Just For You: Designing Custom Jewelry

There’s nothing like celebrating life’s milestones—or yourself—with precious stones. But, where to begin when designing a custom piece?
Fortunately, you don’t need to know how to design jewelry; you simply need to know yourself. “Determining [your] personal style is the first step in designing the piece,” says Jason Braden, co-owner and designer at Jewelers Workshop.

Braden warns against limiting your inspiration to just jewelry. Are you drawn to the beach or the mountains? Does a rustic porch in New Orleans elicit lovely memories? Braden recommends Pinterest as a practical and revealing way of gathering different elements of your own style, like what you wear and how you decorate your home.

Besides complementing your general style, it’s also critical that the piece suits you.

“If you just go in and buy what you think is pretty, it really is about the thing. If you’re designing it yourself, it’s about you and fitting it into your lifestyle,” Braden says. “It’s not just about the jewelry—it’s about who you are.”

Sonali Franke, co-owner and jewelry designer at Burnie’s Rock Shop, agrees. For those who work with their hands, Franke often creates more durable ring settings and recommends harder stones, or a versatile pendant for softer stones.

She also considers metal allergies. “A lot of people are not aware that white gold can have nickel (often an allergen) in it,” Franke says.

Also be aware of an inherited piece’s value. Garrett Chalmers, gemologist and designer at Chalmers Jewelers, recommends starting the process with an appraisal. He says he would recommend against tearing down a vintage piece worth six figures by a big-name designer such as Cartier.

If you’ve inherited a nondesigner piece you would never wear, Chalmers is all for transforming it into a functional piece. “We tear out all the stones and recreate something completely different,” Chalmers says. But, you still keep the sentimental value.
How long will it take to complete? That varies by complexity and jeweler, but expect at least three weeks. Now, go forth and create that perfect, custom piece.

— Joyce Novacek

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