Buying the bling
Faux facets in a cubic zircon at Sonoma Silver Company.
The wedding whirl begins with the engagement ring, the one keepsake the bride will (hopefully) wear for the rest of her life. Romantic risk-takers surprise the love of their life with a glittering gem to accompany the words "Will you marry me?" Practical grooms bring their betrothed to a jeweler, where picking wedding rings becomes the first of a lifetime of duo decision making.
Sonoma offers a small, but wide-ranging selection of shops for bride and groom to investigate-there's traditional and avant garde, shiny new and heirloom, wildly expensive and ultra cheap, the latter usually a placeholder until the couple can afford a ring to cherish.
At Chateau Sonoma, you step into a past furnished by Sarah Anderson, who hunts for unique vintage jewelry on regular trips to France and England, keeping in mind what the future brides of Sonoma might love to see on their fingers. Recently she had a lovely Victorian white gold ring with three diamonds, made around 1925, for a mere $995. Sarah says her biggest sellers are antique lockets, perfect to enclose a photo of the groom. Although the Chateau doesn't offer a formal bridal registry, brides often let their friends know how much they love the glassware and pottery.
Since 1964 Carol and Wayne Petersen have had a glass-topped display case with very special diamond rings and wedding bands at Vineyard Jewelers. They carry yellow and white gold and platinum settings with brilliant, emerald and marquis-cut diamonds in a range of sizes up to five carats. For couples with something more eclectic in mind there are unique treasures in the consignment collection. "You never know what's going to come in," Wayne says, so what's available is always a surprise. An antique diamond sells for about 30 percent less than a new one-a good thing to keep in mind.
For something completely different, consider the Native American wedding bands at Kokopelli. The Hopi tribe of New Mexico make two-toned silver and 14-karat gold bands that are very popular as matching sets. Owner Rod Zood also takes special orders for bands inlaid with stones like turquoise, malachite and lapis made at both the Navajo and Zuni pueblos.
Cornerstone Jewelers specializes in rings made from original die casts from the early 1900s. The ring and stones are completely new, but the unique settings are from yesteryear. It takes from three to six weeks to have a ring made, and you can choose diamonds in a price range from $1,500 to $30,000. "We don't sell lesser quality diamonds, because you won't be happy with it in the long run," says manager Margie Forrest. "Jewelry is a very, very personal thing. We're here to do weddings on the custom end."
If you need a stand-in until you can afford the real thing, or just want something to wear while snorkeling on your honeymoon without risking the nuptial ring, you can pick up a stainless steel band with a cubic zircon for $19 to $59 at Sonoma Silver Company, which also has engraved sterling cake serving sets and champagne toasting flutes.
From the Summer 2009 issue of SONOMA