If you'd like unique jewelry created just for you, it can be easy to find a designer if you know where to look.
When you'd like a jewelry designer to create something unique for you, where do you look? There are several ways to find a good designer, depending upon the complexity of your project, your budget, and how soon you need the item.
To start, decide if you just need a sketch to take to a favorite jeweler, or if you'd like the designer to make the jewelry as well.
If you need only a sketch, ask your friends to recommend a part-time or full-time artist. You'll probably get the names of three or four artists.
Call those artists. Discuss your project ideas. A simple pendant design may require no special skills. However, if you're looking for something complex--such as ornate rings or bracelets--you may need an artist who has experience with jewelry design.
The artist will have a portfolio, or at least several examples of his or her art to show you. If you like what you see and the artist understands the important points of your project, draw up a contract.
Some artists work for a flat fee, based on estimated hours of work or a percentage of the retail price of the finished jewelry item.
Other artists prefer to set an hourly rate; if this is the case, be sure to get a firm estimate. That way, if the artist isn't able to create the design in a reasonable amount of time, you're both free to cancel the work.
But, in most cases, you'll want a jeweler to do the design work as well. This simplifies the project for both of you. And, some jewelers won't work with outside artists, due to the risks of communications problems.
What kind of jewelry are you looking for? Many jewelers can create any item with any design in any metal. Others jewelers specialize. Some work only in silver, or only with pendants and earrings. Others can work in silver or gold, with set stones, and with rings and bracelets.
If you're looking for a mixed media item, such as paper mache or a glass pendant, you'll look in the arts community rather than in the jewelry section of the local phone book.
But, let's assume that you're looking for custom designed wedding bands in gold. Even if this isn't what you have in mind, many of the steps in your project will be the same.
START WITH YOUR BUDGET
If the sky is the limit, you'll find the best custom jewelers among the luxury shops in any city. In Boston, this is Newbury Street; in Los Angeles, look around Rodeo Drive. In Houston, the best areas are Montrose, the Heights, or the Galleria. Every city has an arts district or an affluent section. Most jewelers in these kinds of neighborhoods carry their own jewelry, exclusively. For a price, they'll create unique pieces for you, too.
But, if you are hoping to spend less, there are frugal and affordable alternatives.
On a shoestring budget, there are two often-overlooked sources of custom designed jewelry: Schools and dentists.
Some high schools and many colleges offer fabulous courses in jewelry design and construction. The men and women who teach these courses are often highly skilled jewelry artisans who accept custom work in their spare time.
Or, they may refer you to one or more exceptional students, who will create exactly what you want for just a little more than the price of materials. The student will add photos of the finished work to his or her portfolio, and this looks good on a resume.
Art schools are another excellent resource for teacher or student work.
Dentists work with metal daily, crafting fillings for their patients. A surprising number of dentists are accomplished jewelers, too, pursuing this as a hobby. Ask your own dentist for a referral.
If you can afford a little more, approach jewelry stores in your area. Even though many of them stock commercially manufactured items, they may recommend local artisans. Just as clothing stores rely on the services of tailors now and then, jewelry stores sometimes need adjustments or repairs by a freelance jewelry designer.
Similarly, local museums and antiques dealers may be helpful. When they need a metal item repaired or restored, they often call a jeweler with experience in custom work.
Once you've located a few designers in your price range, the next issue is the metal they use.
SILVER AND GOLD
Some jewelers work with less expensive metals such as copper, bronze, and silver. Although the techniques are generally the same with gold or silver, your designer should be familiar with the metal that you want.
Further, special equipment may be necessary. Gold can be worked with hammers and other hand tools, but the design that you envision may need to be cast. Casting metal, especially gold, is a very different process from a simple hammered or even an engraved band.
Likewise, a jeweler who can cut the date of your wedding inside a wedding band, may not be competent enough to engrave intricate Celtic knots around the outside of it.
When inquiring about these kinds of things, it's important to remember that jewelers are artists. Avoid asking if the artisan is "good enough" to accomplish a certain type of design. Instead, ask if he or she has experience with the kind of work that you have in mind, or if the artisan is comfortable with this.
If you have no idea how complex your idea is, tell the jeweler that, and agree to take this project one step at a time. If you need a referral after all, it may be an issue of specialization and tools, not skill.
START WITH GENERAL IDEAS
If you have a very clear design in mind, show the designer a sketch if you can. Artistic skill is not necessary; you're just explaining what you do and don't like.
When you visit a hair stylist for the first time, it's routine to show photos of styles that you do and don't like. Similarly, even if you have a good sketch of the jewelry you'd like designed, it's a good idea to bring actual jewelry or magazine photos as examples. There are magazines dedicated to jewelry, and many lifestyle and fashion magazines feature jewelry regularly.
Discuss exactly what you're looking for. Be as specific as you can. This makes the designer's job easier, and it will take less time. This means a lower price for the finished item, too.
In some cases, especially if stones will be set in the finished piece, your design ideas may not work. The jeweler can advise you on this. At certain angles, and with softer metals such as gold, a setting may not be secure.
Keep in mind that some work, especially in white gold, cannot be changed once it's created. Many silver and gold projects can be melted down and the metal reused, but don't rely on this. If the piece isn't what you'd hoped for and the problems started with your too-vague description, you may have to pay for the wasted time and materials.
