How to find and work with a jeweler who does custom (re)work
March 18, 2023 6:56 AM   Subscribe

When my partner and I decided to marry several years ago, I ordered silver wire and solder and made us a pair of rings. They're not high art, or traditional, but she loves that I made them for us. Last week, hers' broke, I think due to incorrect sizing and fiddling leading to work-hardening. We'd like to take this opportunity to find a jeweler who can integrate the theme/original material into new rings with better craft.

I'm not really sure what we're looking for, but we know we want them to incorporate the original silver in some hopefully-recognizable way. Whatever we come up with should be resizable in the future, which I think rules out resin, but otherwise we're flexible. Neither of us is particularly focused on high-monetary-value materials, so this doesn't have to be gold/platinum, but we also don't have allergies so it could be.

We're in San Jose, CA, and local recommendations would be helpful, as would general tips about how to approach identifying and working with a craftsperson on something like this if you've done this before.
posted by Alterscape to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (4 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Local independent jewelers do custom and sizing work all the time. And they typically have roots in the local artisan community. I might google jewelers and start making phone calls and asking questions.
posted by Horkus at 10:41 AM on March 18

The 14 Karats in Berkeley does beautiful custom work. Whatever you do, try to talk to someone in person. I had a disastrous experience with an accomplished and highly-rated custom jeweler online because it was just too hard to communicate about designs via email.

When I was getting a custom ring made, I found a truly extraordinary jeweler almost by accident in a local jewelry mart. San Francisco seems to have something similar at the San Francisco Gift and Jewelry Center. Walk around and see if there are any jewelers whose work you like and ask if they do custom work or if they know someone who does, and don't be discouraged if the initial vibe of the place feels like it's "shopping mall jewelry store"--there are lots of small businesses that rent showrooms in jewelry marts to avoid the hassle of dealing with a storefront.
posted by corey flood at 10:51 AM on March 18 [1 favorite]

Vardys in Cupertino might be exactly what you are looking for - a local jeweler with a good reputation.
posted by metahawk at 12:28 PM on March 18

As a designer and bench jeweler with 35 years experience I have a few thoughts.
Don't go into the initial meeting with no ideas what you want. I would suggest browsing ring designs on the internet and printing out ideas that you like. There's lots of sites available. This is assuming you want a new design, and not a duplicate of the ring you designed. If you do want an exact replica of the original, the jeweler would be able to solder it back into it's original shape...I'm pretty sure. From there the jeweler could make a latex mold of the ring and use that to cast a wax replica. The wax replica would be used in the lost wax casting method to cast the ring in a metal of your, platinum,silver, etc.
But, if you are going for a totally new design, do bring some ideas with you. Maybe a quick sketch by you would be helpful too. You don't have to worry about it being not too artistic. Also, ask to see a wax model or casting in inexpensive silver of the ring so you can approve or make changes before he does the casting in gold or platinum, if that is what you are going for. Nothing worse than going to pick up your ring and seeing that it wasn't what you imagined. You and your wife will be disappointed, and so will the jeweler. Good luck and let us know how it went...
posted by Czjewel at 5:27 PM on March 18 [3 favorites]

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