Designing new stuff is great! I enjoy working with new ideas and spending time developing them for inclusion in my range. It’s the creative part of what I do and I love it.
Making a piece for the 234th time: not so much, and the more successful a design proves, the more often I have to make it. There is always the challenge of doing it a little better or quicker each time but it still doesn’t qualify as exciting.
Commissions, on the other hand, are a challenge and a chance to use different techniques and skills. It’s a delight to work on something different and a privilege to do so if the piece is going to be something special and significant for the client.
Many of the commissions that I undertake are wedding and engagement rings and this is reflected in much of what follows. However, I am happy to make anything that you can imagine, so long as you can find a way of communicating it to me, that is!
I’ve made silver shoes as gifts for brides and bridesmaids, matchbox holders, silver animals and even jam spoons. I also do a lot of adaptations of my own designs and you can see some of these on this page and in the Rogues Gallery.
If you’re thinking of commissioning a piece, then these are the things that you need to take into consideration:
There are so many variables in the process that it makes more sense if you can come up with a budget and ask me to work within it. If you want to spend £1,000, for instance, I would calculate my work, the metal costs, hallmarking etc and then what was left can be spent on stones. I could show you two diamonds of equal size but one costing £100 and the other £500 depending on the quality, so fixing a budget at the outset makes more sense than designing something and then asking how much it’s going to cost.
I just need a starting point. Ideally a picture of something that you’ve seen and like in order to let me know the sort of look and style that you’re after. Things to think about are, obviously the metal colours and the stones but also the manner of setting the stones.
Traditional rings are set with claws, and this allows more light to come in behind the stone. This applies more to coloured stones but, with diamonds too, claws have the advantage of obscuring less of the stone than flush or ‘rubover settings’.
Rubover settings comprise a solid rim of metal that is forced over the stone to retain it. A rubover gives a hard outline and a more contemporary look and this is often favoured in modern jewellery.
Flush settings, sometimes called ‘gypsy settings’ have the stone actually buried into the surface of the metal and are often used on wedding bands in order to create a smooth ring with the stones protected.
I can work in any of the precious and semi-precious metals, and you should consider them all for their different qualities and costs. I’ve had clients come to me for a platinum wedding band and walk away with a sterling silver ring (and £900 extra to spend on the honeymoon.) As it’s such a huge subject, I’ve devoted another page to it so please go to my Precious Metals page for more information.
Please read my Diamonds page for an introduction to these marvellous stones. If you prefer to use coloured stones or to mix the two then the options are virtually endless.
Traditionally sapphires, rubies and emeralds have been classed as precious stones and all the others as semi-precious. Generally it would be the precious group that would be set with diamonds but there is no need to restrict yourself to those three when there are so many interesting and vibrant colours available. You might want to visit my Gem stones page to learn more about the various coloured stones that I set. The list there isn’t exhaustive and, basically, if you can give me a colour, I can find you a stone.
As with diamonds you will find that the price varies hugely depending on quality and that bigger stones are cut from better material making them even more expensive. For both diamonds and coloured stones, you will probably want to find a balance between quality and price so that you are not paying a great deal more for a virtually indiscernible difference.
Obviously if you can find what you’re looking for in a shop or on the web, you can get it immediately. Commissioning a piece of bespoke jewellery is going to take a little longer but possibly not as long as you think.
Simple wedding bands, I can do in a few days but more complicated pieces are going to take a minimum of three weeks from the time that the design is finalised to the date of completion. This gives me a week to source the materials, a week to make the piece and a week to get it hallmarked.
Some designs will take longer and involve more processes such as making moulds and masters for casting. Also, of course, at busy times of the year such as the run-up to Christmas, I have a great deal of work on and everything takes a little longer. Having said that, I’ve been doing this since 1988 and I’ve not missed a deadline yet. In fact I’ve had a client standing over me on Christmas Eve watching while I finish his engagement ring. I will always do my best to move the process along as fast as possible so that you get your jewellery quickly and so that I get paid!
If you’re looking for wedding rings then I can either make you something simple and classic but hopefully at a better price than you can find anywhere else, or we can design something more unusual together. Take a look at my Wedding rings page as a starting point. You might also be interested in my general Weddings page.
I personally find drawing time consuming and not very fruitful in conveying a design to the client. I prefer instead, wherever possible, to make a design up in silver so that you can see it, handle it and try it on. Often this silver model can then be used to make a casting mould so that the work is not wasted, and you know that the piece you end up with is the same as the piece you’ve seen.
Up to the point where I buy materials for the actual piece, you are not committed to anything and you can change your mind or walk away. (If you take a look at my Rogues’ Gallery, you’ll find a few pieces that were abandoned at late stages because the client changed her mind or ran out of money!)
If you’re commissioning a unique piece, it’s important that you should get exactly what you want and, within reason, I don’t mind how long it takes to get there. Once the design is finalised I will ask for a deposit to cover the cost of materials and, at that point, you should be only a few weeks away from wearing a stunning piece of personal jewellery.
It may help for us to meet but often it’s not necessary (which will be less disturbing for you) and we can do the whole thing by fax, phone email and post.
If you want to see examples of commissions that I’ve carried out recently then please take a look at my Instagram account.