One thing that brides can say about planning a wedding at this moment is that it is truly unique. Thank goodness the bridal industry pivoted to create new ways to unite such as micro-weddings and virtual celebrations to help hearts harmonize. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to design a piece of jewelry that expressed your feelings in colors and stones that mirror the moment? Honor a seaside wedding with a mother-of-pearl and diamond ring. Tell the story of a country garden with an emerald-inspired pair of earrings or celebrate September nuptials with a necklace sprinkled with sapphires.
Pam Older has been designing custom pieces in her studio in the seaside town of Newburyport, Massachusetts for almost two decades. The talented founder of Pam Older Designs took a moment from handcrafting beautiful baubles to give our readers some insight into how she creates custom pieces and tips to working with a jewelry designer.
Where do ideas come from?
People either come in with an idea to start the process – or they have no idea at all. Most people want to talk it through and become inspired. I like to follow their lead- then provide ways to make it even better! I always get to know the person first and discover their lifestyle, style, and vibe. Do they like glitz or a more simple approach?” says Older.
What is your process?
I usually start the process in the same way- by showing them pictures of things they might like – pictures of my designs or ones I have collected, or we look on the web for different ideas. We mix and match and combine things we like to come up with their piece. I do a rough sketch until we get to the final stages at which time I will provide a CAD for them that shows every detail in perfect proportion. It’s this file that the client approves or revises and the final one that is used to cast the ring. Occasionally, if it is a simple design we fabricate the ring by hand instead of using this process. There is endless inspiration on Instagram and in magazines, but usually, I find there is a stone that catches someone’s eye and we design around that. Price and the size desired usually determines the stone we use, especially if it is a diamond.
What role does color play?
We talk a lot about color. Most people don’t realize designers can create 14k yellow gold shiny, textured or we can matte it, a more modern look. Rose gold looks great on most people but the assumption is that they can’t wear it. White gold or Platinum is sometimes just a given, but many brides (of all ages) are being creative with their rings. We have made rings with rough sapphires and a stone called Moldavite, a greenish vitreous silica projectile rock formed by a meteorite impact probably in southern Germany that occurred about 15 million years ago. My job is to provide options and then advise on proportions so it comes out looking good.
How do clients decide on metals?
Even the difference in choosing 14k or 18k gold- becomes a design consideration. 14k is harder but 18k gold had a deeper color and lends itself to certain styles. You want the color of the metal and the stone to look good on the client and to be right for the design. Many people have been coming in asking for a “ship wreck” or “buried treasure” look. This involves finding organic-looking stones and perhaps texturing the metal. I have done pieces in 14k rose gold and 18k yellow gold with a hammered texture to achieve these effects. Even men have surprised me with their band choices. My favorite was a hammered textured ring in 18k rose gold for a man.
What is the advantage of creating a custom piece?
The advantage of a custom piece is that is comes out exactly the way you envision it – usually better! The ring can be made to sit flush on your finger- or to ride in a way that sits perfectly with a wedding band. You can determine the exact shapes, size, and height of the center stone for an engagement ring for instance and we can find a stone in any budget, including lab-created diamonds. It is fun to play with the side stones since you can design with a small marquise or pear shape to provide unique patterns. Many people like to add color to their rings as well. Of course, all this applies to any piece of jewelry- whether it’s a bracelet or necklace, or earrings.
If you go to a jewelry designer they have the whole world is open to you- you can get a gem custom cut in India that is the exact size and color your customer is dreaming of. You can go to reputable suppliers for diamonds that come with grading reports and sometimes even insurance.