More and more, consumers want customized jewelry that speaks directly to their interests, beliefs, and styles. The designers who meet this need not only must create beautiful jewelry, but also embody the customers’ wishes and desires into the final piece. The winners below offer two examples of how this can be successfully achieved.
Our thanks to the Custom Design Distinction sponsor:
Mark Schneider, Mark Schneider Design, Long Beach, California
"Black & White" Ring. The ring was cast in 14k white gold, and black and white diamonds were pavéd on opposite sides of it. A black and white acrylic ball was formed on a lathe and cut in half, and a magnet was inserted in the center. Both pieces were then strapped together with a white gold band, which was also pavéd with black and white diamonds. Small black and white diamonds were set in white gold bezels and inserted into the surface of the ball. A steel rod was lasered to the top of the ring, inserted into the ball, and attached to the magnet. This allows the ball to be rotated and the sides interchanged.
Mark Schneider describes the story behind the ring: The client requested that I design a custom-made ring with interchangeable parts using only black and white elements.
I wanted to make the round sphere interchangeable without using any type of mechanical components or surface hardware that would be visible to the client. The solution that I came up with was to use a magnet that could be hidden within the design, which would allow the ball to attach to a steel rod but be easily removed. When the piece is assembled together, both the rod and magnet are hidden within the ball.
i used a laser to attach not only the steel rod to the 14k ring, but also the white gold strip to the two half-round spheres; it allowed me to work directly on the acrylic without harming the balls.
Cynthia Renée, Cynthia Renée Inc., Chapel Hill, North Carolina
"Fireball" Ring. This ring, crafted from 18k yellow gold, 14kt rose gold, and platinum, showcases a vivid 22.44 carat spessartite garnet (Nigeria) . The garnet is accented by gemstones in graduated colors representing the color progression in a flame: fancy intense yellow diamond, yellow sapphire, red spinel, spessartite garnet, two blue sapphires, and one 2.5 mm white round diamond for accent.
Cynthia Renée describes the story behind the ring: Though I’ve made my home in Chapel Hill, North Carolina for the past five year, I’ve spent most of my life in San Diego County, where we have "fire weather." In October 2007, I flew to San Diego County to visit my friend and adventuresome client, Mary. We were going to visit the Bowers Museum’s exhibit on gemstones, then play with our own gems. Her husband called during lunch: The fires that had started in East County were moving toward their hilltop home. No more chips and salsa – we rushed back to her home as quickly as the Southern California highways would allow.
Later that night it sunk in that we would have to evacuate. Mary and her husband are planners, and they went into high gear packing essentials into the cars and attempting to protect what they had to leave. Our three cars caravaned through a night lit by fire.
We found shelter at her parents’ home, 30 minutes north—and then were evacuated again the next day as fires almost over took that home. Returning after several days away, Mary’s family discovered their home was still standing, although homes next door were not so lucky.
The year before, Mary had purchased a 22.44 carat hot-orange spessartite garnet. We turned this fireball of a garnet into a phoenix of a ring to commemorate the family’s trial by fire. (Garnets themselves are fiery—light can move through them very brightly.) Mary wanted a bombe shape and was very specific about having long sweeps of flame that would overlap at places and show airspace between them, much like the real flames of the fire she became so intimate with. The scientist in me thought it would be interesting to accent a few flames with a color progression of gems similar to the color progression in actual flames. Since blue is normally the hottest part of the flame, we wanted to include it in the color progression as well. The client has a small finger—size 4.75—so this was a lot to accomplish in a ring that size with a 22 carat center-stone!
After the concept was solidified, we concentrated on the ring’s form, much of which was the shape and placement of the metal "flames." We cast flames in two colors and hand-assembled. Once we got the shape we liked, we decided what flames to texture, and how. Then came experimentation with the layout of the gemstone “flame” color progressions. Ultimately we decided upon a color gradient of yellow diamond, yellow sapphire, spessartite garnet, and red spinel, with two strategically placed blue sapphires (tube set in platinum) to quench the heat. A white diamond was added, as the ring is “white hot,” and a neutral accent helped bring out the flames.
The application of the subtle combinations of texturing was vital to the energy of the finished ring. Some of the texturing is in engraved linear sweeps parallel to the flame’s length. Other textures are random and circular, echoing the chaotic energy of the fire advancing on the client’s home.
The resulting ring is a combination of many separate design elements and as powerful as the fields of flames advancing on the client’s home. For the client, it is the embodiment of a powerful memory and reminder of what is really important. For as beautiful, rare, meaningful, and costly as this ring is, the client remembers that the truest jewel in life is the love of family.