Answering Your Custom Jewelry Design Questions
In this post I am going to address some of the most frequently asked questions I get from clients when working together to create the custom jewelry creation of their dreams. Hopefully, you will learn a bit and the process will be demystified and less intimidating.
The process of working with a designer like myself to create a custom piece of jewelry is very fun and exciting! I aim to keep my clients informed and happy every step of the way and make it as easy for them as possible, to watch their vision come to life.
#1) HOW MUCH DOES IT COST?
Here is how I usually proceed.
I would ask you first, what is your ideal budget you would like to stay within? Once I have that information from you, I can present you with various options to consider that will stay within your budget. For fine jewelry, custom commissions start at a minimum of $500. If you are using any of your own jewelry for a redesign (ie. Grandma’s diamond from her antique engagement ring), you can consider that at least the stones (which are usually the priciest component of a piece) are already covered since they’re yours.
When it comes to selecting stones, there are a few factors that affect the cost. You may have heard of the 4C's- cut, color, clarity, and carat. There are so many options available that we can be assured we will find exactly what we’re looking for to stay within budget.
Other factors to consider that can potentially affect total cost of a piece are metal karat (10k, 14k, or 18k) and weight. Karat refers to the percentage of pure gold in a piece vs. alloy metals. Since pure gold (24k) is too soft to be made into jewelry by itself (as well as costly), it is alloyed with other metals, namely copper, silver, and zinc to create gold in other karats. 14k for example, is 14 parts pure gold of 24 parts, with the remaining 10 parts being alloy metals. This translates to 58.5% pure gold by weight. So another thing to consider is as the karat goes up, price does as well (ie. 18k will always cost slightly more than 14k). The weight of a piece will also affect total cost, naturally as a heavier piece will require more metal. There are ways to design a piece to make it weigh less and stay within your desired budget. I can even calculate an estimate of how much your design will cost in different metals based on weight. Lastly, any design extras such as accent stones, engraving, etc. will contribute to the final cost.
#2) HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE?
Often, a client will come to me with a few ideas or images for inspiration for the piece they want to create. Or they may have absolutely no idea where to begin and would like some advice to help them get started, to which I reply, “My Pleasure”. I love getting to know my clients, and learning about their story, their partner and what they love about them and I embrace the challenge of encapsulating their personalities and love into their treasured piece of jewelry. We would spend some time getting to know each other and I would ask you questions that will help get the ball rolling towards creating your perfect piece for that special someone.
I love the process of working one on one with my clients to create the piece they will treasure for a lifetime to come and I want to get it just right. I am happy to offer various sketches and ideas until we decide on your dream design. Once, it’s agreed upon, I will come up with a final rendering for your approval before we move into production.
I go to great lengths to make sure we are sourcing just the right stone for your piece, and I will gladly send you multiple images and options for your approval. I have an ongoing commitment to creating ethical and sustainable jewelry, and I only source quality stones from ethical suppliers (certified conflict free, KPCS compliant).
Once we have decided on our final design, and I have the stones, production usually runs anywhere between 4-8 weeks. If you have a deadline, it’s a good idea to allow at minimum 6 weeks notice for me to ensure I can have your dream piece ready in time.
***NOTE-THE HOLIDAYS ARE AROUND THE CORNER! IF YOU’RE CONSIDERING A CUSTOM JEWELRY GIFT FOR THAT SPECIAL SOMEONE THIS YEAR, NOW IS A GREAT TIME TO LET ME KNOW HERE. MY CUT-OFF DATE TO ACCEPT ANY CUSTOM WORK FOR HOLIDAY DELIVERY IS NOVEMBER 9TH!***
#3) HOW IS IT MADE?
Depending on the nature of the design, I will either hand carve the piece in wax or design it in CAD before casting into the metal of your choice using the lost wax casting method. Here is a good infographic on the lost wax casting process. After casting, the piece will go to a finisher for a pre-polish, then setting, engravings (if desired), and a final polish. My manufacturing partners are local family-owned small businesses and independent craftsmen who have been doing this intricate work for many decades, often generations. They’re all paid a fair wage and I am glad to partner with and support other local small businesses through my work.
#4) CAN YOU USE MY GOLD?
Sometimes a client will bring me some of their own jewelry and want to repurpose the metal for their new piece. There are a couple ways to do this. For redesigns, I always offer a metal recycling service, where I will sell their metal to my refiner for recycling, and based on the current spot price of gold or silver, you will receive that amount in a metal credit towards your new custom piece. You can read more about gold market value HERE.
You may have some gold that holds sentimental value and you are curious if you can use that exact gold for your new design. Here is where it gets a little bit more complex. Depending on the design, there are a couple ways to go about repurposing your metal. If the design we are making is simple, such as a mens wedding band, or a bangle for example, it could easily be melted down, rolled into wire and transformed into your new piece. If our design is more complex, since I use the lost wax casting method to create my pieces, I will have to explain the process a bit more. When casting, extra metal (in the form of casting grain) is required in order to properly fill the tree and the sprue (think of it like a tree with branches, and the jewelry is a leaf that is attached at the end). You have to have enough metal to completely fill the tree, the sprue and reach the jewelry to fill it completely. So while it is possible to add your metal to the casting grain, it will be getting mixed in with some other metal as it makes it’s way down to the piece, if that makes sense. Due to the complexity of this scenario, I deal with it on a case by case basis.
#5) CAN YOU REDESIGN THIS?
Which pieces can safely be redesigned? For peace of mind for myself and the client, I recommend getting an appraisal for your jewelry that you want to have redesigned before we get started. During an appraisal you would be able to discover if the stone has any existing chips, cracks or other damage that could make resetting of the stone potentially harmful. Once, it’s deemed safe to proceed, I will gladly accept your stones to work with for your new custom piece. Note: some stones that do have chips or damage may be eligible to be creatively re-set in a way that disguises minor imperfections. I do have a redesign contract that I will ask you to read and agree to before we begin.
Did I miss any of your questions? Let me know in the comments. I am happy to help demystify the custom fine jewelry process for you and help make this special time as exciting, easy and informative as possible. To inquire about beginning your own bespoke jewelry commission fill out my contact form here.