If you are in the market for a unique piece of jewelry, having a ring made to your specifications is a great solution. You can help to design your piece of jewelry and choose its component parts. Finding a great jewelry craftsman to work with may require some research on your part.
What Do You Mean By Custom Made?
Custom made jewelry generally refers to an item that is designed from scratch. It will not use existing settings or mountings that are currently readily available. If you have a stone that you want set in a simple setting, you may not need custom work. Most jewelers have many settings available for your stone, or they can order them from jewelry manufacturers. In fact, consumers can also order settings from Internet retailers like Jamming Gems (see resources below).
Hire Your Local Jeweler?
Most local jewelry stores employ what is called a "bench" jeweler. A bench jeweler does repairs for customers and sets stones in jewelery sold by the store. Bench jewelers have various levels of skill. Some may be able to create custom pieces. If your jeweler tells you that they can, ask to see their in-house jeweler's work. If it's impressive, discuss your custom ring plans with your jeweler and see if he can do the work for you.
Jewelers Versus Artists
Many jewelers are capable of creating solid custom work. However, they may not be true creative artists. If you want a truly unique piece reflecting a mix of artistry and craftsmanship, you'll have to do some research. Begin by looking at the works of great jewelry artists. You can look at their work online or in bookstores or libraries. Prior to the 20th century jewelers were considered craftsmen, not artists. The work of artists like Rene Lalique changed the perception of jewelers and elevated some of their craft to art. Explore the work of some of the greats to get an idea of various techniques and possibilities before choosing a designer for your ring. Art shows and galleries are a great way to learn about jewelry artists and find local designers.
Once you begin researching jewelers you will find many talented artists to choose from. Consider an artist like Karen Olsen Ramsey (see resources below), who makes all her jewelry entirely by hand and uses some of the same techniques made famous by Rene Lalique. A visit to jewelry expert R.W. Wise's online or brick-and-mortar store (see resources below) will introduce you to numerous master jewelers.
Having jewelry custom made can be costly. Assume that a jeweler will charge at least $50 per hour for their time, and likely much more. A truly well-made, hand-crafted piece will take many hours to design and create. Your design ideas must be made practical and wearable which, depending on their complexity, may require testing and engineering before they are fabricated. A custom piece will likely cost twice as much as one manufactured for retail jewelers.