Local goldsmith talks engagement rings

Raul Flores Jr. and Nathan Weekley tend to their work behind the counter at Virage Goldsmiths. MJ Routh | Multimedia Journalist

By JP Graham | Reporter

Valentine’s Day is dedicated to telling those you love that you love them, be it through flowers, chocolates, a night out or a simple gesture; Some take it upon themselves to go the extra mile by making more extravagant purchases, especially those ready to pop the big question.

Virage Goldsmiths, a new custom jewelry store at 608 B Austin Ave., engages in the jewelry-making process from start to finish, repairs damaged jewelry and refurbishes family heirlooms. In the spirit of Valentine’s Day, Virage tells about the process of creating engagement rings and gives tips to those thinking about buying a ring this year.

CAD Specialist Nathan Weekley and Master Bench Jeweler Raul Flores Jr. opened Virage’s storefront early December of last year.

Weekley and Flores first met at the Stuller’s Bridge Jewelry convention in Louisiana three years ago, where they realized they were both coincidentally from Waco. Almost a year later, Weekley and Flores crossed paths again. This time, as they told one another about the tools and equipment they had respectively gathered over the years, they recognized their compatibility as business partners. Weekley convinced Flores to quit his job at Gholson Originals Fine Jewelry and start their own custom jewelry business.

Both Weekley and Flores have backgrounds in jewelry production. Flores’s father owns Pacoy Jewelers in San Antonio, while Weekley’s uncle owns San Jose Jewelers in Waco.

Weekley designs, casts and finishes the rings his customers request, though it took him a while to end up to where he is today.

“I tried the corporate world out for a little while after school, and answering emails and phone calls and meetings, just didn’t really resonate with me,” Weekley said. “I really like the idea of making things that are going to last longer than I will.”

Weekley continues his knowledge of design through visiting online forums and studying social media pages dedicated to engagement rings. He said it is hard to make original pieces because of the multitude of jewelry already made, but the inspirations can help spark the idea needed for a certain customer.

In the spirit of Valentine’s Day, Weekley covered the basics of diamond selection that every soon-to-be fiance should understand before choosing the ring that will last a lifetime.


1. Know the Four C’s.

Cut, clarity, carat and color. The four C’s are commonly referred to in the jewelry business because they make up the basic categories diamond shoppers take into consideration.

  • Cut refers to the shape of the diamond. In most retail jewelry stores, rings are designed specifically to fit the diamond’s cut, but Virage allows customers to begin with either the diamond or the band. This allows customers for flexibility in creating the design they want from scratch. Weekley credits Pinterest and Instagram as helpful tools; customers often bring in photos that Weekley is able to reference as he designs their dream ring.
  • Clarity refers to the translucency of the diamond. Weekley said Virage uses pieces that range from flawless (FL) to slight inclusions (SI). Flawless diamonds are the most expensive, while slight inclusions have “carbon pockets” that are visible to the naked eye.
  • Carat describes the weight of the diamond, not its actual size. Weekley said a cubic zirconia is a good example of the misconception between weight and size, because it can appear to be large but still weigh less than a similarly-sized diamond. “Raul and I always joke around, whenever we propose, we’re going to give her a cubic zirconia,” Weekley said. “If they’re not okay with it, then it’s probably not the person we should be with.”
  • Lastly, the color refers to the diamond’s range in hue. The color scale ranges from D to J; D represents an absolutely colorless diamond, and J represents a nearly colorless diamond in which a color is slightly detectable. The color depends on the additional element found in the stone.

2. Understand what the ring represents.

Weekley said jewelry commercials and celebrities have placed an emphasis on the size and price of diamonds. According to Weekley, this not only draws from the sentiment of diamond shopping, it creates a sense of burden for those who cannot afford the more expensive options. Weekley said the selection process should be enjoyable because it’s about wanting to spend the rest of your life with someone, not about the price tag.

“I think people need to understand what the significance of the engagement ring is,” Weekley said. “It’s not about how much the stone costs or how big it is, it’s about wanting to spend the rest of your life with someone.”

3. If you don’t know jewelry, it helps to know a jeweler.

It’s okay to feel slightly overwhelmed about finding the perfect ring. Weekley said finding a trustworthy and personable jeweler is important because he or she will likely be able to guide customers in the right direction.

At Virage, each step of the customization process is tailored to what the customer wants. Weekley knows that their final product not only is one of a kind, but also represents the customers specific relationship. Weekley said that their business comes from word of mouth, and an interactive process helps build those relationships.

“I know there’s definitely not a jewelry store in Waco that will let you see the benches,” Weekly said. “My insurance agent wasn’t happy about it, but I absolutely needed people to see the workspace, because there’s no point in doing it if people can’t be involved.”