Review continued from Part 4 – Personal Jewelry Insurance: Perfect Circle Insurance from Jewelers Mutual…
- Part 1: Back Story
- Part 2 – Center Stone: Tsavorite from Bruce Bridges of Tsavorite.com
- Part 3 – Side Stones: Sapphires and Rhodolites from Yvonne Raley of Cecile Raley Designs
- Part 4 – Personal Jewelry Insurance: Perfect Circle Insurance from Jewelers Mutual
- Part 5 – The Ring: Custom Setting from Dan and Caren of DanielM Jewelry
- Part 6 – Final Result Photos
Part 5 – The Ring: Custom Setting from Dan & Caren of DanielM Jewelry
- Choosing DanielM
- CADs: Getting to the final design
- The Custom order process
- Caren’s photos of the final product
- DanielM Jewelry Etsy shop
- DanielM’s Twitter
- DanielM’s Blog (inactive)
- DanielM’s pieces, owned by PriceScopers
- Q&A Session with Dan & Caren by LillyElla in 2010
Some three years ago, I started attending craft shows and encountered bezeled settings for the first time – mostly labradorite cabochon pendants and the like. About a year later, I purchased a bezeled princess cut ring from CecileRaleyDesigns (like this, but with an aqua)- and while I enjoy the ring and wear it often, I quickly decided that I’d rather pay more for skillfully made custom bezels, instead of paying the minimal amount for manufactured bezels, calibrated to a narrow variety of stone shapes and sizes.
I came across DanielM while trying to find quality bezels for affordable prices. Over the next couple of years, a large number of PriceScope members shared their experiences with Dan & Caren, all of which were favorable. At one point, my close friend had a couple of orders fulfilled by them, and I’ve had a chance to look at their work in person – it looked as good in person as it did in photos – like money well spent.
When I decided to work on a custom “relationship” ring and figured out the original design and my budget, I was considering three vendors based on recommendations: Heart Of Water Jewels (HoWJ), Jewels by Erica Grace (JbEG), and DanielM Jewelry. DanielM was an easy choice: their quote fit my budget (by word of mouth, JbEG was pricier); their style was clean and simple, and their previous work showed they could pull off what I wanted; they were located in USA, which meant less chance of loosing my stones or the final product during transit (one of the bigger reasons I discounted HoWJ, who is based in Thailand).
There was only one complaint voiced against DanielM: they were not good at leading a brainstorming discussion with a client that encompassed all the design details the client might have forgot to consider. Basically, if the project did not require a digital drawing of the finished piece, on a number of occasions DanielM would make a call on a design element that the client would have preferred to be done differently – but because the client never thought to explicitly state their preference, DanielM did not know to point the design element to the client.
For example, that same good friend got a Sweet Sadie ring from DanielM; the center stone she used was windowed, and the window became really apparent in a gold bezel. In hindsight, she could tell that in order to make the window less apparent, the basket needed to be closed beneath the stone. She was able to send the ring back to DanielM for that alteration – and wondered whether another jeweler would have known to point this out to her from the very beginning.
On the other hand, I’ve known a customer who basically threw a bunch of inspiration photos at DanielM, voiced no concrete preferences, and then LOVED the result they came up with. And another who came to DanielM with existing jewelry pieces and asked to come up with a pendant and earrings, giving them full creative freedom otherwise – and they came up with this delicate awesomeness.
These experiences told me the following: if you are a customer who has a very specific vision, you better communicate that vision VERY clearly, especially if the things you care about are not what the average (less-jewelry savvy) customer tends to notice. Also, asking for design elements that DanielM hasn’t worked with before is risk you should understand and be willing to take. I felt like I was well equipped both of these nuances – thus, DanielM were a great fit for me.
Ring Design: Computer Aided Design (CAD) and Doodles
Having decided to go with DanielM (at this point I haven’t confirmed that they’d take my project on, but I was pretty sure they wouldn’t reject me :P), I wanted to come up with a design that DanielM could pull off with confidence. So, simultaneously to hunting for “three stone, five stone, bezeled rings” on the internet, I put hours into exploring DanielM’s sold page, narrowing down elements that I wanted them to use in my ring. By the time I reached out to Caren & Dan, I had the following specifications ready:
- Ring size 10, and resizable for the future (I still have hopes of loosing weight and going down to size 8-9)
- Stones (see picture below):
- Center Stone: tsavorite, cushion cut, 6mm x 5mm
- Inner Sidestones: sapphires, off-round,~3mm
- Outer Sidestones: rhodolites, round, 4mm
- Open bezeled settings for the stones (like this, where the stone is held at the girdle, and you can see it below the bezel), rose gold, minimal and delicate (thin, like this)
- 2-3mm shank in argentium silver
One of the first things Caren explained when she responded was the need for CADs for my project – my stones, she said, were 19mm in width put together. When you add the width of the bezels around the stones, the width could go up to 24mm – which is a lot of finger coverage. The CAD was a must to lay out the stones in a way that they’d fit and be structurally sound. Design-wise, Caren liked the look of cushion shaped bezels around the round rhodolites, as a geometric parallel to the cushion shape of the center stone. We had about a week of back and forth, where I asked questions about bezel size, style suggestions, and basically tried to get Caren’s opinions on the design. Once she has confirmed that all my original stylistic desires were ok and not silly choices, I kept myself distracted for two weeks while Dan worked on CADs.
