TV, and then Breaking Bad. Movie-wise, I love It Happened One Night and Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure.



Currently on your playlist:

Rachel: “Chill Out” on Pandora.

Claire: Lately I’ve been listening to a lot of Glass Animals, Tove Lo, and Chance the Rapper.

Jen: I’ve been on a big Whitney Houston kick.



Something about you your customers would never guess:

Rachel: I’ve been in the jewelry industry for over 13 years. I’m taking Spanish classes. I was a very active online dater with Tinder and OK Cupid, and I met my fiancé on both sites!

Claire: I’ve never eaten a PB&J. I feel like that’s a prerequisite for being American, so that usually shocks most people!

Jen: I’ve been a nanny, a potter, a burlesque performer, a stage manager, a singer in a vaudeville-style band, and a Pushcart nominee.




Waffles & Dudley, 5: best buds and co-conspirators.

Waffles is a shepherd mix from PAWS. She thinks any and all leftovers belong to her. Her ears are aerodynamic, her tail has a kink, and she has resting female dog face. While not naturally affectionate, her brother Dudley annoyed her until she gave in and became a snuggler. But don’t tell anyone, because she’d like to maintain her rep.

Dudley is a poodle/lab/wolfhound from Wright-Way Rescue. He has looked like an old man since puppyhood. Although he weighs in at 70 pounds, he thinks he’s the size of a bunny. He likes to be touching someone at all times, but he’s not, like, needy or anything. He was named after Cary Grant’s character in The Bishop’s Wife, not Dudley Do-Right.


Wiffy: 1 year; 11 lbs 11 oz; Bich-huahua, Bodyguard, Muse.

Wiffy came from a drug-bust in Nashville! He enjoys long walks, peanut butter, and soothing cello tunes. Wiffy’s a big fan of little kids, but if you’re an adult or you work for UPS, he wants you to know he might just MESS YOU UP. He loves to learn new tricks, and he has a deep-seated aversion to the DEA.


You’re not likely to run into our dog pals in the store, but feel free to come visit Rachel, Claire, and Jen anytime! We’re always happy to answer any questions you have, whether they pertain to jewelry, Andersonville, small business, or the relative merits of the book vs. the movie version.

All our Sparkly love,

Rachel, Claire, and Jen

An Andersonville Holiday Shopping Guide, curated by Sparkles

Andersonville is such a vibrant neighborhood, full of fantastic small businesses of all types, making it the perfect one-stop holiday shopping destination!

We love working (and shopping – and eating) in Andersonville, so we decided to make a personalized guide to highlight some of our absolute favorite places and gift choices.

Also, as firm believers in supporting local businesses, we wanted to share our motivation for supporting our community in this way.


What are you really getting when you buy an item from a local business? What is your money actually paying for? Not only do you get the item that you chose to purchase, but you are showing with your dollars that you value the time and care the business owners and employees took with you to provide service – which is something you don’t get when you buy online!

Your money also goes towards providing jobs within your community and ensuring that these unique businesses continue to thrive and diversify your neighborhood. You’re showing you value their place in your community and how they give back to the people and place where you live.


Also, you get qualified expertise and even passion from people in local businesses. For example, at Sparkles, we’ve all been GIA-trained and we truly know and love jewelry. Even more, we love the relationships we form with our clients and the community we are able to serve! At Women & Children First (5233 N. Clark St), you’ll find devoted readers who are eager to recommend books to you as well as readings and events that benefit the wider public. The only thing you have to do to show us your appreciation is keep shopping local!

And we’ve gone ahead and made it extra fun for you. Enjoy our gift guide, and don’t be afraid to shop off the beaten path… there are so many more treasures in the neighborhood for you to find!

Murray and White, 5416 N. Clark Street


Rachel enjoyed perusing the magical wares at Murray and White. Her favorite splurge was the custom sofa ($2475) and ottoman ($1215) pictured above with the owners, JT and Travis. She also loved this grizzly bear bottle opener that can mount to the wall (other animal options also available, $18.50) and yummy candy cane soap ($10)!

bearface soapa

Also of note are the great DIY gift basket options at In Fine Spirits, 5418 N. Clark Street.


Wine buyer Julia makes knowledgable recommendations for the mixologist or wine lover, and if you give this gift and you’re lucky, maybe the recipient will share!

Norcross and Scott, 1476 W. Berwyn Avenue.


At this gorgeous shop, Claire found quite a few things she’d love as gifts for herself, hint hint!


Our favorite is the five-foot Roundie Beach Towel in “Dream Time” ($110.)


These cheeky keychains make excellent stocking stuffers ($15). Or stop by Cas Hardware, 5305 N. Clark Street, for a copy of your key for that someone special!

Milk Handmade, 5137 N. Clark Street.


Claire discovered more amazing goods at Milk Handmade, including some candles she couldn’t leave (or live?) without!


