About Us

About Us

If you want to learn more about us, you’re in the right place. Read to learn how we grew from a small etsy start-up to become the leading wooden ring  jeweler in North America.

7 Years

We made our first ring in 2012 on our dining room table. We now have a large workshop with 3+ full-time employees

6900+ Rings

We've made over 6900 bentwood rings. With every ring being custom crafted by hand, that adds up to a lot of hand-crafting experience

48 Countries

Our wooden rings have shipped all over the world to happy customers. There are Northwood Rings being worn in 48 different countries

Our story

In early 2012, tired of not wearing a wedding ring and still stinging from an ill-received comment a friend made about not getting an engagement ring, I waited anxiously for Allan to wake up after working his night shift. I’d found our solution – wooden rings! On a small budget and with an allergy to my white gold wedding band, finding an alternative wedding ring I could wear that felt like ‘me’ had been a hard task. We’d been married for two years and I hadn’t worn my ring since our wedding day. Discovering wooden rings felt like striking gold for me. Nothing had ever felt so perfect, not even our first choice in rings.

I had grown up on my grandparents farm, lovingly called ‘Lot of Oaks’ and a ring made from oak seemed like the most romantic and perfect option – not just a stand-in or a replacement for my one-day-only wedding ring, but the ring I had been meant to have. Allan understood immediately, and he’d rarely seen me so excited by a discovery. Not only did he want wooden rings too, he wanted to make them for us, so he set out to do just that. Now, in 2019, we have three full-time employees, a large shop, and we’re making wooden rings for people around the world and we couldn’t be more in love with what we do.  

A Timeline of Events: the full story of northwood's success

An account of the years and milestones by Laurel Hill

There is no such thing as an overnight success – Tory Burch

October 2009
March 2012
April 2012
June 2012
July 2012
August 2012
October 2012
2013
Winter 2013/2014
2014
Early 2015
December 2015
2016
October 2016
2017
Late 2017
May-July 2018
August 2018
2019 and Beyond
the problem
Allan and I had been married less than 3 days, and I'd come to the horrifying discovery that the wedding ring I'd so looked forward to wearing wasn't going to be possible for me. I was allergic to nickel, and having never worn a ring before I had no idea. My ring came off, and without the budget to afford the alternatives I was told about (Platinum or Palladium), and not loving the look of titanium or stainless steel, I decided to go without until I found the right fit.
the discovery
I will never forget the moment I saw my first wooden ring. I was online looking at craft projects when I ran across the idea,and immediately I was in love. It took a lot for me to not run to Allan and wake him up. Rarely was I so excited. After three years of not having a wedding ring I'd found our solution. The one that felt just right. By the time he woke up I had picture after picture, instructions on how to make a wooden ring and a few perfect designs already drawn up.
the first ring
The first of many, many attempts. Our first rings were worn with pride, but looking back they were bulky, and not well wrapped. For us, they were magical. Not only did we finally have wedding rings, we'd made them ourselves. I would have been happy to wear that first one forever, but Allan had determined to make the best wooden ring he could, and soon we had wooden rings everywhere. Our dining room table was overtaken by woodworking.

the first sale
Hoping to get away from working midnight shifts and live our dreams, Allan and I had started a coffee shop in a weekend market with Allan's freshly roasted coffee. It was here, on a weekend in June, we were approached by our first customer. He did electrical work and had heard of our wooden rings and came by to see them. After examining my ring he asked if we'd be willing to make him one, too. We happily agreed and eagerly set to work designing and crafting a ring just for him.
the beginning of our dream
Our dining room table in our small apartment had been overtaken by a lathe, various sheets of sandpaper, lots of wood and more than a few rings in various stages of creation. We have a science lab in the kitchen where bentwood rings are soaking in different solutions to see how well they’d hold up. We had every finish for wood imaginable as we experimented with different types and styles of finishes. Our bedroom dresser had turned into a photo studio with moss and twigs and rocks and rings. Allan even had a small box with bits of sandpaper, files and small tools that he’d take with him to work so he could sit during his breaks and work on wooden rings. We had a plan to bring wooden rings to the world.

the etsy store and a big move
We launched our Etsy store and made our first sale within 24 hours. We were so excited to finally be on our way. Working nights, running a coffee shop and dedicating ourselves to our plan to make and sell wooden rings was too much. Allan and I decided to close down and sell our beloved Bean Cart so we could concentrate on our new passion. Allan also decides to go all-in, and quits his day-job. We look for cheaper rent and decide to move across the province to live on the North Shore of Lake Superior. We're 100% dedicated to our wooden rings now.
northwood gets a name and a first logo
Sitting on the shore of Lake Superior Allan and I work to create a name that will say everything we want to say about who we hope to become. In the end we choose 'Northwood Rings' (we make wooden rings and live in the north - we kept it simple. Naming a business is hard!).

