Industry / Weddings

Why I Wear It: Custom Engagement Ring Brings The Stars Within Reach


The sun, the moon, and the stars: That’s what Ryan Weiss felt like his girlfriend, Andrea Hlavaty, had given him during their relationship. So he wanted to create an engagement ring for her that contained all of those elements.

Weiss is a metro Detroit artist, so his first instinct was to create a ring for her—a placeholder until after they were engaged, when they could go shopping together for a proper engagement ring that would incorporate her input. The result was a wooden band inlaid with stones to highlight the sun, moon, and stars in its design.

“When you fall in love with someone, they’re your whole world,” Weiss says. “That is how I felt and still feel about Andrea, so I settled on the sun-moon-and-stars idea for the ring.”

When he finally popped the question—and Hlavaty said yes—the couple headed to Elaine B Jewelry in Ferndale, just north of Detroit. There, owner Elaine Jaeger helped the duo create a ring that not only holds symbolism in its stones but has a larger meaning for them as a newly married couple.

“Not that many people are as excited about the process as Andrea and Ryan are,” says Jaeger. “They made it so much fun to build, design, and work with these materials. They shared our passion and excitement and respect of the process.”

Elaine Butcher of Elaine B Jewelry
Elaine Jaeger of Elaine B Jewelry says custom rings are a favorite of hers to design.

Hlavaty’s ring features a center stone representing the sun and moon. The teardrop-shape stones are the sunrays. The side stones are the stars. They worked with Elaine B Jewelry to find the perfect salt-and-pepper diamonds, and the process of creating their ring was unique for them and honored their relationship in a truly memorable way.

“We fell in love with salt-and-pepper [diamonds] in the fact that it felt like there was a little galaxy in all of them,” Hlavaty says.

Weiss says it was important to them as a couple that the stones they selected were ethically sourced.

“We also hand-selected each one for the ring,” Weiss says. “Elaine would give us a box of stones to play with and tweezers so we could see them together in different combinations.”

Jaeger says the salt-and-pepper diamonds were fun to work with as a jewelry designer because they are unusual.

“People have come to enjoy the imperfections and inclusions—just how one-of-a-kind they are,” she says. “Because they come in fun shapes, they’re a better choice in some ways than a mined, perfectly cut white diamond.”

Hlavaty says the ring is personal and perfect to them as a couple. They plan on getting married in June 2022.

“I loved the process. It felt overwhelming at first, because there’s so many decisions you have to make and so many stones to choose from,” Hlavaty says. “Elaine helped us break it down. We looked at what we liked, what symbolism we wanted, and then massaged it together in a few different visits. It was a wonderful process.”

Elaine B Jewelry in Ferndale
Elaine B Jewelry in Ferndale, Mich., works regularly with engaged couples on the ring of their dreams.

So what happened to that wooden ring? It’s still around. And so are many others. Creating the “first draft” of the ring was a secretive process, Weiss says, so the second version was an ideal way to talk about what they wanted each element of the ring to symbolize. Hlavaty says she still has the original ring, wearing it when they go camping or when she’s doing housework.

“We were living together, so I couldn’t use a certain room or make so much noise that she would know what I was doing. I wanted it to be a surprise,” Weiss says. “I wanted to learn how to make a ring out of wood with this design in mind, but I had to make about 15 different types of rings before honing in on the right width and materials.”

As for the final engagement ring, both Weiss and Hlavaty say they would create a custom piece again without question.

“Nothing felt rushed,” Weiss says. “Everyone had a lot of patience with us.”

Top: Salt-and-pepper diamonds set to represent the sun, moon, and stars highlight this Elaine B Jewelry custom engagement ring. (All photos courtesy of Elaine B Jewelry)

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Karen Dybis

By: Karen Dybis

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