FIELD NOTES blog » 5 steps to your perfect custom-design jewel

5 steps to your perfect custom-design jewel

So you’ve been looking for a very special ring but nothing you’ve seen is really grabbing you and screaming ‘I’m the one!’

Or perhaps you have just decided that you deserve that fabulous piece of jewellery you’ve been promising yourself for a while.

And yet, you’re feeling less than excited about all the prospects that have presented themselves as you’ve browsed shops and websites and galleries and anywhere else looking for that piece that will precisely express all the deliciousness and value that you really want to express about yourself.

It could be that you have inherited a pile of rings and things from your grandmother, and its just not quite your style. Or you snapped up gold when your saw it in antique and pawn shops because you love the idea of wearing it, but the designs are less than exciting.

Any of these symptoms are a sign that you need a bespoke jeweller who is going to transform your ideas, your intuition, even just the scent of what you’re wanting, into a piece of jewelry that is perfect just for you, totally unique and it just ‘feels’ right.

But imaybe you’re wondering just how you go about finding someone who can translate your idea, your inkling, maybe even your Frank-Gehry-style-sketches-on-a-serviette into a divine jewel that you feel is “you”.

So how to find the right jeweller? And how to communicate this vision in your head into something tangible so that they can create it for you?

You see, while I make jewellery, I’m not saying that I’m the one for you. That’s up to your intuition.

But I’ve got some suggestions about how you can be sure you get what you want, when you find the ‘one’.

1. Get clear for yourself on the outcome you really want.

I don’t mean that you need a design sketch or a photo of what it should look like. Maybe it’s about the way you feel when you wear it. Or the impact you want to have when others see it. Maybe it’s a metaphor: “like a galaxy of stars”, or “a renaissance princess ring”.

If you are thinking: “I don’t know what I want but I will know it when I see it” you will greatly increase your chances of getting the result you’re after if you can clarify some things for yourself first.

Some questions to help you brainstorm:
How do you want to feel when you wear this piece of jewellery?
“Special”, “powerful”, “loved” are useful descriptions, but try to get inside these sensations as well: what exactly will make you feel that way? Your bespoke jeweller may not ask you these questions but if you work through these yourself you can clarify some things before you even start to look for a jeweller.

If you say ‘I want to feel sexy and sensual when I wear it’, how does that translate for you? For one person ‘sexy’ is burlesque glamour, while for another it can be a particular texture or form. Perhaps red is your favourite colour and when you wear it you feel powerful. Or maybe you will feel the love between you and your sweetheart if you have have matching bands, or have the ring engraved with symbols that are deeply meaningful to you.

What materials appeal to you?
Do you want diamonds for your engagement ring, or something different? Are you interested in the properties of different kinds of gemstones? Do you want precious materials? Or perhaps you love the idea of something made from wood, or from steel.

What about colours, textures, shapes? Start to collect imagery. These might be imagery of existing jewels – you like a bit of this one, or a bit of that one. Or perhaps something more abstract – a photograph, a piece of fabric, a pattern.

Are there particular symbols or visions which you’d like to incorporate?
One of my clients requested a ring where the stones were set in the pattern of a particular constellation of stars that held real significance for her and her husband-to-be.

Collect visual information, of jewellery, or anything else that relates to what you want. This way, when you meet with the jeweller you’ll immediately give them a sense of where you’re wanting to go.

2. Find a jeweller that fits your vision.

Got some clarity? Its time to find a jeweller. Even if you don’t feel your vision is really clear, recognise that you’ve set your intention in motion by teasing some definites out from daydreams. This will greatly help any jeweller who is going to translate these ideas into a piece of jewelry.

Do your research.
Try word of mouth – like someone’s jewellery? Ask where they got it.

Spend a bit of time googling jewellery websites until you find the jewellery that sings to you.

Visit jewellery galleries and single out the pieces that appeal. The gallery can tell you if the jeweller will custom-make pieces to order, and may even organise this process.

Or just collect names everywhere you go, then head for the internet and research what the person does, what people are saying about them, etc.

Be endlessly curious until you find someone whose aesthetic and skills feel like a good fit.

A word of caution: DO make sure the person has experience with custom-design work.

Look for a jeweller who has a portfolio that already appeals to you – or a track record (again here’s where personal testimonials help).

3. Don’t ask your bespoke jeweller to copy something.

I can tell you from experience that “Tiffany’s without the price tag” is an awful brief! Do you really want a cheap imitation?

However, you can offer references to a bespoke jeweller: “something like this” or “a bit of this ring, and a bit of that ring” to give them some starting points.

Working from reference points helps, but when you’ve done you’re homework, and allow the jeweler space for their own imagination you’re on the path to something unique.

4. Get clear on the process your bespoke jeweller uses to translate your ideas into reality.

Expect more than one consultation where he or she will ask lots of questions, show you examples of their skills, discuss their techniques and the design ideas. If you come to them with some clarity (see point no 1) that increases the chance of you getting a jewel that’s perfect for you.

Expect to see design drawings, and perhaps a model of the work in progress. ,
Or a jeweller may use other techniques to communicate to you a clear idea of how the finished piece will look.

If you’re not sure ask for more clarification.
Don’t go forward with the piece until you feel confident that you’ll be very happy with the end result.

Most importantly, if you’re feeling any doubts about the design, how willing is the jeweller to keep working through the issues with you?
You need to feel confident about the outcome. If not, perhaps the 2 of you aren’t a good fit, and its best to know that before you progress further.

5. Get clear on the contractual details – even if there is no formal written contract.

Each jeweller has a different approach, and depending on how complex the piece is you may get an initial quote or ‘ballpark’. This will be close to the final price with a few provisos: eg: market fluctuations with metal prices, a given number of design consultations before arriving at the final design, etc.

Or save yourself the worry and tell them your budget upfront.

If in doubt, like the design, first rule is to ask for clarification.
After the design elements are finalised and before the production starts you should be told the final price.

Check the jeweller’s guarantee and after care.
Is your satisfaction guaranteed? If you’re not happy with the outcome, what’s your recourse?
Will the jeweller work with you until you are satisfied?
Be aware that once you’ve given your consent on viewing final drawings, you may be committed to the pay the balance.

Once you have the jewel – do you know how to look after it properly?
Have you been given care instructions for the lifetime of the piece? Can you bring it back to the jeweller to have it checked and cleaned?

A custom-design jewel can be a significant investment, but the experience should be exciting not scary.

If you follow these tips you can be pretty confident you’ll get what you really want.

And if you have any tips to share from custom-design experiences I’d love to know – leave me a comment.

Interested in my custom-design process? Find out more on the custom design page.

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