Do you need a design expert on staff to excel in custom work?

“You need someone who can view a person as a piece of art in order to create a custom piece of jewelry art.”
Babs Noelle, owner
Alara Jewelry
Bozeman, Mont.

THE ART OF THE UNEXPECTED: Custom jewelry must be based on the customer’s body type, facial features, and other distinguishing characteristics. Sometimes you have to interpret emotions—and that’s where creativity and design elements come together. One lady came in with sandwich bags full of Montana sapphires her husband mined when he was alive. She didn’t even know what she wanted. Her instructions were: “Create a piece of jewelry that represents how unexpected life is.”

Noelle’s Montana sapphire thumb ring, an ode to life’s “unpre-dictability”

LUCK OF THE DRAW: Pure creativity without a way to confine and control it makes me say, “Danger, Will Robinson.” That’s why we always start every project with a set of drawings. We then use Corel Draw to create actual-size, elevation-type drawings that show a top view, profile view, end view, and underside or backside view. This way, the customer gets exactly what they see. In the many years I’ve been doing custom work, I’ve never done a redo.

“Not everyone has the luxury of bringing on a full-time design person—especially in this economy.”

David Nygaard, owner
David Nygaard Fine Jewelers
Chesapeake, Va.

ADDED VALUE: There are other strengths to offer customers when doing custom work, such as giving them the best custom jewelry value for the dollar. Quite often custom work goes over budget. Now more than ever, customers start the process telling us they have a very strict budget in mind. Coming in at or just under that established budget has been a big plus in growing our custom department. Plus, having finished merchandise in the store helps—items to look at, get inspired by, or modify and tweak to the customer’s liking.

David Nygaard’s Passion Fire Vignette of Love ring in rose and yellow gold

SUCCESS STORY: Owners do have people on staff with inherent design experience and/or expertise, such as a bench jeweler. This person may not be defined as a creative type, but the bench jeweler is involved with the many steps of production in creating the final piece. Also, the ability to listen, convey an idea, and exchange information are really the more important skills. Every custom jewelry piece is a customer’s story. And a jeweler’s success is telling that story in the form of jewelry.

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