Should Your Engagement Ring and Wedding Band Be Custom? We Ask Nicole Whisenhunt
Filipino-American jewellery designer, Nicole Whisenhunt, has evolved over this last decade. But where she’s found the flow of her creative juices of late is in her bespoke bridal designs. Recently finding a home for her creations, the designer now has her Whisenhunt Fine Jewellery boutique in Rockwell’s Powerplant where her ever-growing bridal archive (the Wedding Annex) intermingles with her Contemporary and Heirloom collections.
San Francisco-born and Manila-raised, Whisenhunt began her love affair with accessory and jewellery design in college and at one point delved into a series of embroidered pieces—mostly statement bibs—which held as her trademark for several years. Classes at L’Ecole Van Cleef and Arpels (The School of Jewellery and Arts) in Paris further augmented her knowledge in diamond studies, technique as well as jewellery history.
Nowadays, the ‘It’ designer pours herself into designing one 24-piece fine jewellery collection per year and crafting bespoke pieces for clients, often times reworking heirlooms and commemorative pieces with her characteristic modernised NW-inspired take on the old-world.
While the Wedding Annex is certainly worth eyeballing, Whisenhunt also offers full customisation services, from bespoke design, to sourcing specific quality stones, to production and stone-setting. Should you have a special family heirloom that you wish to rework, repair or re-dip, Whisenhunt is your woman.
For the gents who are wanting to surprise the ladies in their life or for couples looking to co-design their once-in-a-lifetime pieces, Whisenhunt is here to guide them and make the most out of this beautiful creative process. Within the Trisha Calma-designed boutique (which was styled by creative consultant Miguel Rosales) exists a well-appointed private room for such intimate consultations. This, according to Whisenhunt, is where all the magic happens.
To bespoke or not to bespoke? Here’s the NW 411:
You’re known for your elaborate bibs and art deco-style pieces and now you’re diving into bridal. Have you designed many bespoke engagement rings and bands? Any wedding bands for men?
I can’t remember exactly how many I’ve designed but there have been quite a few in recent years as I often get grooms-to-be as clients! Usually they commission me to do an engagement ring then they come back with their fiancés and ask for wedding bands to be designed for both of them.
When it comes to NW bridal designs, how would you describe your style? What materials, stones, and cuts do you typically go for?
My aesthetic is known to be inspired by the art deco era or I also like creating pieces with old world elements in a modern setting. Prior to my decision on a shape of diamond or the specifications of stone to be used, I often interview my client on the personality of his bride-to-be. I’m not constrained to one kind of shape, but I do prefer the diamond shapes that are not as often used such as ovals as well as radiant, asscher, rose, and marquise cuts—these are my personal preferences.
Then again, we are not only limited to diamonds, but I have also designed engagement rings using a variety of coloured stones. Let me reiterate that an engagement ring should be a reflection of the couple or the bride’s personality and I’m just there to guide them and make it as beautiful as can be.
What’s the price difference between your bespoke and ready-made designs?
Each piece’s price is dependent on the varying materials and labour involved. I currently have varying prices in the showroom for ready-made bridal jewellery. At the same time, I can also adhere to the budget of the groom if a bespoke setting is so desired.
What is the Nicole Whisenhunt bespoke process like—from the time an interested gentleman comes in to the final product?
I would suggest that my client set an appointment two months prior to the time he is planning to propose. At the appointment, I would interview him as well as educate him on the kinds of options out there. The next step would be for me to source a centre stone and then offer him designs for this stone.
What do your male clients typically come armed with for consultations? Pinterest or Googled images from their girlfriends? Sketches? What’s a good starting point for you both? Do you recommend that the couple approach you together?
For an engagement ring, my clients usually come alone since the proposal is often a surprise, but if their brides-to-be would like to be part of the process then that’s great, too! That way, I know exactly what she wants!
Some of them also come to me with photos of their girlfriends; I feel it’s my job to suggest what stone, shape, or quality would be best for them based on how they describe their partner. Then there have been a few cases where guys came in with Pinterest photos of what they liked for their bride. These are welcome and do help give me a better perspective but, ultimately, I have to create a design that is as well-suited to both their tastes.
What questions do you typically ask him to get to an initial idea or concept?
I start with asking the client to describe his girlfriend and what her personality is like. They usually can distinguish if their bride-to-be is traditional, classic, or the type of woman who wants something unique. Some already know what kind of stone their partner is eyeing. After the initial interview, I often try to educate him about the 4 C’s (Colour, Carat, Cut, Clarity) so he understands what he is purchasing.
Next, I need an idea of budget. The budget will taper down our options based on quality and lead us to deciding on which stone to opt for.
Aside from diamonds, I have also designed engagement rings using coloured stones. There are times particular coloured stones are symbolic to a couple and are preferred over diamonds.
Tell us about your inbuilt private room for consultations.
I saw the necessity of having a private room in the shop because often times when jewellery is being purchased as a gift, the client would need to shop in a more private area as to not be seen by other people which could spoil the surprise—particularly this kind of surprise! Miguel Rosales had the walls painted with a green, tropical design to create a relaxed setting to put clients at ease.
You make couples’ dreams a sparkly and shiny reality. Describe your dream engagement ring and wedding band.
Personally, I would be happy with a simple beautiful oval solitaire and a nice eternity band. Still amongst the classics but the oval would be something less commonly used versus a round, brilliant cut. And then I’d go with either an asscher or radiant cut eternity ring.
What are the current trends in bridal jewellery designs now?
Nowadays, brides often want more unique stones set in avant-garde designs. More and more women are looking for unusual shapes such as the pear or marquise and even want diamonds that are flawed. Although traditional settings are still mostly in demand—especially brilliant round cuts or emerald with quality specifications—bottom line, it’s all about the personality of the bride.
Why go bespoke when it comes to designing what are essentially once-in-a-lifetime pieces?
An engagement ring and wedding band will most likely be the most important pieces of jewellery a woman shall ever own and wear for the rest of her lifetime, and that which will even be passed down generations after.
This doesn’t necessarily mean they need to be the most expensive. But remember—more often than not, jewellery is worn as a symbol, and with that said—what could be more symbolic than one’s union with their life partner? It is because of what they signify as well their longevity that couples should put high importance on these pieces.
The Whisenhunt Fine Jewellery Boutique is located at Stall 238, R2 Level Powerplant Mall, Rockwell Centre, Makati City.