Choosing a Custom Jewelry Designer

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How do you go about having custom design jewelry made?

First and foremost, find a jeweler you trust. Ask your friends, people whose jewelry you admire. Find a designer who has a good reputation in your community, and has been around a long time. That’s just good business.

After trust comes communication. Can you easily talk to this person? Is he or she listening to you? Does she have a portfolio of past work to show you? Start by sharing your wants and desires, your lifestyle. Let the designer guide you to good choices. It’s your jewelry – will you be involved in the process of drawings, wax models, stone selection?

Just as important, though, is someone who wants to understand your personal aesthetic and tastes, and takes the time to explore them. That’s where someone who has earned design awards truly shines, because that’s where their creative abilities join with your desires.

Share your budget and completion date with the jeweler early in the design process so there are no surprises. Gemstone budgets are harder to pin down, but set a maximum that you are comfortable paying; a good designer can search the world, literally, for multiple choices to fit your checkbook. Be realistic, don’t waste your time (or the designer’s) searching for stones you can’t afford.

After carefully learning about your lifestyle and aesthetic, your jeweler will provide a selection of gemstones for you to examine, make sketches of potential designs and will make a wax model for you. Just a hint: always insist on a wax model, especially for a ring, because if you can’t try on a wax model you won’t know how the ring will look, and whether it will be comfortable on your finger. Your jeweler should be willing to modify the wax model to suit your unique needs.

Once the wax model is completed to your liking, it’s time to re-confirm prices and completion dates based on your final choices. After all, your jeweler should deliver a product that you will love, on time and on budget!

Goldsmith on staff? Often, that means settling for one set of skills, a single style or limited abilities whether they are right for your project or not. A good designer has a stable of goldsmiths (sometimes near, sometimes far) with carefully-honed, often specialized experience, equipment and capabilities. The designer can choose the right smith for your project, not whoever is available. Her job is ensuring excellence for your project, not keeping an employee busy.

Yes, it’s a lot to think about, but it’s your personality, your lifestyle, perhaps even inherited gems… so shop carefully for your jewelry designer before you shop for your jewelry!

Karen Bandy Studio, Original Jewelry and Paintings, 25 NW Minnesota Ave., Suite 5, Bend. 541-388-0155, karen@karenbandy.com, www.karenbandy.com.

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