Have you ever fancied working with a jeweller to create a unique piece of jewellery for a friend or loved one? Perhaps you’re after something for yourself to mark a big birthday or life event? Or maybe you just fancy a special handmade jewellery design that you know you’ll treasure forever?
In all of these situations something bespoke might be just what you’re after.
Bespoke basically just means something that’s created specifically for you. The type of jewellery could be anything from an engagement ring or a wedding band to a bracelet or a necklace, it really doesn’t matter. If it’s designed and custom made to your exact requirements, rather than being bought ‘off-the-shelf’, then it’s bespoke.
People are often quite intimidated at the idea of working with a jeweller on something that’s custom made. What if it ends up being really expensive? What if I don’t like it? What if the recipient doesn’t like it? So, if you like the idea of owning a unique piece, but aren’t sure where to start then read on for my 5 questions to ask when commissioning bespoke jewellery…
1) What is my jewellery style or aesthetic?
Some people will have a VERY clear idea of the jewellery they like, whilst others may be less sure. Either way, it pays to do some research on the aesthetic that resonates with you and the jewellers who are producing the sort of work that you like.
I would advise shying away from something very trend led and instead choosing a more classic look that will stand the test of time. You don’t want to invest in a bespoke piece if a few years later you can’t face wearing it because it looks really dated.
The style of the jewellery you’re attracted to is also important because it will determine the designer that you approach. There’s little point in asking someone who creates coolly minimalist designs to create a bold, baroque piece that’s dripping in gemstones. It’s just not their thing. So take time to look at examples of designers’ previous work to make sure it fits with what you’re expecting.
Pinterest is a great way of pulling together a mood board of ideas and if you use it to search for the jewellery you like it will more than likely recommend similar styles which might also interest you.
2) What level of input am I expecting to have into the finished piece?
Don’t ask a jeweller to copy a piece that you’ve seen elsewhere. Being inspired by another design is ok, but anyone worth their salt won’t just make you a version of someone else’s work….copying is wrong and it’s just not on!
You might have seen a piece by another designer that you’d like to use as a starting point, but expect whoever you commission to come up with their own ideas to put their own unique stamp on things.
Alternatively, you might already have your own design that you’d like your jeweller to realise. This is fine too and in the past I’ve created pieces from client sketches so just let your jeweller know how much design input you’d like from them.
3) How and when will this bespoke jewellery be worn?
Wearability is absolutely key! This is something that’s worth spending a bit of time thinking about as can determine the metals used and finish of the piece.
Is this going to be a simple everyday piece that’s worn on a regular basis? Or will it be an extra special showstopper that only comes out on special occasions? Do you do a job or have a hobby that involves a lot of wear and tear on your hands? All of these things are important to consider as some metals are softer than others and some stone settings more vulnerable to being knocked and damaged. Your designer should be able to advise you on what will work best for your situation.
4) What is my budget?
It’s always a good idea to be super clear with your jeweller from the outset about what you have to spend. After all, there’s little point lusting after diamonds if you’re on a cubic zirconia budget. However, with some changes it may be that you can achieve your dream piece in alternative materials, substituting one metal for another or choosing different stones to fit your requirements.
Solid gold is expensive so if your budget doesn’t stretch to that you might want to look at silver or gold plated as an alternative.
Once your designer has enough information about what you want they will produce design sketches and costings. You should expect to pay a 50% deposit once you decide to go ahead and the final 50% on completion of the work.
5) How soon do I want the finished bespoke piece?
Designing and creating jewellery from scratch takes time….lots of it. There may be multiple iterations of a design that go back and forth between you and your jeweller before you’re happy with the final one. The making itself will also take time from ordering supplies to the crafting of the piece, finishing & polishing it and hallmarking.
Let your designer know if there’s a fixed deadline like a birthday or anniversary and also don’t forget that some will have a waiting list of weeks or even months before they can take on your commission so please do factor that in. Essentially the more information you can give them from the start then the better they can realise your vision.
I do hope you found those questions useful. Whether you’re purchasing for yourself or someone else, these principles still apply and I would highly recommend you work through the answers as much as possible BEFORE you approach a designer as you’ll save yourself lots of time, hassle and quite possibly money!
Elin Horgan designs and creates handmade jewellery in her Bristol studio. Elin’s beautifully simple handmade jewellery is carefully crafted and designed to be worn every day. You can read more about Elin’s work and the ethos behind her understated jewellery brand on her About Elin Horgan Jewellery page.