Here’s that first set of CADs – Dan pointed out that the width of the bezels are only 0.6mm and 1.5mm in height, and that he needed to add supports under the bezels to make the design structurally sound.
The thing to note about CADs – they always look bulkier than the end product. Partially, it’s because this design will need to be cast – and depending on the technique, the mold made from the model needs to be slightly bigger than the metal result. Furthermore, some metal is removed during polishing. Also, the bezels will not be as tall, as the petal will be hugging the stones instead of protruding up. Keeping that in mind, I liked the way the bezeled looked.
However, I wasn’t really digging the supports and the abrupt way the shank fattened up towards the bezels. So I traced the side-view CAD over my laptop screen, and then made copies over the trace using a lightpad. And then I took doodling too seriously:
Of the two photos above, I sent only the second one to DanielM. I basically wanted a nicer transition into the bridge below the bezels, and for the supports to have a uniform directionality – either towards the center, or away. Caren sounded enthusiastic about the supports swooping away, and the bridge below the bezels (she liked both the open version and a closed one, but I decided on the latter for simplicity’s sake), and suggested tapering the shank as it connected to the bezels to emphasize the cushion shape of the side bezels. I liked noting Caren’s excitement regarding particular stylistic choices for this ring, and on most occasions supported whatever Caren & Dan sounded eager about – I wanted the artists to enjoy this project, to feel inspired by it a bit, as I think that inspiration goes a long way to aiding the artists in producing good work.
Dan and Caren got back to me a few days later with a second round of CADs, and I quickly approved these:
Custom Order Process
The very first time I contacted Daniel M was simultaneous to the start of my search for the center stone. I was trying to figure out quotes for a simple solitaire bezel setting in order to figure out what overall budget I can reasonably aim for. Caren responded quickly, as she and Dan always do, giving me estimates based on current metal pricing. She recommended, however, to get a true quote no more than a month in advance of making the order, since metal prices fluctuate. (I witnessed this myself, as the prices on both gold and silver rose in 2012, and then stabilized and went down slightly just in the beginning of spring 2013.)
The price estimate Caren gave for the ring is ~$950: roughly $300 for labor (both CAD effort and setting/finish work), $190 for casting, and $450 for materials. (Please keep in mind that any of these estimates might not be valid as soon as now or next month, since the industry prices for casting and materials are fluid, as well as the hourly cost of labor Caren and Dan charge).
Step by step process of my custom order experience, after Caren confirmed they were taking on my project:
- Get in line of DanielM’s orders by putting down a 50% deposit on the project via an Etsy reserved listing.
- Get personal jewelry insurance from Jewelers Mutual.
- Ship stones to DanielM via USPS, with tracking and insurance.
- After confirmation of the receipt of the stones, wait for first round of CADs (two weeks waiting period).
- Go though CAD iterations with Dan to finalize the design.
- After CADs finalized, design is sent off for casting; wait for Caren to notify of finished ring + photos of final product (two to four more weeks of waiting period).
- Once Caren puts up the listing for the ring, discuss any potential alterations to the final product or approve the final to be shipped out.
- Pay the remaining 50% + shipping expenses (estimated at 29$, to include insurance). Wait to receive the final product.
- Get the ring within 2-3 days of it being shipped out, be ridiculously happy about the end product.
Caren’s Photos of the Final Product
The first I saw of the ring was in the Etsy listing Caren posted when it was ready: https://www.etsy.com/transaction/136735529
It looked good – impressively like I imagined (for a painter who often lacks skills to execute exactly what I envision, having a vision realized very closely is always a pleasant surprise). I did, however, see some minor imperfections – a) some of the supports under the bezels looked like they got somewhat squished during setting; b) in some places, the bezels touched the stones unevenly and created wavy lines. I could see these things incredibly well in the photos and therefore worried that they would bother me when I had the ring in person. I agonized for two days on whether to voice my concerns to DanielM: I bugged my partner and my friend to help me with a polite note to Caren expressing my concerns and asking whether anything could be done, and ended up rewriting the note a number of times for content and tone.
In the end, I decided to chill. I was pretty convinced that the ring design is so small that correcting these details would be, if not impossible, then likely to just cause more nicks on the surrounding stones and metal. Furthermore, it felt weird complaining about ring aspects that I haven’t yet seen in person. So, I decided that if I was still uncomfortable with these imperfections once I wore the ring, I’d voice them to Caren & Dan. Until then, I would reserve judgement and otherwise prepare myself to love the ring.
Next up… Impressions and Photos of the Final Product