Custom jewelry has to be one of my favorite parts of this job! What is more fun then helping make a clients dream come to life! Picking out each piece, each stone, and every color- to craft a beautiful, custom, one of a kind piece! Often we design the whole thing from scratch, from settings to stones. It’s amazing, every time! But, often times clients don’t always see the work that goes into a custom order. And I often have clients wondering “Where is my jewelry?!? It’s been weeks!” So, today, I want to take a look at what happens behind the scenes when you order a piece of custom jewelry, and why sometimes it takes so dang long.
To start, there’s two types of custom orders. Customizing an existing design, and making something from scratch. Let’s start with customizing an existing design. Maybe you’ve seen a piece in our cases you love, but you just wish it were in white gold! Or it’s perfect in yellow, but you need different stones. As long as the design already exists, this makes our jobs a little easier. When we take your order, we contact the company and let them know the specifics for what you want. From there, it enters a que with all the other orders the company has gotten. After all, we can’t just cut in line! There are people who ordered ahead of us who need their jewelry too. Once it’s our turn, the piece hits production. This means the mold or casting of the piece is sent to be made. And no, it’s not sitting around pre made. Everything we carry is made to order, from the simplest pieces to the most complex! Even if it were a single prong set gem, until we order it, those prongs aren’t just pre-made.
Once the settings are made, it’s time to get the stones, if the piece has any. Sometimes this is simple- its just a champagne cubic zirconia perhaps which all are nearly identical, they just pull the stone, set it, and move the piece along! But, sometimes it’s more complex. Perhaps it’s a stone with huge variances in color and tone, like copper purple turquoise or labradorite. Or maybe we need to match an existing piece in your set? Then comes a game of telephone with our amazing vendors and us. We email back and forth- pictures of different stones, lighter, darker, bluer, greener! This happens as long as it takes for us to source the perfect gem for your project. And in this process gems need to be ordered, sometimes custom cut by gem cutters, shipped to the maker, and photos need to be sent back and forth. This part of the process alone can take weeks depending on the complexity of the gem or cut. Once we have the stones, we can move to setting and finishing the piece! And in an ideal world, this process goes flawlessly and the piece can be passed to quality control. In actuality, it’s more messy. Stones can break, prongs can be uneven, bezels can come out lumpy. Jewelry making isn’t a science, it’s an art. And art is often very, very messy. Theres a real chance your piece ends up remade once, twice, hell three times or more! Once we have a final, completed piece, it can be quality checked. Someone inspects every facet of the piece by hand, from the stone, to the setting, to the closure mechanism. Everything gets looked down. And anything that’s not perfect gets sent back to be remade time and time again- till it is perfect! Once it is, it gets sent to us. And guess what? I check that piece all over again. And not often, but sometimes, I send it back. Because it’s not quite perfect. And I’m not going to sell you anything less then perfect! Once it is, then you get your awaited call or email that your piece has arrived! This process can take weeks, and sometimes months, to make sure everything is perfect and exact. I know that patience can seem tough for a tiny piece of jewelry, but it’s more then worth it!
Now lets say we are designing something entirely from scratch. A piece that doesn’t exist, and has never been made before. Then the process has a few extra steps. We start by sending our ideas into the company- and this usually means a lot of bad drawings, doodles, sketches, and descriptions. From there we spend some time going back and forth about what the vision is- and the companies often send us a 3d rendering of the future piece. For simple pieces, we take a look at this rendering, and possibly make some tweaks, then send it through the whole process listed above! But for complicated pieces, it can be even more in-depth. Sometimes the companies will send us a wax casting, a simple wax model of the final design to test fit or check in person to make sure it’s correct. Then we need to send that piece back, and sometimes rinse and repeat this step a few times. From there, that above process is already refined with existing pieces. With totally new pieces it can be an entire new headache. I once ordered a piece requiring custom cut stones, and those stones broke over 10 times before we found a way to set them in a stable manner! We spent almost a year breaking, remaking, and breaking this piece again. But these are some of the learning curves when we design something new, unique, and different!
Custom orders are an exciting, and fun process for piercers and clients alike. But there is a lot of behind the scenes work that goes into making these pieces, and making them perfect. Patience is key when custom ordering pieces. Have faith that both your piercer, and the company, are hard at work making your dreams come true, even if that means it takes a little longer to make everything totally perfect! And remember- it’s not just custom orders that go through this process. It’s every single thing we stock and carry! So if your piercer is out of stock of a design you love or a piece you were hoping for, please have a little patience. There is so much hard work and magic happening behind the scenes to get you all this beautiful jewelry!
Photo from Rob McConnel