We choose a weathervane for our logo. Always interested in craftsmanship and history we had recently watched a show on Victorian arts. Weathervanes were crafted by hand to be both beautiful and functional. They topped the highest point of a homestead and represented the owner. We felt they were a perfect metaphor for our rings.

getting down to business
With Allan having left his job behind and our Etsy store growing slowly, we needed to make a name for ourselves in Wooden Rings. We spent many afternoons, even in the middle of winter, sitting at the edge of Lake Superior and talking over our plans. It was here we decided that our biggest advantage was in customer service.

We decided to put service at the top of our priorities along with superior craftsmanship as the pillars of our work. We needed our customers to want to talk about us and share their experience, so we did our best to say yes to every request we could...even if that meant driving 2hrs each way to the nearest city to ship rings overnight via courier to meet a rush deadline. It paid off, and soon we saw our customer base grow as word-of-mouth spread.
the worst winter
At the end of 2013 we realized that, as much as we could love the North, it wasn't going to be our forever home. With Northwood growing we wanted to find a place in the world that we could call our own. We decided to follow one of my dreams and move to the ocean. We packed up our Honda Fit with two cats, our lathe, our espresso machine, and a few beloved possessions. Everything else was given away, sold, or donated. We owned only what could fit in our car.

We arrived to a winterized furnished cottage in the north of Nova Scotia before winter. It was small, and 70% of the space was dedicated to our business.

Snow came early, burying our wood supply before we had properly stacked it (it was a learning experience), and the roads became impassible for days at a time. We struggled to keep our spirits up as we survived the winter, but I got to work on building a website and creating new designs for our rings and Allan put his mind to improving his techniques. After a hard winter we entered spring of 2014 with a brand new website, lots of innovation, and a new outlook on Northwood.

We found an artistic community on the South Shore of Nova Scotia and moved once again.
our first employee, and second, and third...
Our move to the South Shore came just in time. With our new website and innovative designs our sales picked up and we quickly found ourselves in need of help. We rented out both halves of the split house we were living in and set up shop in the back apartment. By the end of 2014 we had three employees, two to make rings and one to help with emails, and we quickly added a new pillar to the foundation of Northwood Rings - a different type of employment

Having both worked for years in the service and retail industry Allan and I knew what bad employment looked like, and we were determined to do things differently.

learning, growing, and innovating
As Allan and I took on the new role as employers and not just creators, we had to learn a lot about what worked and what didn't. While we'd built our business on affordable prices for rings, we hadn't accounted for paying wages to employees so soon, and we had to negotiate a fine line - raising prices to afford our new expenses as we grew, and keeping our prices low enough to continue to compete with our competition and make our rings affordable for our customers.

2015 was off to a lean start for us as we put our customers and employees first. While we had built beautiful work tables and purchased new equipment for our back shop, our front apartment, where we lived, consisted of a couch, tv, and mattress on the floor. We were putting everything we had into the survival of Northwood and we took a big risk. We spent our savings on a laser engraver to provide something no one else could - laser engraved wooden rings.

a christmas tradition
Still unable to pay the employees the wages we wanted to provide, but getting closer, Allan and I decided they deserved a little something extra for the year of hard work they'd given us. We didn't want to throw the traditional Christmas dinner at a restaurant we'd received working in hotels. It had always been awkward to celebrate with the bosses and felt obligatory rather than recreational.