Check out these boozy-themed goodies chosen by store owner Hallie Borden. Handmade in Chicago, they would also fill a stocking nicely! (Body scrub $12, body oil $10, bar soap $7.)

milk-medium milk-splurge

We also seriously covet this knit layer scarf ($48) and Milk-exclusive leather handbag ($248.)

Toys Et Cetera, 5311 N. Clark St.

Who doesn’t love a toy store? This one is jam-packed with toys for kids of all ages, from plush toys and puppets to puzzles and playsets. Jen adored the Lego Star Wars Advent Calendar (44.99) and may have to snag one before the beginning of December.


There’s also the requisite and much-loved train table for railway or Thomas the Tank Engine fans, as well as Calico Critter families and accessories (24.99 for a family of four.)

trains critters

And for your furry friends, don’t miss Jameson Loves Danger at 5208 N. Clark St.

collars sweaters

Sparkles dogs Dudley, Waffles, and Wiffy would drool over the fresh and stylin’ variety of collars and leashes available here, as well as the winter weather gear, ranging from doggie parkas to warm, cozy sweaters!

And behold, the WALL-O-TOYS!!!


Lots of diverting cat toys are available too, as well as food and treats and grooming accessories. Two paws up – or maybe four?


Speaking of our four-legged pals, don’t miss out on Martha Mae’s (5407 N. Clark St) gorgeously curated daydream of a shop. Sweet Martha Mae (pictured above) and her talented human associate, Jean, have gathered artwork, art supplies, and all things visually lovely in this must-visit boutique.


Jen wishes for the tiny lidded vessels ($35-$40) hand-thrown by local ceramicist Christie Chapin. She also goes ga-ga for the artist’s model dogs ($25) and horses ($200-300) as well as the exquisite hand-silkscreened Japanese paper ($18).


After you’re finished admiring Martha Mae’s, don’t forget to stop in and see us next door at Sparkles Fine Jewelry (5405 N. Clark St.) 

We’ve got goodies for all kinds of giftees. One of our favorite pieces is this lovely garnet and diamond pendant on 14k yellow gold ($762). It’s so festive and colorful and that checkerboard cut is stunning!


Another beautiful gift item is this wave-patterned diamond ring ($2400).


We also carry an attractive range of Citizen watches, like the one shown below ($195), as well as sparkly silver earrings ($180) and a variety colors and styles of leather and steel bracelets ($60).

image1  earrings

xmas bracelets.jpg

Whatever you choose, make sure to support your local businesses and have a wonderful time!

Lots of love from your Sparkles staff!

Party Time! Excellent!

We love fall in Chicago, and here at Sparkles, we have an extra reason to celebrate: this September is our third anniversary of serving our wonderful clientele from the beloved neighborhood of Andersonville and beyond!

To mark this momentous occasion and show our thanks for three fantastic years, we’re throwing an anniversary party, and we’d love to see you there!

Festivities to be held at Sparkles Fine Jewelry (5405 N. Clark St) on Friday, September 23rd from 6-9pm. There will be refreshments, a photo booth, and lots of sparkly fun – plus, what everyone loves the most – a jewelry sale! All items in our cases (excluding vintage pieces) will be 30% off for those three hours only!

Please join us and lift a glass (or a delicious piece of cheese! We Sparkles women are serious about our cheese.) on Friday the 23rd. We will treasure the memory, and maybe you’ll take home something new to treasure as well.


Rachel, Claire, and Jen

Jewelry Care: Tips & Tricks for Cleaning and Caring for your Collection

Hi there from Sparkles!

As fellow jewelry lovers, we know how it feels to own and wear fun, sparkly pieces. But as they say, with great jewelry comes great responsibility! (Do they say that? Is it canon?)

We’re just kidding – the responsibility’s not THAT daunting, but proper care of your jewelry prolongs its life, enhances its look, and ensures more happiness in both the short and the long term.

At Sparkles, we’re all GIA-trained, so we know about metals and gemstones and their relative strengths and limitations. We want to pass on this knowledge to you so you can put it to good use with your own pieces!

Here are some Do’s and Don’ts for taking the best care of your jewelry. 

DO bring in your engagement rings (or any rings worn on a daily basis) for a check-up with your jeweler every 6 months. That way, we can check your mounting(s) – are any stones loose? Do any prongs need tightening? – and keep a professional eye on the condition of your rings to prevent stone loss or damage. Normal wear can eventually cause prongs to loosen over time, but with regular check-ups, jewelers can detect any needed maintenance and make any touch-ups or repairs as necessary. Not only does this keep your rings in great shape, but it keeps them clean and looking their most beautiful as well! 

DO perform at home checks for loose stones. Hold the piece up to your ear and gently tap it. Hear any movement? If so, a stone is loose. Immediately stop wearing this piece and bring it to your jeweler so they can tighten the loose stone. A loose stone can quickly turn into a lost stone. 

DO take off your jewelry before you shower, swim, clean house, or apply anything to your skin or hair that can come in contact with your jewelry (think lotions, sunscreens, hair product, perfume, bug spray, etc.) The chemicals/ingredients found in body products, swimming pools and cleaning supplies can damage or discolor both metals and stones, sometimes permanently. Gems like turquoise and pearls are especially porous and require extra care.

