Did you know that the third week of January is the most dismal of the year? Scientific fact (at least in my house). It’s officially cold, wet, and there are dead Christmas trees lining our block waiting for their sad pickup from the trash truck. So, to improve our collective mornings I wanted to share with you with another amazing Alx&Co. engagement story, courtesy of our clients, Leif and Rae…
First of all, let me just tell you that Rae and Leif are the type of people from whom you can feel the mutual respect and chemistry emanating when you meet. They are so clearly in love with each other — and it’s easy to see why, since they both are incredibly thoughtful, caring people who will always go the extra mile for those they love. I sat down with them recently at our showroom to learn about how they met, what brought them together, and what inspired Rae’s absolutely drop-dead-amazing custom ring that we designed for her a few months back.
Meaghan: Let’s start at the very beginning. How did you meet?
Leif: We met at work about three years ago. We both worked at a health care consulting company. Rae had been there a little while and I was new, and on my first day of work, I was looking for the copier when Rae came over and introduced herself (and showed me where the copier was).
Rae: Leif actually thought I was dating someone when we first met so he played it pretty casual in the beginning!
Leif: (Laughing) I honestly thought she was just so cool from the first day I met her — she had decorated her cubicle with tons of pictures from these amazing hiking trips she had taken over the years and there was a recurring tall, handsome guy with a great beard photographed next to Rae in a lot of them. I assumed that he must have been her boyfriend…but, turns out it was her brother! So, when I found that out, I thought I might have a chance (laughs).
Meaghan: Rae, what drew you to Leif when you first met?
Rae: It’s funny… At work, Leif was always this preppy guy. But then, we started to hang out and he was always down for having craft beers, going out hiking, and being outdoorsy in general. I was looking for someone who I could share these types of interests with who was also professional and put together, and it was amazing how much we had in common.
Leif: The thing I like about Rae is that she is just as comfortable in a cocktail dress as she is in hiking boots — perfect for our lifestyle here in the D.C. area.
Rae: But, we definitely started just as coworkers and friends. We had a few happy hours with friends, then went to some Nats games…
Leif: We didn’t realize this at the time but all of our friends were taking bets on when we would start dating! We had to be very professional in the office; dating within a work environment is always tricky and we wanted to make sure we were doing this right. But it didn’t take long for us to really fall for each other.
Meaghan: Speaking of which, what made you decide you wanted to get married?
Rae: We dated for a year, and eventually moved in together and adopted our dog, Owen. After about a year of living together I think the marriage question mostly became one of timing. We always knew we were going to get married but we both were just waiting to see when it would make sense for us.
Meaghan: Before getting engaged, did you know what you wanted for a ring?
Rae: (Laughing) Well, I knew what I did not want, and I knew the overall style and feeling I wanted. There were some specific things that were important to me like having the ring set in yellow gold, using a bezel setting, no solitaire, no princess cut for the diamond.
Leif: Rae gave me photos of rings she liked, but they were all completely different from each other — one Edwardian, one modern, one more vintage — so I definitely needed some help with the design.
Rae: We figured out pretty early that custom was the way to go because I knew I wanted it to be unique.
Leif: I knew I wanted it to be special.
Meaghan: Tell us about the design process behind your ring. It’s such a beautiful combination of vintage and modern elements.
Rae: Well, over a picnic at Gravelly Point, Leif and I sketched out some designs. We came up with some features that we both liked, and then a few days later, Leif brought the sketches to Alx&Co. along with some Instagram photos of rings we wanted to use as inspiration.
Leif: It was important to me that Rae be involved in the process; in our relationship, we always strive to be on equal footing and to make big decisions together. I decided to come to Alx&Co. on the recommendation of a friend, who raved about his experience working with Tim. Tim and I came up with several designs and then I kind of got stuck. So, I brought Rae in to meet with Tim and we all came up with a vintage design that we loved.
Rae: We then had this moment where we had to choose and I honestly was a little stressed about it because it’s such a permanent decision. But, my gut kept telling me to go for the oval shape so that’s what we decided on.
Meaghan: Leif, how did you propose? Was it a surprise?
Leif: She actually had no idea it was coming! I started the design late May and we made the final decision by mid June. Rae was under the impression that the ring would take a lot longer to fabricate and thought that perhaps it would be a Christmas engagement because of that. But then, Tim and your team were so accommodating to get it finished so that I could propose on a little surprise trip I had planned. I pushed the timeline up a bit mainly because we had sought Rae’s parents’ blessing that spring and were going to see them again over the Fourth of July — and honestly, I didn’t want to go back to them empty-handed! So, I had this great plan to propose to Rae on an upcoming backpacking trip but, of course, it was so hot the whole week leading up to it, so we made a last-second decision to go to the beach at Assateague Island National Seashore instead.
Rae: I still had no idea through all of this. No suspicion, but in retrospect I should have known because Assateague has always been a special place for us — it’s where we decided to start dating. We had a great day at the beach, and then we cooked dinner at our campsite and did what we always do when we camp at Assateague — go for a sunset walk after dinner. So, I still had no idea because it was business-as-usual for us.
Leif: I completely lucked out again. The sunset was absolutely perfect, completely beautiful and scenic. We paused to watch a family playing on the beach and Rae turned to me and asked if I thought we would ever bring our family here and I realized, that was my moment.
Rae: It actually took me a moment to realize what was going on because I still thought the ring was being made so the idea that he was kneeling there in front of me with it was just impossible. Then, when I realized what was going on I immediately started crying because I was so overwhelmed with the surprise and the happiness of the moment. When he pulled out the ring I was mesmerized — it was beautiful!
Meaghan: Oh my goodness, I love the screenshot of your parents. They look so happy for you guys! What a beautiful story and such a fun way to share it! Do you have any tips for those who are thinking about getting engaged?
Rae: Definitely pick out or design the ring together. It can still be a surprise but it makes it so much more meaningful when you both get to participate and create something for your partnership.
Leif: I would agree completely, and add that you should find someone to work with who makes you feel comfortable. With Tim, I could sit down, get some education on diamonds, and get familiar with the whole process. It felt so much better than just blindly picking something from a jewelry case. It meant a lot to me to be able to work with and shake the hand of the person who was actually crafting the ring.
Rae: On that note, I suggest that you work with someone who you can have a candid conversation with about the design details and give feedback to. Working with Tim I always felt he never tried to push me into an idea that I didn’t personally love.
Meaghan: Can you describe your design process in one word?
Leif: Helpful defines it for me.
Thank you, Leif and Rae!
Alexandria & Company is an Old Town-based workshop and design studio specializing in creating and restoring fine jewelry and silver hollowware. They are the in-the-know jewelers of Alexandria and have been serving clients out of their small workshop for decades. Tucked in their historic building on South Royal Street, the team at Alx&Co. brings a personalized, modern approach to their craft – this is not your average stodgy jeweler or antique shop. Visit them during their walk-in hours or online to view their collection of handmade fine jewelry or to drop off a repair project; or, if you’re feeling creative, make an appointment to talk about that custom design project you’ve been imagining.
121-B South Royal Street
Alexandria, Virginia 22314
Design Studio Walk-In Hours (all jewelry services): Wednesday – Saturday 12-6pm
Silver Workshop Walk-In Hours (all silver repair and restoration services): Wednesday or Friday 12-6pm, or by appointment
Appointments encouraged for custom design.