We came up with a plan to give them what we would have wanted - time away. A real break, without lost wages, and time with their families. From 2015 and onward we'd have the Northwood Christmas Break. The last day of shipping before Christmas would be filled with sweet treats and laughter while we finished up and put the shop to rest for a week, and then the employees would be off until the new year to spend their time doing whatever they really loved to do - visiting family, traveling, or just relaxing.
getting into the groove
After four years of rapid growth, moving across the country, and learning to be employers we were finally settling in to the groove of owning our own business. We moved the shop once again into it's own retail location, and purchased a 107 year old Captains Home for ourselves that required a good deal of renovations. We'd found our community and we were settling in.

2016 was spent working hard and continuing to innovate. A new laser entered our workshop allowing us to pinpoint weld the metal inlays in our rings. Craftsmanship was always on our minds and improving our rings to be long lasting and strong was at the forefront of every decision we made.

meeting our goal
One of the biggest highlights for Allan and I in running our business was the day in October of 2016 that we took each of our staff members aside and told them we were giving them a significant raise. Everyone would now be making what we had calculated to be a living wage (really living) for our community.

It has sometimes meant a smaller staff for us, and that we need to put in our own efforts to keep things on track during busy times, but we'd no longer hire if we couldn't afford a fair payment. We worked hard to reach the day when we could feel proud of our efforts as employers, and this was a day we celebrated.
business as usual
With huge growth throughout 2016, our 2017 year was spent making rings and keeping up with orders.

Our employees stayed with us and we grew as a business to be stable and create a workflow that fit everyone's needs. Flexible schedules were introduced along with really getting to know one another. 2017, while uneventful from a timeline sort of view, was a great year for Northwood Rings as we smoothed out our operations and really solidified our processes.

Toward the end of 2017 Allan and I began dreaming of what a new future for Northwood might look like. It was time to get back to innovating.
california
A new route had been plotted for Northwood Rings. Allan and I, although never traditionally trained in jewelry, had been steadily adding gold bands and inlays to the styles we created. We loved working with gold and melding the two materials together into one design.

With steady employees great at their craft we felt confident it was a good time for Allan to get an education in jewelry making. He headed off to California to study at a school of art and design to learn lost-wax-casting and basic jewelry skills that he hadn't already self-learned. He came home a goldsmith and we set up a new process for Northwood - gold casting.
back to school
With Allan's love for gold working quickly gaining speed, I realized I could stretch my designs only so far without help. I began taking an interest in Computer Aided Design and the ability of 3D printers to print complex jewelry. I found my own new passion in gold designs and decided to learn CAD jewelry design.

Through a great teacher in Toronto I quickly learned how to bring my ideas to life on a computer screen and Northwood Rings purchased a 3D Wax Printer to bring them into reality. I became a certified CAD Jewelry Designer, ready to design virtually anything for my customers.

out-growing our shop
In September of 2018 it became clear that our current shop wasn't going to serve us much longer. Our large one-room space that had served us for so long just couldn't accommodate the new needs of our gold production and sales. We began searching for a new home and found one two blocks from our actual home - an old bar, turned dance-studio: Northwood's new space. It was big, and open, and (honestly) quite ugly.

We had our work cut out for us to make it work and get it up and running before our Christmas rush. The space was there, along with a large bar and many, many mirrors that had been glued onto the walls. However, with some imagination, a few gallons of paint, and a lot of drywall, our space was transformed. It now boasts two offices, a reception, a jewelers bench room, a casting room, a staff break room, a laser room, a large open collaborative work space with table for six, and a dust room for all the dusty work that goes on with the lathes and woodworking. It's still in the process of becoming what it will be, but we imagine it will serve us for many years to come.

a record breaking start to 2019
January was a record breaking month for Northwood Rings. While traditionally our January's can be quite slow as we wait for summer wedding season to come back around, this year our customers never gave us a break (and we're thankful for that, really!).

We see it as evidence that our three pillars of success are still holding us strong above our competition. We're a business built on Craftsmanship, Service and Equality for all and we hope you'll experience the Northwood Difference for yourself.

We'll keep you updated on our growth as we go. For 2019 watch for updates as Allan takes on more jewelry courses and gemstone setting after he recovers from a shoulder replacement surgery he'll be having in March.

The People Behind the Brand

Allan Hill

Founder & Goldsmith

Since his first ring in 2012, Allan has found a passion for woodworking and goldsmithing and has improved his talents at every opportunity.

