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Thursday, August 20, 2009

Custom Work II

The follow up to the last posting on custom jewelry design is what should you, as a customer, expect from the jeweler. True custom work can be a tricky business. Often a customer will think they are explaining themselves clearly about what they would like to see in a design but the jeweler is hearing something entirely different. Individual jewelers will also put more, or less, of themselves into the process impacting what the final result is. Sometimes the customer, not being a designer themselves, will have absolutely no clear way to describe what they want and this leaves a lot up to the interpretation of the jeweler.

Personally I want my customers to be happy with the final result. I want this for a couple of reasons. The first is that it is just in my nature. The second is that if the customer isn't happy with the piece then they won't wear it. If they don't wear it, no one else sees it and no one can ask them where they got it. It doesn't do anyone any good if a beautiful piece of jewelry ends up stashed in a drawer somewhere gathering dust. I'm not a big believer in owning something you'll get absolutely no use from.

As a customer you should find out FIRST what the jeweler's policy is on custom work. Will they redo the job if you don't like it? Do they show you drawings, models, computer renderings, etc. first? What will happen if they can't make a piece you're happy with? Personally I'm not a sketch artist so I don't do drawings. But I do show the customer a model of the piece in metal (usually, although sometimes it will be in a wax) so they can see what the final result will look like. I find this works better than any other method because the customer can actually try on the piece and see how it appears on their finger. Sometimes drawings or computer renderings of rings don't accurately reflect how it's going to look on YOUR finger. Ultimately, it's going to be on your hand, not on a flat piece of paper. I also offer to make up to three models without an additional charge. Over this I may add extra charges, but usually this is only if the customer has changed directions entirely and it isn't just some minor modifications of the design.

You should also ask around, or check some of the places where reviews are written (Yelp, etc.) to see if anyone has had any experiences with the jeweler you've chosen. While it isn't possible to make every single customer happy, the majority of what you hear should be on the positive side. This however is no guarantee that your taste will coincide with the taste of the jeweler, or the other reviewers. (Try reading restaurant reviews on line sometime for a few places you've been to and liked. Some people will love the food, some will hate it, and some will think it's mediocre. Everyone has different tastes.) If you don't like the way the work in the shop looks, you could probably assume that you aren't going to get something made that you're happy with. You also want to watch for these things when working with a jeweler: Are they actually listening to what you are saying? Do you feel comfortable with the jeweler? Do you feel confident in their abilities? Are they looking at the practical nature of what you want (i.e. do they warn you when the design you want will be too fragile, or the stone you want might be damaged in the way you want to wear it)? If you answer no to any of these questions, then I would always recommend you look elsewhere. A jeweler who might be a great match with one person might not be with another.
The picture at the top of the posting is a custom piece for a regular customer for whom the three aquamarines held some significance. If my memory serves me right there was also supposed to be a certain number of wires on the piece to represent something else. She knew that she wanted something with the three stones, the particular number of wires, and an irregular shape, but she wanted me to do something that was consistent with my usual look.
The two pictures posted in the middle and bottom of this post were of an aquamarine and diamond engagement ring. In this case the customer knew he wanted an antique looking ring and the general idea was pulled from pictures of antique rings. The specific lines were worked out by me and a computer design program was used in conjunction with this.

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