On the other hand, if the jeweler has his own shop, he may be able to put the piece on display and sell it. If so, you may have to pay a restocking fee and that's all. It's important to establish this option from the start.
But, before the designer begins construction, the preliminary sketch should show exactly what you want.
WHEN CONSTRUCTION BEGINS
Since we're discussing gold wedding bands, there are two very important points to consider before selecting the final design and the gold for it.
First of all, be sure that your future spouse agrees to the design. If the band will be especially tall, wide, or ornate, have your partner try on a similar ring.
More than one ring project has been abandoned because the finished ring was uncomfortable, or the detailing snagged on things during the spouse's daily routine. The latter is especially common when someone works with his or her hands, whether it's machine work or sewing.
Next, the quality and color of gold can be important. Gold comes in different karats, or; outside the U.S., this is spelled "carats" and it means the same thing.
The karat number refers to the purity of the gold, which is the ratio of gold to other metals that change its hardness and color. 24-karat gold is pure gold. It is lovely to look at, but it is very soft.
A 24-karat gold wedding ring isn't practical. It will change shape due to body heat, becoming less round under pressure from the fingers on either side. Any detailing will wear down as it rubs against your fingers, clothing, and so on. In fact, the ring may simply wear through and break after a few years.
By contrast, a 12-karat gold ring can last for many generations. It's not unusual for someone to wear a 12- or 14-karat gold ring that belonged to a great-grandparent, or from an even earlier era.
However, some people don't feel that the color of 12-karat gold is "gold enough." So, 14-karat gold is most popular for wedding rings. 18-karat is not as durable, but it's a fine alternative.
WHEN THE RINGS ARE READY
After you've agreed upon the design and the gold in it, your jeweler will create your rings.
In some cases, he or she may make the ring in silver first, especially if you weren't certain about some design elements. But, most jewelers will work directly in gold.
When the rings are ready for you to pick up, be prepared for them to feel a little small. If the band is wide, this is normal; wide bands feel more snug than narrow ones, even when the fit is perfect.
Also, if you aren't accustomed to wearing a ring on that finger, or if you're trying on the rings at the end of the day when your hands can be a little puffy, the ring may feel too tight.
But, cautious jewelers routinely make rings slightly small. Almost any ring can be enlarged; it can be impossible to make a ring smaller.
If your ring needs to be made larger, this can be accomplished in a matter of minutes. The jeweler may hammer the ring gently, or use a tool that stretches the size. He or she will enlarge the ring a little at a time until you are happy with the size of it.
AFTER THE PURCHASE
In most cases, you will take your rings home and live happily ever after.
However, additional sizing may be necessary. If you gain or lose weight, your rings may need adjustment.
If the design or the setting around a stone catches on your clothing, this can usually be fixed in a matter of minutes. If a stone seems loose, get it repaired immediately.
Whether you return to the jeweler for additional work or not, it's nice to go back months later and thank the jeweler for the work. Jewelers are like any other artists, and they like to know that they did a good job.
Having a one-of-a-kind piece of jewelry is enormously satisfying, especially when you were part of the design process. Once you find a jewelry designer whose work you like, you'll probably return for many additional custom pieces.
How to start a used book exchange. Save money on those expensive books and get more mileage out of the ones you do buy.
If you have been in a book store recently, you may have noticed the extremely high prices and turned right around to head to your local library. The price of books has skyrocketed in the past five years and it is becoming a luxury to purchase a book. If you like to read a lot, you probably only read a book one time and then never pick it up again. Fifteen dollars or more for a book is a lot more costly than going to the movies and reading takes up time we could be using to surf the Internet! Though the public library can be a godsend for those of us with limited funds, they often don't have the newest releases and if they do, they are almost always out. Some towns are lucky enough to have used book stores which offer discounts on books or offer credit on books you turn in to them, but if you don't have one of these nearby, why not start your own book exchange?
A book exchange is a kind of smaller version of your local library, comprised of a group of people you get together, and you can make the group as large or as small as you like. Even if you only have a group of five people in your book exchange, that's a savings of forty dollars for the group for one ten dollar paperback. It's most beneficial to gather a group who's reading interests match your own, for example, if you enjoy horror stories, you wouldn't want to invite a sci-fi buff into your book exchange unless you enjoy those types of books as well. Book exchanges can be put together with people you know, or you can invite anyone. If you are looking for horror stories, make a flyer that states your intention, something to the effect of, "Horror nut seeks members for a neighborhood book exchange," and post them in your local stores, libraries and telephone poles. You'll be surprised at the response you get. Everyone likes to save money on books.
Once you get a good number of members together, plan a gathering at your house or the library. Ask everyone to bring any books with them that they have finished reading and place them in boxes. You will need to be in charge of storing the books since it is your group. Keep a catalog of the books that you have in your collection and when someone borrows a book, write their name next to the name of the book to keep track of it and to let anyone else who wants it next know where it is.
Your book exchange can be less formal than the library in that you can let the members keep the book until they have finished reading it. You can decide whether you will meet once a week or just let anyone come over when they want another book. You will get more mileage out of your expensive books and have some free reading as well, not to mention all the trees you'll save in paper books and paper money not spent!
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