In 2015 he trained with an artisan woodworker to learn the art of the lathe to create beautifully finished wooden bowls from many different woods, improving his own woodworking experience and knowledge of how to handle exotic hardwoods. Allan traveled to California in 2017 to train at a jewelry school in the technique of lost-wax-casting and become a goldsmith, working with precious metals to create our luxury line of rings.

In 2019 Allan will be training with a jeweler in Toronto to further his skill of gem-setting and learn advanced techniques to offer our customers even more in the way of their custom designed jewelry.

Allan’s ability to bring together woodworking and goldsmithing has resulted in some of the most beautiful custom jewelry. His dedication to his art form and need to always compete with himself  only leads to better and better offerings from Northwood Rings.

Laurel Hill

Founder & Designer

Every element of design for Northwood likely has Laurel’s name on it. From the website, to the photographs, our packaging, and the rings themselves, Laurel has put her mark on them all. 

Ever since childhood Laurel has had a love for beautiful style and a natural talent towards design. In 2012 she taught herself the basics of web design in order to be able to customize a website for Northwood Rings that customers would find both attractive and easy to use. She purchased her first SLR camera in 2013 and spent hours taking and retaking the product photos to ensure customers would be able to clearly see the difference in a Northwood made ring. In 2015 Northwood added a laser engraver to their list of tools and Laurel put her hand to designing new and interesting styles like our Laurel Leaf and Floral Vine styles. 

Laurel became a certified CAD Jewelry Designer in 2018 and Northwood added a 3D wax printer to the workshop to bring those newly computer designed styles into reality. In 2019 Laurel has plans to contribute even more wonderful and one-of-a-kind designs to the Northwood collection as well as beginning a new line of jewelry under her own name.

Our Team Members

Kristina Veres

Artisan Ring Maker

Holly Snook

Customer Care Specialist

Emily Hastings

Artisan Ring Maker

Katy Dolson

Artisan Ring Maker (training)

Bailey Noland

Customer Care Specialist - Remote

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Ebony
Macassar Ebony - Southeast Asia: A beautiful dark red to black toned wood. Great with vibrant colours like turquoise or malachite.
English Oak
*We are currently using the lighter woods from our Macassar Ebony to achieve this color as Roasted English Oak that is workable for bentwood has become hard to find. Colors range from medium to dark brown and nearly black tones.
Grey Maple
Sugar Maple - Canada: We use the same maple as our regular maple listing, but achieve a beautiful greyed colour by soaking the wood in iron acetate to achieve a weathered silver look.
Santos Rosewood
South America (Brazil and Bolivia): Not a true rosewood, and the same wood as our Pau Ferro, we use the santos name to differentiate the more red tone of this wood from the yellow tones of our Pau Ferro.
Pau Ferro
South America (Brazil and Bolivia): The same as our Santos Rosewood (although not a true rosewood), we use the Pau Ferro name to differentiate the more yellow tone of this wood from the red tones of our Santos.
Purpleheart
Central and South America: Beautiful deep purple tones that range to nearly black, but show up brilliant in natural light.
American Elm
Eastern to Midwest United States: Tones range from a toasted caramel to light creamy white in the sapwood
Hawaiian Golden Koa
Hawaii: Vibrant golden tones ranging to reddish hues make this one of our customers most favorite wood choices.
American Black Walnut
Eastern United States: Walnut ranges from a pale brown to a deep chocolate brown and every shade between. Can have color casts of yellow, grey, purple or red.
Elm Burl
Western Europe: The grain in a burled tree is caused by some form of stress or injury to the tree, but creates a pattern that is beautiful to look at. Colors range from medium to dark brown with small figures of color patterns changing throughout.
Canadian Maple
Sugar Maple - Canada: Light and bright in color, our sugar maple comes from Canada and is a beautiful warm creamy white tone ranging to a light honey shade.

None of the woods we use are listed in the CITES appendices as being threatened or endangered. Macassar Ebony is listed on the IUCN Red List as being vulnerable due to a decline in it’s natural range. 

We source most of our woods from craftspeople and artisans with pieces too small for their own use. In this way we feel we can create beautiful rings without contributing to their decline.

Turquoise
Malachite
Lapis Lazuli
"Blue Mix"
Made from Turquoise, Lapis Lazuli and Malachite
Jet
Synthetic Coral
Coral Sand
Natural Sand
Mother of Pearl
Synthetic Opal