The use of gemstones as adornment dates back to the earliest civilizations. Egyptian amulets, jade carvings from ancient China, and indigenous tribal ornamentation all point to a unifying theme in human culture across the globe: as soon as the human eye could recognize the appeal of gems, effort was made to turn the gifts of nature into wearable items. Today, gemstones are used as tokens of affection, in engagement rings, as fashion statements, investments, and status symbols. If you are looking for a one of a kind expression of your personal taste, then purchasing a gemstone and having it set into custom jewelry may be right for you.
When you purchase a gemstone, perhaps you already have an idea of how you plan to wear it. And if you haven’t seen your vision in any commercial jewelry, working with a jewelry designer may be your best plan. Here, we will guide you through the process and define the commonly used terms that you will encounter.
- Loose gemstone: A loose gem is a stone that is not currently set in any type of jewelry.
- Calibrated gemstone: A loose gem that has been cut to a standardized proportion.
- Mounting: A mounting is a piece of jewelry with settings for one or more gemstones, but the settings are empty.
- Semi-mount: A semi-mount may contain accent gemstones that are already set, but the setting for the focal gemstone is empty.
- Rendering: The sketch that a jewelry designer will provide to visually communicate design details to the customer.
- Model: The prototype of the finished piece of jewelry based on the rendering.
- Custom jewelry: Jewelry that is not in the product line of the store or designer collection, but may be based on existing design elements.
- Couture jewelry: Usually applied to high fashion apparel, the term couture has migrated into the jewelry lexicon. Couture jewelry implies jewelry that is made by hand in limited quantities and is a luxury item.
- Bespoke: A term used in tailoring, when applied to jewelry it means that a piece of jewelry has been made to the specifications of dimension, style, and fit as defined by a particular customer.
If you have purchased a loose gemstone and want to have it made into custom jewelry, first inquire about your options at a jewelry store that advertises custom work. If you have purchased a calibrated gemstone, it may be possible for you to buy a mounting or semi-mount and have your gem set directly into the jewelry without requiring any alterations. But if you are looking for something truly unique, then the custom route is the one for you. Expect to be presented with a rendering and then a model before seeing the finished piece.
Keep in mind that not all jewelers are willing to work with a customer’s gemstone, particularly if the jeweler did not sell the gemstone to begin with. This is because almost all types of setting can pose some risk to a gem, even if that risk if very small. A gem that is unusual, rare, or otherwise difficult to replace can be off-putting to a jeweler who may be unwilling to assume responsibility for your gemstone. Be forthcoming in your intentions. Explain that you already have a gemstone and are looking for a special, custom piece of jewelry and make sure the jeweler has the capabilities to work with your particular stone before the design process begins. Some jewelers will refuse to set emeralds in white gold, due to the softness of the emerald and the brittleness of white gold alloys. Make sure that what you desire is possible by confirming with the jeweler before any type of work begins.
The most important part of selecting any type of gemstone jewelry is your personal taste and clarity of your personal vision. When the soon to be Princess of Wales was presented with a selection of rings by the crown jewelers then known as Asprey and Garrard, she chose an eighteen carat Ceylon sapphire surrounded by diamonds. Many people expressed surprise that Princess Diana, who was expected to have something created for her, chose a ring from Garrard & Co’s existing selection. Princess Diana would go on to become an icon of style, known for her impeccable taste. And her sapphire ring, once considered controversial, was given by her son, Prince William to Kate Middleton upon their engagement in 2010. Since the royal engagement, some gem dealers have reported an increase in sapphire sales by as much as 400%.
It just goes to show you that even a readymade ring can be fit for a princess. Would you consider buying a semi-mount for your gemstone? Have you ever had a piece of custom jewelry made? Did your experience follow the steps discussed above? Share your experience with our readers.
Read more posts from the Gemstone Buying Guide series