Ask anyone in the world if they’d prefer shopping for jewelry over shopping for clothes, and regardless of gender, the answer the vast majority of the time will be yes, of course. Unlike clothes, jewelry almost always fits, and unless you’re buying cheaply made pieces, they will absolutely last you a lifetime. The best part about jewelry, though, is actually becoming well versed in the language and culture, and fully understanding the insane amount of artistry and depth of detail that goes into each and every piece.
Often times the majority of the designers you see in stores aren’t necessarily making their own work. They usually send it out to an actual jeweler who creates it in the designer’s name, a sort of ghost writer if you will, and much like ateliers are to fashion houses, jewelers and stone setters are to jewelry designers. So when we say that designers who conceive and create their own work start to finish are a beautiful rarity, we mean it, and artist Aaron Ruff of Digby and Iona is one of these rarities.
An artist of many trades, Ruff initially set out to be a woodworker, creating hand-carved furniture. Unfortunately for him, there wasn’t much of a market for remarkably beautiful, albeit incredibly expensive furniture. Ruff says there was, however, a market for jewelry. Using his knowledge of furniture design, and having taken a few metal-smithing classes, Ruff abandoned his woodworking tools for a jeweler’s bench instead, and in 2006, Digby and Iona was born.
Ruff is perhaps best known for his incredible signet rings which mimic both elements of woodworking as well as imagery often found in tattoos. Often featuring literary quotes, Ruff says that the inspiration for his signet rings usually comes from the quotes themselves. With designs that feature everything from blindfolded cats and a quote that reads, “J'ai Ferme Mes Yeux Pour Voir” or “I Shut My Eyes In Order To See,” to a dagger surrounded by flowers with a quote from Frida Kahlo that says “Pinto Flores Asi No Mueren” or “I Paint The Flowers So They Will Not Die,” Ruff’s signet rings are undeniably unique.
The same can be said about his line of engagement rings which often make use of stones that would otherwise be deemed flawed or undesirable. "Similarly to the signets [that] start with a phrase or a quote, and [are] then built around that, with the diamond rings, I start with the diamonds," Ruff says. "So I rarely come up with a design, and then try and fit diamonds into it.”
Sourcing ethically mined, absolutely stunning one of a kind stones — including black diamonds, salt and pepper diamonds (or diamonds with inclusions that are visible to the naked eye), and even green/brown diamonds whose coloring would normally be deemed unfit by normal GIA standards — each of his engagement rings is absolutely unique in every sense of the word. Ruff even goes as far as saying that he finds the definitive “perfect” white diamond boring. “There are so many one carat, round cut, high color, high clarity diamonds in the world," Ruff says. "You can walk into any store and get one, but this [imperfect] diamond I’ll maybe see... just the one my entire career.”
So whether you’re looking for the perfect engagement ring, or just a casual signet ring to treat yourself, Digby and Iona is one to consider. Artfully planned, and intricately designed, Digby and Iona’s rings are built to last a lifetime. Plus, you're supporting a fully local artist — your dollar goes further, and your gift becomes more meaningful.