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White Gold Mayan Temple Memoriam Ring

Men's Mayan Temple Band

I spent my early twenties as an archaeologist digging up everything from hunting knives and pottery to the remnants of housing structures. After that, I moved on to a corporate job that was cushy but not fulfilling. After seven years, I left my cushy corporate job to devote my life to creating and learning about jewelry. Last month, a project came in to Custom jewelry that reminded me why I took that leap of faith.

Mayan Temple RingA gentleman came in and asked us to re-purpose a ring that had been significant in his life into a white gold band he could wear as a daily reminder of his past. His main request: let the band look like a Mayan temple. From my anthropological schooling, I knew that while much about the Mayan religion is still unknown, at its core, the Mayans believed that our existence was comprised of rotating cycles of creation and destruction that infinitely loop across time. A beautiful concept, and a heavy significance for a ring.

During my archaeological tenure, I saw firsthand the important roles objects play in our daily lives. Knives to hunt and chop with. Pottery to store and cook. Housing to shelter us and keep the fire going. Even in our most primitive states, our lives were filled with practical objects made for practical reasons. When I dug up my first small pile of necklace beads, I pondered their utter impracticality. They didn’t provide food, warmth, or shelter, and they weren’t created to protect us from the elements. They were absolutely insignificant in a practical world. Yet we still made them, wore them, and passed them down from generation to generation.

It was in that moment I realized how deeply significant adornments are. While they may serve little practical purpose in our daily lives, each piece can be incredibly meaningful and very personal, helping to create our individual human narratives. Jewelry reminds us where we come from, who we are, and who we want to be. We share it to profess our love or commemorate life-changing events. And the most significant pieces we pass down between generations or wear daily to remind us who we are and, in a lot of cases, who we’ve loved.

White gold mayan temple bandA jeweler is really a scribe of the human condition. A purveyor of impractical artifacts that become precious and meaningful only by the significance we place on them. Metallurgy, like the Mayan religion, is an infinite cycle of destruction and creation, using fire to change someone’s past into their present. And with each new piece a jeweler casts we potentially create a new piece of the human narrative.

White gold mayan temple bandAs with this white gold Mayan temple ring, I too had to de-construct my past in order to move into my future. The ring’s owner sacrificed an important artifact in order create something for his present, and in doing so, married his two identities. And one day, his new ring may be passed down to a future generation to be re-purposed again, continuing the cycle of destruction and creation that moves our lives along through time.


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Hot off the Bench: Skull Engagement Ring


Skull-engagement-ringHappy Halloween, Everyone! I can’t imagine a better way to say goodbye to October than with this awesome skull engagement ring. A few weeks ago Custom Jewelry was asked to create the most perfect October engagement ring ever, and I’m thrilled that we were able to complete it before the month’s end. Our customer wanted white gold, diamonds, and skulls. Skulls aren’t a request we get everyday, so we took notice. The symbol was special to him and his soon to be bride, and he wanted us to incorporate it into the ring in a subtle way. Never ones to shy away from the unique or interesting, we got to work, and I have to say I’m thrilled with the results.

Skull-three-stone-engagement-ringThis ring features 3 diamonds, two from heirloom family rings, and a third, new one picked by the groom for his bride. To ensure the ring didn’t look too traditional, the diamonds were set as an organic cluster, rather than in a traditional three stone line. The diamonds were then accented with two realistic, but tiny skulls peeking out from underneath them. Deciding the stones and skulls speak for themselves, the ring was finished with a simple white gold euro-style shank to balance out the ring’s top weight. I have to admit, I’m in love with this ring, and haven’t been able to get enough of the teeny, tiny skulls. Custom Jewelry was thrilled to be a part of a ring so original, so outrageous, and so truly gorgeous on the hand.



