Chris Keller is Comeau Jewelry Company’s Joplin Store Manager and Resident Jewelry Designer. He is a plastic’s engineer by education as well as a graduate Gemologist through the Gemological Institute of America. He has created hundreds of stellar designs for our clients over his career with Comeau Jewelry. Most of our new clients are unfamiliar with the steps of creating a one of a kind piece of jewelry and are curious about the unique journey that is taken through the process. We sat down with Chris for a one on one interview about the most commonly asked questions jewelry designers encounter.
How much does creating a custom piece jewelry cost? Is it expensive?
Chris: Usually it is a little more expensive, but not always and when it is, not as much as you would think. As in any manufacturing process whether it be a house, a car, or a piece of jewelry, it is going to be more expensive to manufacture a one-of-a-kind versus 100 or 1,000 of a particular item. However, designer pieces can actually be a little less expensive to custom make something similar to because of the premium these designers put on their pieces. You can even put your own twist in these instances as well.
What are the steps to the custom process?
Chris: The first step is to sit down with the client and go over what their likes and dislikes are. We have a lot of live and prototype mountings in the store to get design cues from as well as ideas of our own and the clients. Another helpful tool can be the internet and websites such as Pinterest to gather ideas from. The second step is to CAD the initial design concept we come up with after step 1. This will generate a computerized rendering (lifelike image of the piece) and we will also be able to quote exactly what it will cost to make the piece. The client can also make changes to the rendering until they are satisfied with the result. The third step is to mill or 3D print the wax. This will generate a life size wax model of the piece. The client can try it on and we can even put your stones into the wax to even further create the visual. Once the client approves the wax, we move onto step four which is casting the piece in the preferred metal and setting all the stones into the finished casting. After a final polish, it is ready to be worn!
What happens to my stones/jewelry during the custom process, are they sent off?
Chris: We only send the wax off to be cast. The stones are set here in house by one of our highly skilled and experienced jewelers.
Do you have a favorite piece that you have created?
Chris: That’s a tough question to answer. There are definitely a few that certainly stand out, but I honestly would say my favorite piece is whatever I am working on that given day. Each custom piece is so unique and there’s always something different that draws me to each particular piece.
Are there limits to what we can design? How many stones can be used per piece of jewelry designed?
Chris: Depending on the specific design, you can use as many or few of your own gemstones as you would like. If the design calls for more gemstones than you have, we can match the quality and provide the remaining quantity needed.
Will it be more economical to create a custom piece of jewelry if I provide all of my own stones?
Chris: It can certainly save money to use your own gemstones. However, in cases of very small gemstones, it can often cost more in labor to pull them out of an old setting and reset them into a new setting than the gemstones are worth. If they are gemstones that are sentimental to the client, then you can’t put a price on that.
What are the benefits of creating a custom piece of jewelry?
Chris: There are several benefits to having a custom piece of jewelry made. By having a custom piece made, you end up with a high quality, made in the USA piece that no one else is going to have. It’s truly one-of-a-kind and it is not something you are going to see on 100 other people. You and your custom piece of jewelry will be the envy of all your friends and family!