DON’T work out or perform otherwise manual types of labor in your rings and jewelry. You’ll want to avoid wearing jewelry during any activity that could make it more likely for you to knock your pieces into things or catch them on hard surfaces or edges. Even simply gripping the handles on an elliptical machine routinely over time can misshape a ring.

DO take your jewelry off before you sleep. Prongs can catch on the sheets or blankets and loosen stones in your mounting (or rip your 1500 thread count Egyptian cotton sheets!). Your body changes as you sleep – fingers can swell quite a bit making a ring mighty tight (and not to mention bad news for blood flow!) The same goes for necklaces – chains can tangle, catch and rip on bedding, or even get crushed if slept on. Earrings can come undone and get lost. 

DO place your jewelry in the same place every time you take it off, which will help you remember exactly where you put it and aid in establishing good caretaking habits.

DO store your jewelry individually in a pouch or box; this protects it from the potential damage and debris from just lying out, and it also prevents close contact with other pieces of jewelry, with which it might tangle or scratch.

DO avoid excessive light and heat as well as sudden temperature changes, as these elements can cause your gems to fade, change color, or even crack and shatter.

DO feel free to gently clean your jewelry at home with warm water, dish soap and a small, soft brush, like a baby toothbrush or makeup brush. We carry a great foam cleanser here at Sparkles that comes with its own brush and is safe to use on all fine jewelry. We also carry silver polishing cloths and a liquid silver cleaner for your sterling pieces. 

DON’T put any other metal other than silver in liquid silver cleaner and only leave your silver pieces in the solution for 30 seconds or less. If your piece has stones, use a cotton swab to dip into the solution and clean around the stones. Rinse thoroughly with water. 

DON’T leave your jewelry sitting in water or cleaning solution to soak. 

DO leave ultrasonic cleaning to your jeweler. Ultrasonic cleaners are widely used in the jewelry profession to clean jewelry. They utilize gentle vibrations and heat to deep clean pieces. However, not all gemstones are safe in an ultrasonic; stones like opals, pearls or emeralds should never go into an ultrasonic cleaner as the vibrations can damage them. A trained jeweler will know which pieces are safe and which should be hand-cleaned. 

DON’T assume all gemstones are equal! There’s a reason beyond appeal and tradition that makes diamonds the most widely used stone for engagement and wedding rings – because of their hardness, diamonds are extremely durable and thus ideal for every day, long-term wear. Sadly, not all gems can measure up to the same level of strength!

For your reference, here is the Moh’s Scale of Hardness:

10 – Diamond – absolute hardness of 1600

9 – Corundum (ruby, sapphire) – absolute hardness of 400

8 – Topaz – absolute hardness of 200

7 – Quartz (amethyst, citrine, ametrine, etc) – absolute hardness of 100 – scratches window glass

6 – Feldspar (moonstone, labradorite) – absolute hardness of 72 – a steel file will scratch it

5 – Apatite – absolute hardness of 48

4 – Fluorite – absolute hardness of 21 – a knife will scratch it

3 – Calcite – absolute hardness of 9 – a penny will scratch it

2 – Gypsum – absolute hardness of 3

1 – Talc – absolute hardness of 1 – a fingernail will scratch it

As you can see, diamonds win! Moving just one step down the scale, we see a 75% drop in hardness between 10 (diamond) and 9 (corundum)! This doesn’t mean that diamonds are your only safe option, but that if you should choose another stone (sapphire, topaz, etc), it’s helpful to realize the differences in toughness so you can take the best care of your ring.

If you’re interested in a softer stone, like an opal (rated 4.5-6 on the hardness scale) or a pearl (2.5-4.5), please be aware that, simply due to their own delicate nature, these gems are less than ideal for the everyday, lifelong wear expected out of an engagement or wedding ring. 

And finally, DON’T be afraid to ask your jeweler questions. That’s what we’re here for! We feel it is part of our job to properly educate you on the best ways to care for your jewelry, and we’re definitely committed to helping maintain your pieces so they last for generations to come!

Thanks for visiting! See you here at Sparkles soon! 


The Sparkles Team


Our Favorite Love Stories (so far)

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!”

Shawn and jessica_1

Shawn proposing to Jessica at Brookfield Zoo

Shawn and jessica_2

Jessica’s stunning round brilliant halo engagement ring


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. “

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Amy proposed with this stunning yellow gold vintage inspired ring with mil-grain details and diamonds on the band

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Amy and Amanda having fun in a photo booth


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!”

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Scott and Mark with the underwater tablet from the proposal in Maui, Hawaii.

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The underwater tablet Scott used to propose to Mark

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Mark and Scott in Maui, Hawaii, where the proposal took place

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Mark & Scott’s Mokume rings


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.”

-Dr. Seuss 


Claire LaJeunesse, GIA AJP, Sparkles Jewelry Consultant.