A Tutorial: What to Know Before Making a Custom Jewelry Request
This was originally written on CustomMade’s discussion board by maker Paul Michael Bierker, designer, goldsmith and technologist at Paul Michael Design in Pittsburgh, PA. Paul’s work and commentary has ben featured in Vogue, Fortune, People Magazine, InStyle, AJM, Professional Jeweler, Modern Jeweler, and National Jeweler Magazineas-well-as numerous international publications.
So you’ve decided you’d like to create a piece of custom jewelry. It may sound simple but there are many things you will need to know before you start.
The first question you want to ask yourself is, do I really know what I want? It’s important to be very clear on what you want before you begin the process. Once you’re clear on what you want, you can move on to the details of the making of your custom piece.
Let’s start with what kind of metal do you want to use? If it’s gold, do you want 10,14,18 or 22 karat? In white, yellow, pink or green colors? How about sterling silver, stainless steel, or cobalt chrome? Some metals like titanium , tungsten and niobium have very limited custom ability as they can only be hand worked from mill stock and not easily welded. Casting of these metals are usually reserved for major industrial activities and almost never used in custom work. It is possible for tungsten to be used in ring forms once baked under extreme pressure.
If you want a ring, what size or sizes will you need? A wider ring will need to be a bigger size than a narrow one. Two, three, and four finger rings are available as well. If you’re wanting something unique like that, make sure to get the sizes right for each finger and keep them in the right order.
If it’s a pendant you desire, how big, small, long, short will it be? It’s helpful to describe your ideas as a relative size, like the size of a nickel, quarter, or dinner plate. Using as much detail will help the artist visualize exactly what you see.
A bracelet is a different story, do you want a cuff, bangle or link? Bangles and cuffs measure your actual wrist. Decide what is most comfortable for you to wear when you write, bend and move. For link bracelets most people know if they wear a 6,7,8 or 9 inch. If you don’t know, consider trying one on and feel what’s comfortable then measure it. Most gals wear a 7 0r 8 while most gents are a 9 or 10.
Do you want gemstones? If yes, it’s best to describe them by species like “blue sapphire” or “pink tourmaline”. Do you want natural stones or created? Gemologically speaking, most people cannot tell the difference, so be sure you use a reputable maker. Synthetics cost up to 70% less than natural stones and you want to be sure you get what you pay for. It’s also important to understand the properties of the stones you like. Soft stones like emeralds and opals, when set in rings for example, will have a strong probability of breaking during the life of the piece. Diamonds, sapphires and rubies are the hardest and will wear well for a lifetime. (not indestructible but better than a softer stone). Having this knowledge in advance will enable you to make better decisions on which stone to use in a specific custom jewelry piece.
Finally, you need to ask yourself, what style do I like? Is there a particular design you’re drawn to? It’s never good practice to knock off another makers work (or a designer piece from a company with an expansive and active legal staff). Even thought the saying says, “imitation is the best form of flattery”, in this case, being unique will get you all the flattery you can handle with no exposure to legal problems. If you like a particular piece, it’s possible to make certain changes while maintaining the spirit of the original design.
Don’t just stand in a crowd, stand out with something unique.
As a professional creator and an advocate for U.S. manufacturing, I offer my expertise to buyers and makers alike. If I can help you, please reach out to me.
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