"There were a couple of times where she was pulling up into the driveway and I am cleaning up gold dust off of the counter," says Jared Heiden of how he managed to pull off his 'secret project' without his fiancée ever suspecting. "Trying to keep it all secret was half of the fun."
While most people would rather just pay a visit to the nearest jewelry store and pick an engagement ring to propose with, he had other plans.
It all started when Heiden and Rachel Sapin, a reporter, met through a common friend about a year ago at a concert in Denver, Colorado. They hit it off immediately and even though he lived an hour away from the city, they made it work and started dating. Rachel now refers to those few months of their relationship as " when we did long-distance for a while." Eventually, they moved in together and Jared started thinking about what the perfect proposal would be as well as the ring to do it with.
Then, one day, his brother, a fellow recreational prospector, asked him to do his wedding ring out of gold that he had mined in the mountains. That's how he got the idea for Rachel's engagement ring. There was one tiny problem though. Jared is an oil painter not a jeweler and he had never made a ring before. To make things worse better, the perfect opportunity to propose came up on the horizon—a romantic air balloon ride the following week.
"So YouTube video after YouTube video I learned how to forge and set precious stones," explains Jared. "I made so many different wax sculptures trying to figure out how to make the cast for the ring.
I melted the gold, and made a mold of the ring and then I poured the molten gold into the mold. And so after that it’s basic roughcasting, and you have to take these tiny jewelers’ tools and files and you start carving each and every single cradle where the diamonds will go."
Talk about determination, right?!
So after a week, the ring was ready and Jared finally proposed to Rachel in the basket of a hot air balloon with two of their friends in attendance.
"It was surreal—being thousands of feet in the air, having something life-changing happening and having to worry how the balloon’s going land, because apparently balloons are not like airplanes. It was a great way to do it. I wish we can get married that way—all fun and no stress," says Rachel.
And if you are wondering what their wedding would be like, so is Rachel, because she hasn't started planning it yet. "I have no idea. He set the bar pretty high with the engagement."
We second that.
Photos: Marla Keown Photography