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Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Restoring Antiques and More on Custom Work

Back in early November a customer of mine brought in half of an antique pin.  She had lost the male part of the pin (the piece with the pin stem on it) but still had the female piece.  She wanted me to make up the piece that was missing based on the existing piece and a picture of the original pin.  Fortunately she had good records and had taken a picture for insurance purposes so I not only had the original half but a good shot of what I needed to replicate.  The piece was from the late 1800's and in those days everything was hand built so it was kind of right up my alley.  However there were a number of issues.  The first is that coral is not actively being taken out of the ocean anymore so I needed to find a piece that was both approximately the same color and large enough to carve a duplicate from.  Fortunately I know a lot of people in the industry and I was able to get a referral to one of the few people left in the United States who might actually have something.  Nothing is easy in this business though so even though I was able to make contact with him quickly and he was fairly sure he had something that would work he was on his way overseas on a business trip.  After a couple of weeks I was able to get the piece out to him and he was able to come up with a piece that turned out to be an excellent match.  Then of course I had to get it carved and I'm not a gem carver so I brought it to a jeweler friend of mine to work on. By this time it was December and he and I were both in the middle of our busy season so needless to say I didn't see a finished carving for quite awhile.  Once I got it back I then had to rebuild the structure that actually held the whole thing together.  It proved to be an interesting challenge because while it might look somewhat straightforward it was anything but. It was white gold on the top and yellow gold on the back so it had to be completely hand assembled.  Every time I would put another section together it would look wrong and I'd have to go study the piece under the microscope again to figure out what I was missing and, sure enough, there was always some little thing they had done that wasn't immediately apparent. However I got through it and finished it up.  I don't think anyone could have made a piece any closer to the original than I did as you can see from the pictures. This is a great example of the type of custom work (or restoration work) that I can do, which leads me to the second half of this article. 

My Favorite Engagement Ring
I've been getting a lot of gents in lately asking for custom engagement rings.  I've talked about custom work before in a number of other blog articles but I'd like to go over a few things again.  I have a lot of people coming in with pictures on their phones of pieces that their significant others have posted on their Pinterest page or something similar.  A good deal of the pictures look nothing at all like what I normally make up.  Mind you, this isn't always a problem as my skills (see the first half of this article) are pretty broad.  However if someone is looking at a specific, unique design and that is exactly what they want I will not make it up for two reasons.  The first is that there are copyright issues involved and I will not break copyright.  Whether or not a copyright sign is attached to a picture, unique designs are given copyright the moment they are created.  That's the law.  No one should be copying my designs and I'm not going to copy theirs.  The second reason is that even if I make up something similar to the picture it will never be exactly the same (actually I can't legally make it exactly the same) and it will not be what the picture is.  If someone wants a specific design then you should go to the company that makes that design and buy it from them.  Additionally you should consider that I will always be more expensive because I'm starting from scratch and the company who made the thing probably has a mold already made up for it. 

Now if you are bringing me in a series of photos to show me the general style that she likes, I'm happy to look into making up something with a similar feel.  But it's not going to be the same and, again, since I'm starting from scratch it's going to be more expensive than most of the existing designs.  But you should also remember that while every piece I make up is going to adhere to the same exacting, high quality standard that I insist upon, pieces that are similar to what I already make are going to be more personalized than something that looks a whole lot like a commercially made piece out there.  So if you haven't shown your significant other my website and blog, think about doing that to see if there is anything I do that she might love.  If she's fixated on a halo ring, unless you want some unusual gemstone (like a magnificent purple sapphire---or yes that great alexandrite), I'm probably not the best place to start.