Help me engage a jeweler!
February 21, 2012 10:21 AM   Subscribe

What should I know about working with a custom jeweler? Dos and Don'ts.

I have a pretty good idea of what sort of ring I would like to have made for my soon-to-be-fiancee, and I believe I would like to work with a local jeweler in my area to design it.

What do I need to know? I have a budget in mind, and a couple of designs I've seen on various websites that I like, but would like to personalize a bit.

Never had a custom piece made, and would appreciate any advice any of you can give me. Thanks!
posted by Thistledown to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (6 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: We had out wedding rings made by a custom jeweller, and it sounds like you have a lot of the major questions sorted. Ours wanted to know what kind of metal, what kind of stones, what kind of design, what kind of price range. If you have an idea of what you want, but want to make tweaks, then the more specific you can be about what those tweaks are, the better it will be for the jeweller.

Given all that information, the jeweller will go and sketch out some options for you to choose from. He/she may suggest some approaches you hadn't originally considered, but that might fit your criteria. Once you've chosen a design, he/she will get a ring size from you and go to work making a wax mold. Once you've vetted the wax version, the final version will be made.

Given how involved the process is, though, have you spoken to your fiancee about this? You know that jewellers will often provide a "loaner" ring with which you can propose, and then craft the final ring afterwards?
posted by LN at 10:34 AM on February 21, 2012

Best answer: My husband hired a custom jeweler for my engagement ring, and although they both put a lot of work into figuring out what I would like, I ended up going with a completely different design from the initial sketches. I suggest proposing with a throwaway ring and getting your fiancee involved in the design process from the get-go. Surprises are nice, but getting something that's exactly what you want is even better.

Also, be as specific as you can: it'll be tempting to say things like "oh, you know, timeless but a little funky," which isn't actually descriptive. Don't be afraid to include photos (of anything, not just jewelry) or your own sketches. The more sources of inspiration, and the more specific the sources, the better. Some jewelers will have questionnaires to help with the process, asking about the recipient's personal style, favorite artists, or any colors/symbols she finds especially meaningful. It's better to give too much information up front than to give too little and go through several extra rounds of revisions.
posted by Metroid Baby at 10:57 AM on February 21, 2012

Best answer: I also recommend letting your fiancee be involved in the design. Propose with a loaner ring, or a candy ring, or a sketch of an idea of a ring you have, or whatever.

As I mentioned before on askme, I had earrings I hated reworked into a necklace I adore by local jewelers; my mother had the same jewelers turn some rings with missing stones into lovely earrings.

The absolute most important step I took: find a jeweler whose non-custom work was stuff I thought was beautiful and to my taste. (I own several other pieces of theirs, as does my mother. And my grandmother.) This starts you out correctly. Obviously I don't want to own every piece the jeweler makes (a husband and wife team), but I did love many of them. So I started out confident that they would make me something that I liked.

When we met to discuss what I wanted, I could show them pieces I especially liked of theirs, and they came back with emailed designs. It took a few tries for my mother, but one of the first batch was great for me.

So, in short:

- find a jeweler who does regular work your fiancee likes;
- point out from that work what aspects you do and don't like;
- mention other specifics -- what metal, what stone (if any), price range;
- show other ideas.

I'm reasonably artistic but I am not a jeweler, and so any ideas I might have had would have paled next to the lovely work they provided. Don't get too attached to your design ideas.
posted by jeather at 11:20 AM on February 21, 2012 [1 favorite]

All of what people said above was true for me as well. I'm not artistic and don't have a lot of visual language, but I know what I like. I worked with the designer, including pointing out pictures in books she had of Art Nouveau styles, photos of other pieces her shop had produced, and printouts of images I had googled, and told her what I liked and what I didn't like. I would use phrases like "spirally" and "that asymmetrical sine-wave thingy" and we worked together until she understood what I meant. Of course, we went through several drafts of sketches, again with me pointing out what I liked and wanted more of and what I wanted less of. In my opinion, it was very similar to the process of working with a tattoo artist.
posted by matildaben at 1:52 PM on February 21, 2012

Response by poster: Great advice, all.

We've got a fairly specific idea of what we want, really - it's down to basically an amalgam of two designs, incorporating elements of each.

How do jewelers charge for this? Is it based on the number of hours they spend with you on pre-design, or is it just the cost of making the ring (time and materials.)

The reason I ask is because I have seen WILDLY varying price ranges for stuff which incorporates mostly the same materials, for example.
posted by Thistledown at 2:33 PM on February 21, 2012

The pricing is always going to be unique to the jeweller, and based partly on hours and on the cost of materials. For example, a big diamond is going to cost you more than getting pave work (tiny diamonds in a pattern).

But I will say this - if you're comparing a retail jeweller like Mappins or something with an individual "bespoke" jeweller, yes, you are going to see those kinds of wild fluctuations in price. When bonehead and I got our rings done, we were actually surprised by how little the final rings cost us compared to what the retail stores wanted for similar items.

Ultimately, find a jeweller whose work you like, and set your budget limit with that person. He or she will work with you to get you what you want.
posted by LN at 6:39 AM on February 22, 2012

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