I had a young couple in the other day (why do I seem to start so many of my blogs this way) who were looking for wedding bands. Their wedding was about 6 weeks off. Seems like plenty of time to get a wedding band, right? But there was a little problem. It seems that they had seen some mokume gane bands made by a friend of mine, James Binnion, who also happens to be the foremost metallurgist in the United States and is probably the best mokume gane jeweler in the world right now. I believe they came in to see me because I do some mokume gane (see some here and here), but I only do a couple of bands and with a particular look that I like. I've never been one to get focused on only one style so I've never had the desire (or the time frame) to develop a lot of the other things that can be done with mokume gane if I had chosen that path. I like what I do with mokume at the moment and I view it as a part of my repertoire but I will be the first to tell you that there are a lot of other jewelers (James Binnion included) who do a whole lot of interesting stuff with it. There are also commercial gold suppliers who will provide you with billets of ready made mokume gane material that you can just carve up but that seemed to take all of the fun of making it out of it so I have never pursued that either.
Anyway, back to the couple. So they had their hearts set on bands by James BUT James' wife recently got hit by a car when she was in a crosswalk. His wife is a partner in his business and it meant that he was suddenly running way behind on production. He told the couple that it would be at least 10-12 weeks to get the bands they wanted. And that was after their wedding. So.......they could change the wedding date (well only if it was a very, very small minimalist wedding), wait until after they get married to get the rings (something that a lot of people just don't like to do---I mean you're getting married! You should have your wedding band! That you're going to have for the rest of your life! With the person you love!) or try to find a substitute. But I can assure you that once you have your heart set on something like this it's pretty hard to change and take a substitute instead. So I suggested to them that, since James wholesales his work around the country, that they call every one of his accounts and see if they could find the rings they wanted already made up. I'm not sure if that's what they did or not but it was the best I could offer them.
So why am I telling you all of this? Well it has to do with the reality of timing on a hand made product. Both James and I HAND MAKE our product. It does not come from China. It is not stamped out by machine. We cannot simply call up a supplier and say ship me two more of those. Now I know that most jewelers really want to try to make their customers happy. I know that I try to do the best I can with meeting people's schedules. However there is a point that is reached, with handmade products, where they simply cannot be produced any faster or meet some deadlines.
People often come in and ask me how long it will take to get bands or a custom order from me. Frankly the timing can vary tremendously depending on what they want. If it's something I can pull out of the case and size it's only a day or two. If it's a ring that I just need to swap a stone out of, it can also be only a day or two. If it's something that I cast and I have to get a casting made up and then finished it can be a few weeks or so. If it's a handbuilt piece it can run anywhere from a few weeks to a month and a half. If it's a custom piece that needs models made up first it can take up to two and a half months from start to finish. And when Iam as busy as I am now, working 7 days a week already, you can pretty much plan that all of those time frames will be longer, sometimes much longer. I have been unable to find a way to work 8 days a week so you just have to get in line.
So here's the deal. If you're getting married, and you want a hand made wedding band, it is the single most important part of the wedding planning (maybe next to the dress and reserving the space). You cannot wait until two weeks before the wedding and be assured of getting what you want. Sometimes you cannot wait until two months before the wedding either. You just can't tell what might have happened, how busy someone might be, etc. So don't leave it until the last minute! Or even the last month! You need to plan ahead!
You might be wondering by now what the picture at the top of the page has to do with this, or with jewelry for that matter. Pretty much nothing. But there were some new infrared space photos released by NASA recently and this was one of my favorites. Plus many of you know how comets, and their ilk, show up in many of my pieces so it is an inspiration for me!