The Art of Custom Jewelry
Behind every piece of custom jewelry, lies an interesting back story. No one wakes up one day and decides they want to make a meaningless piece of jewelry, there must be something that inspires the clients desire to have the piece made in the first place. In this blog, I would like to share with you two intriguing stories. The first is about a man named Rey who grew up in Puerto Rico and moved to the mainland later in life. As a young boy growing up in San Juan, Rey would pass by frequently what is known as Castillo San Felipe del Morro.
For those of you who are not familiar with either Puerto Rico or San Juan, Castillo San Felipe del Morro is a 16th century Spanish fortification atop a cliffside promontory, with its cannons pointing seaward to help protect the island from attacks. Unfortunately, in 1898 El Morro fought her final battle when the United States navy bombarded the fort during the Spanish- American war.
When Rey moved to the mainland as a young man his heart and soul remained in San Juan. Rey always had fond memories of the Island growing up and more importantly always dreamed of having something close to him that would remind him of home and his beloved Felipe del Morro. One day, Rey came into AJ’s Jewelry with a gleam in his eyes and asked me if we were able to forge the tower in 14kt yellow gold so he can wear it on his chain as a pendant. Rey was very enthusiastic and specific on how he wanted the tower to look. I could feel his excitement as he was explaining to me why he wanted the pendant and how he wanted all the finishing touches to look for his custom pendant. He wanted the tower to look exactly like the picture brick for brick, window for window, detail for detail.
As Rey was explaining all of this to me, I started to get enthusiastic about the opportunity to make someone’s dream come true again. One of the things I love the most about being in the jewelry business is making custom pieces of jewelry. When we are designing a custom piece of jewelry for you, we can take the client along for the journey and show them step by step how the piece gets made. We are using todays latest technology to create your custom jewelry, which would be digitally designing the piece from scratch, which is better known as CAD/CAM (Computer Aided Design/Computer Aided Manufacturing). When we use this method, we can digitally control every aspect of the piece of jewelry we are creating from the thickness of the metal to the size of the piece and the final weight of the jewelry. You will be able to see exactly how the piece will look before we start to make it. The client will receive a computer-generated picture of exactly what the piece will look like before we even start to manufacture it. If any changes need to be made, its usually just a few clicks of a mouse and some other minor adjustments which our designer instructs the software to perform. When we use CAD/CAM, there are never any errors. All the designs and computer-generated renderings must be approved by you before any work begins. The second method we use to create custom pieces of jewelry is carving out a piece of wax by hand and then casting it in the metal of your choice.
This is a special talent and there are not as many people practicing this method any longer considering all the technology we have at our fingertips today. The client can still see the piece getting created step by step. Revisions aren’t as easy as a click of the mouse. To make revisions, the person who is carving out your design would have to psychically take the original wax and alter it until the client is completely satisfied with the design. Unfortunately, when we create jewelry this way there is not a computer rendering to look at, you will have to rely on the jeweler and your imagination to get an idea of the piece will look like. When we use CAD/CAM to design jewelry, we now have a digital file for the jewelry which tells the 3D printer how to make the wax. Once we have the wax whether we use a 3D printer or a hand carved wax, we are ready to cast your jewelry in the desired metal of your choice. Normally we make jewelry out of gold, silver, and platinum. These metals always withstand the test of time. When creating custom pieces of jewelry, sometimes the client must wait anywhere from two to six weeks for it to be completed. This can cause some clients to become anxious, which is normal. In the end, the clients are always ecstatic with the results. For me there is nothing more rewarding or satisfying than seeing my clients faces light up when they see the finished product. When Rey’s pendant was finished, I was so excited to present it to him.
I knew how much the pendant would mean to him so I too was anxious to give it to him. I remember the day Rey came to pick up his pendant. He was very excited to see how it came out. After all, he did wait six weeks to receive it. When I opened up the box and presented him his new pendant his face lit up, he had a grin from ear to ear, completely overwhelmed with joy. It was like watching a little boy opening gifts on Christmas morning. We hit the nail on the head. Let’s just say Rey is another completely satisfied customer of AJ’s Jewelry. We were very happy we could make his dream pendant a reality for him.
The next story I would like to share with you is about a man named Jason. I met Jason as a young man shopping here with his mom. Jason has been coming to his favorite local jewelry store for more than 25 years. I have had the pleasure to watch Jason grow up into a fine adult. Through the years Jason has always wanted me to make him a Jason mask from the movie Friday the 13th. We would always joke about it when he would visit. Everyone knows who Jason is, the big scary guy who goes around chopping up people while they’re in the woods. About two months ago Jason came into AJ’s Jewelry and said to me with a serious look on his face “I’m ready to make the pendant”.
At first, I was a bit perplexed by the request. I remember talking about this for years with him and I guess the day has finally come. Anyone who personally knows Jason, knows this man is a big teddy bear, and I could not wrap my head around why he would want to wear a scary Jason mask around his neck. But in the end, the client is the boss and I am here to accommodate any and all custom jewelry requests no matter how weird or bizarre it may seem to me.
Again, I was faced with the decision whether to use CAD/CAM to design Jason’s custom pendant or go old school and carve out the wax by hand. For some clients who I know will have a problem visualizing what the final product would look like, I tend to opt for the CAD/CAM because the client will see a color computer generated rendering of exactly what the piece will look like before it is complete. Due to the fact of my close relationship with the client and his trust he has placed in me, I decided once again to go old school and carve out the pendant by hand.
This method also gives me the ability to add some extra details to the wax which I would not be able to do if I digitally designed it. Don’t get me wrong, we would still be able to get the details in if we digitally designed the pendant, but the details would have to be added after the piece was cast. For instance, when you look closely at the gold pendant you can see the groves in the knife handle, the scratches in the mask along with the cracks, and the nuts and bolts. These details truly bring the pendant to life. Making it very realistic looking. This piece took approximately three weeks to produce from start to finish. Jason happened to be an incredible communicator which speeds up the production process when we are seeking approval every step of the way. When the day finally came for Jason to pick up his new gold custom pendant, he was very pleased with the outcome.
Anyone who knows Jason knows that he does not get excited too easily and always is calm as a cucumber, so it was hard for me to gage his excitement when I presented him his new pendant. I knew he was happy when he agreed to take a photo wearing the piece and one with me.
It was truly a pleasure helping him make his dream pendant a reality. Designing custom pieces ignites my passion for jewelry making every time I start the process with a client. Whether they be a reoccurring customer, or someone who has just walked through the door we want to make your wildest dreams come true.