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Jewelry History: Mourning Rings and Hair Jewelry


As Halloween and Dia de los Muertos creep up on us, Custom Jewelry thought it would be a good time to take a look at one of the more macabre and eccentric jewelry traditions: mourning rings and hair jewelry. Now, this style of jewelry has a very special place in my heart. I’ve been fascinated by hair jewelry since I learned of it’s existence in high school. So throughout the years, it has been a surprise to me that so many people are unfamiliar with it — and incredibly creeped out by it once they do learn of it.

OK, I get it. Wearing someone else’s hair as a decorative ornament, if taken objectively, is creepy. But, in its truest forms, mourning rings and hair jewelry were simply used to remember loved ones who had passed on from the wearer’s lives. And many times, it was worn while the person was still living as a token of love and affection. See, not as creepy as originally thought, right? No takers? Bueller?

Mourning jewelry has been around for some time, but really started to come into fashion in the late 1600s, early 1700s. At its start, there was little to no hair involved at all, but rather dates, names, and miniature portraits of significant people. It wasn’t until the reign of King George that miniature portraiture jewelry took fashion by storm as a way for the gentry to show support of the ailing king by wearing his portrait on a ring or brooch. Eventually the portraiture of King George gave way to a more commonly accepted practice of wearing portraiture of loved ones, and jewelry makers started creating pieces more customized to their buyers. Then, during the Victorian era mourning jewelry became fully mainstream and branched out into other types of memorium jewelry, such as the crosswork hair mourning rings, bracelets, and the rock crystal memorial rings people are more familiar with.

While slightly macabre, I’m fairly certain my fascination with mourning jewelry (and especially rings) stems from how much these little artifacts tell us about the everyday people who wore them. Each piece generally has a wealth of symbolism that goes with it, as well as most every piece is marked with the names and dates of the person who has been memorialized. It’s like getting to glimpse into history while simply shaking someone’s hand. And even now, whenever I come across another great example of mourning jewelry, I can’t help but wonder who wore it, and why they found it so important to memorialize the person for whom it was worn. It’s beautiful really.

With that, I’ll leave you with a few of my favorite mourning rings outlined above — and even a picture of the one I have in my own jewelry collection. While not as fancy as the others shown, I love it, as each day it reminds me that someone was loved enough to have a ring made to remember them.

Mourning rings, clockwise from top left:

Skeleton Hair Ring, Hair Ring with Blue EnamelCrossbones Mourning Ring, Blonde and Blue ring, Victorian Hair Locket Ring, The ring from my personal collection, Wheat Hair Ring.



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Hot off the Bench: Past Meets the Present with a Coat of Arms Wedding Band


Part of what I love about working at Custom Jewelry is getting to merge the past with the present. In a custom jewelry and repair shop, this can happen in many different ways. Sometimes a client will bring in an old worn out ring and want to restore it to it’s former glory. Other times, a person will bring in old earrings that have sentimental value, but they never wear. So we make them into cuff links or rings or another accessory they love. And then there are times like this ring, where we create a completely new piece of jewelry, but get to tie it into the past.

Men's-lion-family-crest-wedding-bandOur client needed a wedding band. He didn’t want a traditional, plain men’s wedding band though. He figured that if he was going to wear a ring for the rest of his life, he wanted it to remind him about where he was from. So, he came to us with the concept of incorporating his family’s coat of arms into the band. He brought us pictures of family crests and the coat of arms that had been passed down to him, and Lee started to work his magic. He designed a simple band that would fit a truncated version of the arms. Once created, the ring and the picture of the arms were handed over to our wonderful engraver, and he started to weave his magic. When the ring came back it got a coat of rhodium plating, was shined up, and then presented to it’s owner. The white gold and lions rampart really give it an antique feel, and bring a little bit of one family’s history to the present for it’s next generation.

Men's-lion-family-crest-wedding-bandMen's wedding band 4           Men's-lion-family-crest-wedding-band

So how do you stay connected to the past in your family? Do you have a special family heirloom that has been passed down over the generations? Let us know in the comments.

