How to Get Engaged During a Pandemic

Stellene Volandes
Photo credit: Kelly Taub
Photo credit: Kelly Taub

From Town & Country

“Tell me exactly how it happened.” It’s generally the second question after: “Let me see the ring.” Proposal stories are tales filled with hope and romance, sometimes adventure (the hot air balloon variety), and occasional mishaps (a diamond lost in the bottom of a champagne flute). Sometimes, it all happens in a jewelry store (remember Sweet Home Alabama?)

This one did not. The stores were all closed. And besides, bride-to-be Arielle Patrick—the senior vice president & transaction director in the financial communications & capital markets group at Edelman—knew exactly what she wanted, and she knew Blakely Thornton, co-founder and CEO of C1V1L Jewelry, could make it happen—pandemic or no pandemic. This is a story of love (and virtual appointments) conquering all.

The First Time the Ring Came Up in Conversation

Arielle: Blakely and I have been part of a broader group of friends, most of whom attended Choate together, for the past decade or more. We ran into one another at a party Larry Milstein was throwing at Ludlow House. I was so excited to see him and we did our regular catch-up on life. It also so happened that he was on the cover of the Soho House magazine for launching C1V1L that same month, and showed me the magazine while we were there. I was so thrilled for him, and was particularly tickled when he described the business model: re-investing 20 percent of profits back into underrepresented entrepreneurs. I've been doing some angel investing over the past couple of years with a focus on female-owned businesses. When he asked about my personal life, I mentioned that my boyfriend Aaron (Goldstein) and I were discussing marriage. He immediately said: "I could do your ring!" The very next day, I put him and Aaron on an email chain together without much context, and it went from there.

Blakely: True, we met at a mutual friend’s party around 2011, and ran in the same social circles in the city. There’s a small group of Black prep school Ivy League grads that see each other everywhere, there are about 2 degrees of separation in that world.

Photo credit: Sean Zanni - Getty Images
Photo credit: Sean Zanni - Getty Images

Then They Got Into Specifics

Arielle: I've always wanted a four-carat elongated cushion-cut solitaire ring. That hasn't changed and was never going to. I had a firm idea in my mind. The one thing I initially thought I wanted was an eternity band of diamonds to accompany the solitaire...but it was actually Blakely who counseled Aaron against it, so that the center stone could shine on its own. He was absolutely right!

Blakely: It’s always easier to create for someone who is decisive, and Arielle knew exactly what she wanted right from the start. Custom jewelry is a process, from ideation to execution, and at C1V1L we aim to provide an excellent experience from start to finish. This was our first major engagement piece, and it was for a good friend, so I was meticulous.

The Important Things

Photo credit: Kelly Taub
Photo credit: Kelly Taub

Arielle: The fact that I am supporting a Black-owned business with my sartorial choices without having to make a choice between social impact and quality or luxury.

Blakely: Quality and design is of the utmost importance to me. With C1V1L, I feel like I have the opportunity to re-contextualize our narrative as people of color, one that moves us from a story of struggle, to one of luxury, prosperity, and autonomy. That has to be reflected in the product.


The Process

Blakely: Once we settled on an approved CAD with Aaron, the process involves weekly status updates, insurance appraisal, and finally, delivery!

Photo credit: Kelly Taub
Photo credit: Kelly Taub

Arielle: Quite simply, the day I saw it, it was a hundred times more beautiful in-person than I could have ever imagined. The best part was that the very day Aaron proposed, Blakely had come to his apartment to drop off the ring. I came out of the bathroom in pajamas and there he was with it. He knew it would have been too hard to hide it from me. Blakely actually stayed and joined us for a glass of wine to celebrate. It's so fitting that he was the first person to celebrate with us. It was such a special moment that I will never forget.

Blakely: I am incredibly hands on. I think there is a misconception that because we work with lab-grown diamonds, that the design process for the high-end pieces is going to be mechanized, but with C1V1L pieces, you’re still going to get that hands-on, concierge-level service.

What's Next

Arielle: I am in need of an upgrade on my diamond earrings, and can't wait to get started all over again!

Blakely: I’ve already got the design mocked up. I’ll text it to Aaron.

Photo credit: Kelly Taub
Photo credit: Kelly Taub

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