When Ollie reached out to Nyrelle’s founder, Henry, and asked him to craft an ethical engagement ring, Henry knew he wanted to be a part of this special project. Ollie was in the market for something truly unique as he, as well as his wife to be, weren’t big fans of traditional diamonds. But above all, he wanted to ensure all the materials were ethically sourced and the ring would be crafted as responsibly as possible.
After searching high and low for the perfect jewelry partner who could guarantee these non-negotiables, Ollie revealed that he “stumbled on gold” when he came across Nyrelle. “Nyrelle brought together strong, generational expertise in jewelry making, with a modern twist and a responsible soul,” he shared.
Even though Nyrelle wasn’t designed to cater to bespoke jewelry requests, Henry resonated deeply with Ollie’s vision and decided it was worth taking on the project. The result was a match made in heaven; together they created a stunning ring featuring a responsibly-sourced aquamarine gemstone set in a solid gold band – an incredibly heartfelt proposal ensued.
With wedding season just around the corner, we couldn’t help but share this beautiful engagement story between Ollie and Anna. Below, we caught up with Ollie to ask how the special proposal went in detail (fun fact: it involves onions!), why they decided to go bespoke, and Ollie’s advice on why a responsibly-made engagement ring is far more symbolic and meaningful to him.
NYRELLE: How did you and Anna meet?
OLLIE: We met through a mutual friend. Our friend invited Anna to a house party and I fell head over heels for her the moment I saw her walking through the door!
We talked briefly about growing up in Europe and our mutual love of chocolate. When Anna was leaving, I rushed to my room, where I still had a few chocolate bars left from my last trip to Austria, and thrust one into her hands so she wouldn't forget me!
N: Tell us how you proposed!
O: Anna loves onions – like really loves onions. One of her favourite meals to make on a "cheat night" is a big tray of oven-roasted onions and tomatoes.
The proposal took place on Anna's 30th birthday. I laid out a picnic of her favourite items – including a bowl of home-pickled onions – in a spot we both love at Tamar Park. In Anna's pile of gifts was a small ring-boxed shaped item that, when opened, revealed a set of rather mediocre earrings that I had bought as a light decoy.
With Anna ever so slightly disappointed, we dug into our picnic and she immediately went for the onions. As she lifted the spoon out of the bowl, she encountered a small ring-shaped gold item coated in pickling juice :)
N: For your engagement ring, why did you choose Nyrelle?
O: One of our main objectives for our engagement and wedding rings was to make them as responsibly as possible. We are both not a fan of diamonds and are aware that even some of the most common jewelry certifications out there do not fully guarantee workers' health and safety, fair wages, no child labour and protection of the environment.
So I spent a long time searching for responsibly-sourced materials and partners who were able to guarantee the points above. While there were some options out there, the spread was a little overwhelming. For example, some jewelers only use Fairtrade Gold within their most expensive product lines; others have questionable looking websites or are difficult to get in touch with.
I then stumbled on gold (pun intended) by finding Nyrelle. I knew immediately that this was the partner I was going to work with. Nyrelle clearly communicated their story, approach and vision. The team responded with positivity to the first enquiry and offered a lot of flexibility in designing and crafting the ring. Henry, Nyrelle's founder, provided invaluable guidance and support throughout the journey – we are incredibly grateful to him and the team for helping us get our perfect ring!
”I was excited by the idea of designing the ring to put a small piece of my heart into an object that Anna would be wearing for the rest of her life”
N: Why did you decide to go bespoke and design your own ring?
O: Anna likes simple jewelry designs (I confirmed and re-confirmed this with her sister!), and many off-the-shelf options simply did not match her taste. Plus, I was excited by the idea of designing the ring to put a small piece of my heart into an object that Anna would be wearing for the rest of her life.
Henry and the Nyrelle team guided me as I pulled together mood boards, developed my first ideas into hand sketches, and eventually designed some 3D-printed models to explore shape and size.
N: Could you tell us the story or meaning behind the ring and the stone you chose?
O: One of the objectives of the ring was to be able to tell the end-to-end story of how it was responsibly made. For the proposal, I put together a small booklet to document this process – I was able to show Anna the sketches, design models and the work of the skilled artisans in Hong Kong as they turned Fairtrade Gold pellets into the final form.
However, perhaps the most special part of the story is the gemstone. Together with Nyrelle, we were able to source a beautiful little aquamarine stone through Moyo Gems – an NGO working in Tanzania. Moyo works to empower women artisanal miners; they buy their stones directly from the women at prices significantly higher than the market price. They also provide training and support to ensure work safety and financial security.
In working with Moyo, we were able to actually meet the incredible lady who mined our aquamarine stone. That is something that we would never have been able to do (or guarantee) with a standard diamond engagement ring. And Nyrelle made it happen!
N: What was Anna's reaction to the ring?
O: I would sum it up in the following: Confusion – what is this shiny thing in the pickled onions? Shock – wait, is this really happening?! Eye-roll – finally, it's about time!
N: What advice would you give to people who want to propose?
O: As a standard response, I would say to make sure you are crystal clear on your partner's taste. Engage best friends, mothers or sisters in your process to double confirm as well!
But our actual response is that, if you are thinking about an engagement ring, we would encourage you to think about how to buy or make it responsibly. An engagement ring is a symbol of love and, while it is not often talked about, there can be many questionable materials in standard rings that may "stain" this symbol.
There are many options out there now, from recycled or Fairtrade Gold, synthetic or recycled diamonds, and smaller-scale organisations like Moyo Gems that guarantee what is happening on the ground. While it may seem overwhelming to figure out these options, Nyrelle was the perfect partner throughout the process. They brought together strong, generational expertise in jewelry making, with a modern twist and a responsible soul. We will be working with them again for our wedding bands!
A Kind Note to Our Conscious Collectors
While we would love to be able to provide a bespoke jewelry service to everyone, unfortunately we simply don’t have the capacity to offer this service at scale at this time. Ollie and Anna’s story was a special one that we wanted to share out of love and appreciation, and to ring in (pun intended!) the wedding season in style. Thank you for understanding and your continued support!