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Tips for Shopping for a Custom Engagement Ring: Part Two


Welcome to the second installment of our two-part series on shopping for a custom engagement ring. This week, we’ll be talking about timelines, process, and hopefully giving you some good advice about how to expedite your engagement ring process.

Part Two: Process & Timelines

Most of the other questions we get revolve around how long something will take or what you, as the customer, needs to do in order have a smooth designing process. I’ve taken some of the top behaviors we see and turned them into a few tips on how to ensure that your proposal with a custom ring will go as smoothly as possible.

5. Set a proposal timeline. One of the questions we normally get is “how long will this take?” and the answer is very dependent on the type of ring you want to create. Intricate design work takes longer than a simple band, and if the jeweler has to outsource some of the construction — like hand engraving — then that will also add to the timeline. So, the best thing to do is to decide when you want to propose, and then start shopping around a few months before that date. Most custom rings will take around 4-6 weeks to create, but some definitely take longer and you want to give yourself enough buffer for unforeseen circumstances (like your jeweler getting sick). So ask yourself when you’d like to propose to your loved one. Are you a Christmas lover, and want to ask over a bonfire? Is there a special anniversary coming up you want to take advantage of? Once you know when you’d like to do it, then you can work backwards from that date to start shopping around. Ideally you’d give yourself a 2-3 month buffer: enough time to get a few price quotes, have the ring created, and finalize the details of your proposal after the ring is completed.

6. Remember your jeweler is human. Sometimes metalsmithing and jewelry creation seems like magic to me. Somehow someone takes a lump of raw material and turns it into a beautiful, shiny adornment. But behind every intriguing piece of jewelry was a very skilled (and very human) hand molding it into what it is. Like with most things nowadays, I’ve become so accustomed to a “right here, right now” lifestyle that I forget sometimes that real artisanship takes time. So when you’re shopping for Custom Jewelry, don’t be in a rush.  It’s like the old adage says, sometimes the slower you go the faster you get there, and a jeweler should only go as fast as the speed of art. The reason we love handmade is because it is unique, individual, and has the artisan stamp of one person’s viewpoint at a single moment of time. So embrace slight imperfections and don’t expect fine work to be done in a day. Keep an open mind, and remember, your jeweler is human. But he or she is going to work to keep your business and wants to make a piece for you that stands the test of time — even if it’s going to take some to create.

7. Know the ring size. You’d be surprised how many rings we’ve created without having an accurate ring size. Here’s the thing. You don’t have to have it.  But it is soooo much better if you do. Here’s why: When you propose, your beloved is going to want to wear the ring. Right then. Right there. And they do not want to worry about it falling off or not going on. The other reason is that when the jeweler designs a ring, they take specific dimensions into consideration. The size of a person’s hands and fingers is one of them. A 5 mm width looks different on a size 5 finger than a size 7 finger, and fine tuning your design to be as beautiful as it can be is something you can only do with exact dimensions. Most good jewelers will plan rings with the ability to size it up or down by 1 size, but having to drastically change an intricately designed ring can get really hairy, really quickly. So our advice: figure out the ring size. Doing so means not having to come back to the jeweler after you propose, and allows you to end up with a complete and fine-tuned custom design. Not to mention, your beloved will be ecstatic when it fits like a glove the first time.

8. Find a jeweler you trust. This may be obvious, but it is also the best tip we’ve got. While ideally you’d have all of our previous tips in mind while shopping, working with a jeweler you trust is worth it’s weight in gold (pardon the pun), as they can walk you through the process. As I said in my last post, good jewelers have your best interest at heart and will give you options to fit timeline, budget, and scope of the work you want. They are happy to answer your questions and want to create something beautiful with you. So if all thus fails, find someone who you connect with.

With that, I’ll leave you with a few more of the beautiful engagement rings we’ve had the pleasure of creating. We hope they inspire, and happy designing!

  Bezel-set-sapphire-engagement-ring  Blue Topaz Tree Ring  OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA