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Handmade Weddings: Custom Rings from a Jeweler’s Perspective

Mar 24, 2008

by gurlygirl

Etsy.com handmade and vintage goods

Many Handmade Wedding Series readers want to break the mold with that very meaningful item — the ring. As a jeweler who has done many custom rings, Monique Leon aka gurlygirl brings her experience to the jewelry bench — er table — with this how-to for buyers. She also offers custom orders through her Alchemy.

Custom designing jewelry is exciting and challenging for the customer as well as the producer. Wedding or commitment jewelry is extra special because the piece will reside with the wearer for a lifetime. Bridal head pieces, tiaras, combs, groomsmen and bridesmaid’s gifts can also all be custom designed and created to coordinate with the vision of the client. Here are a few suggestions to help you collaborate with your designer.

RESEARCH:
A lot of times I’m approached by potential clients who desire a custom made item/rings and they really aren’t sure as to how to articulate their ideas to me. Seeing this, I ask them to do a little homework before we meet to discuss.

One thing I recommend is to try to find some pictures on the internet or in magazines, catalogs or library books, such as these Italian-style iron gates which were used to inspire the design of the ruby engagement ring pictured above. The more descriptive photos or adjectives they can provide, the easier it will be to come up with a sketch. Write down your ideas or keywords to help convey your vision.

Use words to describe what you like: “thin, wide, bold, matte finish, textured, shiny, smooth, sparkly, detailed, fancy, cheerful, swirly, infinity, harmony, geometric, ancient, floral…” You can also choose time periods to better explain styles you like: "Art Nouveau, Art Deco, Celtic, Victorian, Modern, Egyptian, Retro, etc."

One customer decided on a theme of the beach as inspiration, sea foam and bubbles…The diamonds being the bubbles, and the form of the ring would represent the water/waves washing ashore. The stones were chosen and the drawings worked around the combination of different sizes diamonds.

DESIGN:
Your designer will create a composite drawing of the elements you have shown or described to them. When most people approach a designer, they know his or her capabilities but ask to see his/her portfolio anyways. You can get a greater sense of what your designer has done in the past and you can use that guide them towards your custom piece. For me, this is one of the most fun parts of the process: I love to help the customer to see what is possible as a result of our collaboration.

BUDGET:
Pricing depends on the difficulty of design, the materials used and the production schedule. As a customer, discuss your budget with the artist so they will be able to design and produce a piece within your parameters. If you are doing an Alchemy request, check out other rings to get a ball-park range of prices.  Most sellers will bid on your request based on a fair price. 

A deposit is often required for custom pieces. Market price/cost of materials needs to be considered when a designer gives you a quote. “Market price" refers to the current cost of metal or precious stones, and these prices fluctuate up and down like gasoline prices. Your designer can offer options to scale down your design if the materials are too costly, such as using fewer or different grade or kind stones or a less expensive metal, while still maintaining the integrity of your design.

Traditionally, wedding jewelry has been made more or less of gold or platinum. But today there are so many more options: silver, titanium, steel. These lesser costly metals offer a break from the high prices of gold and the even higher price for platinum.

The same may be said for the use of stones in jewelry. Diamonds alone are no longer the norm. Customers are choosing colorful gem stones of all kinds (precious and semi-precious) for their wedding sets. These additional choices tend to allow the customer to feel they are personalizing their jewelry, not just merely "downgrading" because of price.

If you are in a hurry, expect your order to cost a bit more. Custom work demands extra attention, and if an artist needs to rush-order supplies for your design or must rush-ship your completed order, then they must pass these costs along to you. Planning as far in advance is best, to allow for the design process (back and forth between client and designer), production and shipping.

PRODUCTION:

Your designer can explain their production process, as each design has its own way of coming to life, depending on the techniques required. Some pieces will be carved from wax (as shown in the blue pieces here) for the original model to then be cast into metal. Others begin straight within the metal, working it into shape by hammering and soldering, drilling, stamping, grinding, etc. All pieces are then finished in a variety of ways: polishing/burnishing, patina, setting of stones or plating. This is my favorite time, getting into the meat of the project, building it. I love planning out how I’m going to execute the design and taking it all the way to the finished piece.

For this lion bracelet, the customer provided this image he drew himself. Each of the two sides were slightly different to reflect ‘the male and the female.’ The raw blue form is the beginnings of the wax carving. Then we see the carved blue wax for the mold.

This was a collaborative process from start to finish!

Collaboration is an organic process, a transformation of ideas and materials into a unique new object. With the proper research and communication between client and designer, your custom jewelry can become something even better then you had ever imagined!


Please comment below with questions.  If you’ve had a ring custom made by an Etsy seller, comment below or convo Vanessa. For more rings, see TeenAngster’s picks in Spotlight!

