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Contributor Tori Telfer chats same-sex-wedding-ring shopping with Sparkles Fine Jewelry owner Rachel Meyering
Photo: Courtesy of Sparkles Fine Jewelry
Joe, the very first customer at Sparkles Fine Jewelry in Andersonville, was looking for a ring. But not just any ring, of course — Joe was hunting for The Ring, a perfect diamond for his partner, Jerry. When he confided to Rachel Meyering, the owner of Sparkles, that he was having a hard time finding a band that seemed right, Meyering was more than happy to help.
"I showed him Rony Tennenbaum's collection, LVOE [a line designed with same-sex couples in mind], and he loved the rings and the message behind them," says Meyering. A gorgeous black diamond ring by Tennenbaum caught Joe's eye, and he brought Jerry in to see it. Jerry fell in love immediately. Joe bought the ring.
Their engagement party was held at Sparkles.
"It means so much to me that I was a huge part of their lives," says Meyering, who's worked in the jewelry business for 10 years, but still bubbles over with excitement while talking about it. "I've been to so many different weddings of my customers and I'm such a sap, I cry at everything."
A touch of sentimentality is perfect for someone in the engagement ring biz, of course. And Meyering embodies a business model we're seeing less and less of these days: the friendly local business owner who genuinely cares about her community and her customers on a personal level. Not only does Meyering stock Chicago designers and attend local jewelry shows, she aims to be "the neighborhood shop where you can come get repairs, or get a quick, last-minute gift." She's obsessed with Andersonville, calling it "such a happy community—no one's mad or angry," and says that the Andersonville Chamber of Commerce is "fantastic. I've never worked with a better chamber in my life."
One of the greatest things Meyering offers to her community is a loving, warm place for starry-eyed couples to try on diamonds, even if they're not sure exactly what the protocol is. Sparkles opened September 2013, less than three months before Illinois legalized same-sex marriage, and has quickly become a welcoming haven for blushing brides and grooms of all sexual orientations. "A lot of [same-sex couples] come in here and ask, 'What should we do, what's the etiquette?'" says Meyering. "I tell them, you really can do whatever you want."
But wait—is anyone even getting engaged anymore? Yes indeed, says Meyering, who's not concerned with the rising marriage age. "People wait a little longer and are more established in their careers, so they spend a little more than they used to," she notes, laughing. She expects a lot more weddings in the future, now that gay marriage is legal in Illinois. She's even got a sunny outlook on high divorce rates: second or third marriage often equals second or third engagement ring.
It's hard to pin down trends in the local engagement ring biz, since every couple is deliciously unique, but Meyering says that in her experience, about half of same-sex couples end up purchasing an engagement ring for both partners, while the other half stick to just one engagement ring and two wedding bands. She also noted that custom-designed rings are hugely popular with everyone these days. "It's a lot of fun to create your own ring, design it, and be able to say that you helped with the entire ring. Women love it—if men actually spend the time to do that."
"Whats really great about my job is that I share so many different moments [with my customers]," says Meyering. "They come in for a ring, they get engaged, they get married, I go to their weddings, they come back in, they have a baby, they have another baby. You see their entire life." —Tori Telfer
· Sparkles Fine Jewelry [Official Site]
· All Bling Bling coverage [Racked Chicago]