Wedding Gift Guide | Wedding Category | Wedding Showcase | Handmade Wedding Series

Titanium Tension Set Ring Band with Oval Red Brown Garnet and Diamonds
Titanium Tension Set Ring Band with Oval Red Brown Garnet and Diamonds
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Daisy flower bouquet ring sterling
Daisy flower bouquet ring sterling
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14k gold smoky quartz mans ring
14k gold smoky quartz mans ring
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Kingdom, Ethnic sterling silver and rose gold ring inlaid turquoise quartz.
Kingdom, Ethnic sterling silver and rose gold ring inlaid turquoise quartz.
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Custom Made Wedding Bands
Custom Made Wedding Bands
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Modern Square Sterling Ring - Size 6
Modern Square Sterling Ring - Size 6
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SALE Reg 110.00  Cushion Cut Smoky Quartz and Sterling Silver Ring
SALE Reg 110.00 Cushion Cut Smoky Quartz and Sterling Silver Ring
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21 comments

  • JustAnotherDay

    JustAnotherDay said 9 years ago

    AWESOME article! I am having my wedding band created by a craftsman that my dad use to work with. He does beautiful work! It is definitely more special knowing that a ring was handcrafted from your vision and custom for you! gurlygirl- your wedding tiara in your shop is to die for! love it!

  • DesignsByBari

    DesignsByBari said 9 years ago

    great article! I love to see how a ring can be inspired by just about anything...like those beautiful gates! I just completed a custom request for 5 bridesmaid rings...it feels so good knowing that I am going to be part of the brides special day!

  • kjoo

    kjoo said 9 years ago

    great choices, it is incredible that such a small object can have the most different shapes and materials... great article and choices*

  • Vanessa Admin

    Vanessa said 9 years ago

    DesignsByBari Can you convo me links to the rings? maybe we can feature em in this series!

  • stilettoheights

    stilettoheights said 9 years ago

    I am having my bands made by Chuck from DownToTheWireDesigns, I am so excited!!

  • Vanessa Admin

    Vanessa said 9 years ago

    I met Chuck briefly when he visited the Labs. He is so nice! Send me photos of the rings, stilettoheights!

  • mylolastar

    mylolastar said 9 years ago

    Nice choices...very talented artists.

  • f2images

    f2images said 9 years ago

    What a variety! And great breakdown from concept to completion. The daisy flower bouquet ring is sooo sweet!

  • ktaylorartist

    ktaylorartist said 9 years ago

    I love this and it makes me feel even better about my wedding ring! I've always disliked the usual plain band and diamonds, and seeing rings such as these make me so happy I'm not alone!

  • hans1247

    hans1247 said 9 years ago

    This is a nice posting. My husband and I had our rings custom designed and we loved the process. We did all the things listed above, including maybe too many inspiration pictures! We love that we contributed to the process of our rings too. It was special.

  • juniperberry

    juniperberry said 9 years ago

    My husband and I also had our rings custom designed by a local jeweler. It was a great experience to be so personally involved in the process. My ring is so unique (I chose to have a single engagement/wedding ring)...many people ask if it's an heirloom!

  • stilettoheights

    stilettoheights said 9 years ago

    Vanessa I will as soon as I see them!!! I am so excited.

  • RaeGun

    RaeGun said 9 years ago

    Wow these tips were really helpful (sometimes it's so hard to describe what you want) and it was neat to see the process from the other side.

  • beckarahn

    beckarahn said 9 years ago

    I had this sea urchin ring by honeybee: http://www.etsy.com/view_listing.php?listing_id=9865776 custom made for my husband. Although this is one of her regular designs (and not a design for me), it is amazingly special because I know she made that ring just for me. It is so perfect and it makes me smile every time he wears it.

  • mosey

    mosey said 9 years ago

    soooooo many beautiful rings. i just love the idea of handmade wedding bands. there seems to me nothing more special! esp. something you will be wearing for a long long while. it should be just right. made just for you. great article. xo

  • artisanimpact

    artisanimpact said 9 years ago

    Great article. charming rings on the list! we already did many engagement rings and wedding bands to etsy buyers. it is always a pleasure.

  • BloomStudios

    BloomStudios said 9 years ago

    This is a wonderful article! I am seeing that so many people really are looking for something special; a piece that is as unique as the person it is being created for. I truly enjoy being apart of this process and contributing in some small way to a special time in their life.

  • mykonos

    mykonos said 9 years ago

    The rings are beautiful!!

  • maidstonejewelry

    maidstonejewelry said 8 years ago

    Nice piece - custom is definitely the way to go for wedding rings. Since March 08 when this was posted, others have joined the etsy club, including our shop also featuring custom wedding rings!

  • SiamOriental

    SiamOriental said 7 years ago

    Nice jeweley

  • PoPkO

    PoPkO said 6 years ago

    I love this article Monique, its a great place to send people for more info. Going to post it on my facebook this week!

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