Custom Jewelry Design
Ahhh, yes…the special feeling that comes from having something made especially for us. Bespoke. Unique. Enduring.
Here's the down-and-dirty on this process. [Click any block to learn more. Or scroll down for the full story, in all it's detailed glory.]
Step 1 | Exploration & Schedule Initial Appointment
- Check your calendar; the actual crafting process takes 4 to 6 weeks in most cases (can be shorter or longer, but not typically); but only after the design has been finalized.
- Gather up a couple photos that would be useful to communicate some aspects of the piece we will be designing with you. Also think of a few adjectives to describe the project, either specific or general in nature.
- Schedule your free 15-minute custom consultation (we will ask you to provide the above photos and words during the scheduling process).
Step 2 | Initial Appointment: Talking & Pricing
- Gather up any stones or metal you might want to use in the new project or trade in towards it, plus any additional visual materials you haven't yet shared with us.
- This is all about you giving us a brief overview of your jewelry vision. We will also assess if a bespoke experience is not what is required. For instance, we have a way to make contoured bands to fit engagement rings without true custom work. We’ll shoot straight with you, and set you on the right path.
- We have 15 minutes together to discuss enough about a design to give you a pretty-darn accurate price. Sometimes, if the project is super straight-forward, another design appointment is not needed (but that's not typical).
Step 3 | 60-Minute Full Custom Design Appointment
- When you're ready to get down to the "big show," schedule your one-hour custom design appointment ($150 deposit, applicable to any design we craft for you).
- Hi again! We get down to the nitty-gritty for an hour; sometimes the final, photo-realistic renders can be created whilst you watch. Other times, we contact you back for another 15-minute appointment (can be done via webchat for convenience) to look at the final design presentation.
Step 4 | Final Design Approval | Deposit | Crafting & Completion
- You love it! (Or sometimes you have us do some minor adjustments...) Woo-hoo! You pay a deposit, we credit your $150 consultation fee, and we get started! Most pieces are ready in 4 to 6 weeks from this day.
- We may have you come in to try on your rough metal casting before we set gems (usually only with rings).
- After we've performed or provided your appraisal, and completed any applicable warranty applications...
- We text, email, or phone you--whichever you like!
- Prepare to be mightily pleased.
success in custom jewelry design is all about communication.
This is an intimate interaction in many cases, involving a tremendous amount of communication between the "lucky one" and the Alara designers and staff. Because the piece of jewelry you are dreaming of doesn't exist...we have to find ways to "crawl inside your head." We need to "see" what you see, in your mind's eye. Details matter, and we keep asking questions until we believe we have a handle on them. Then we confirm with you that we really do have a handle on them. The proper communication on the front end guarantees no disappointments or surprises when the finished piece is revealed upon completion.
what does that communication look like?
Often, we start with photos. There's the 2 you send us when you initially schedule, but we welcome as many as are needed to make our meetings productive:
- photos or links to photos you email or text us
- Pinterest boards
- printed materials you bring with you
During the clarification stage, we rely on a mix of:
- Q & A: we ask, you answer, we confirm. We will be asking some straightforward questions and then others that might seem odd at first, but will make sense in the long run.
- show and tell: we show you pieces of jewelry we have in the showcases, or sometimes photos in our archives or printed library to show differences and similarities that clarify specific features.
- drawings and renders: whether casual hand-sketches, real-time CAD renders, or actual-size computer line drawings.
we won't let the custom jewelry process become your enemy.
We do not proceed with crafting a piece of custom jewelry until you feel confident that we have reached full understanding of what is about to be custom-made for you.
Because this type of communication relies heavily on visual information, there are folks that can't quite reach 100% confidence. Because of that, it is important to state here that this process is simply not for everyone. People who say, "I just can't know if it's what I want until it's finished" are respectfully guided towards alternative methods. We are not afraid to put on our collective "thinking cap" for your benefit.
We are also professional enough to know when the custom jewelry design process just isn't quite right for your perception style.
can the same result be achieved using different methods?
Yes, there are several different "pathways" to custom jewelry. Often, you can choose between a couple different ones for your particular piece, sometimes there's really only one right way to make it.
Sometimes a specific pathway will limit your control over small details, provide a different amount of longevity, require less metal but cost more... So, let's get started with a little bit about the various pathways to custom jewelry design we offer.
Each of our three in-house designers have different specialities and strengths; once the full scope of your project is determined in your Initial Custom Consultation, we will pair you up with a designer whose strengths work with your design.
complete custom: the bespoke experience
Jewelry made especially for you. It simply makes more sense. Made for your body, your gems, your taste, and your lifestyle. A bespoke piece of jewelry from Alara is imbued with greater meaning and finer quality than any McJewelry could ever deliver. It’s like comparing a fine meal to fast food. Bespoke means yours, and yours for many years to come.
Complete custom is necessary for those more intricate, complicated, period-inspired, or specific requests that are unlikely to be found in a previous design we have created. And be forewarned: some designs that might be considered "simple" by you ("there's only one stone!") might not ultimately be simple from a structural aspect. Sometimes, the only right way to do something is the most expensive way...
We will serve as your guides through the intricacies of aesthetics, since we are "building something from the ground up" for you. We'll start with the gems and diamonds of your dreams (whether yours or ours) and work our way towards a finished design. In addition to getting all the gem and diamond education you want, and helping you hand-select gems you need, we will present you with a professional "Design Proposal," which outlines all the details of your job before we embark upon actually creating it.
"massaging an existing model"
What could this possibly mean? Well, we have over 4,500 models already loaded into our CAD system, and many of those models have a number of features that can be just slightly tweaked to suit the needs of a goodly percentage of our guests. This is a great thing to consider if saving $400 to $650 is of interest to you, and you aren't trying to reinvent the ring, so to speak. We have 3 designers on staff that can assist you with such a project.
So, you already have diamonds and gems, but you really hate how they're mounted? Grandma's taste not the same as yours? We're here to help you bring out the beauty in those baubles! We have picture upon picture of "before" and "after" photos…and don't be surprised that many of the "befores" are from other jewelers who "missed the mark" on the first go-round! By presenting you with a professional "Design Proposal" before we start any actual crafting, nothing is ever forced on you that isn't exactly as it was promised. Depending on the project, this can be "full custom" or "massaged custom," as described separately above.
existing remount models
Just as we have many CAD models that can be slightly modified, we also have a library of existing, physical molds that might just work with the gems you have. This means you can have a piece of jewelry that has that luxurious weight and feel of a custom design (instead of lightweight McJewelry), but at a far lower price. This takes some luck, but can be worth exploring if you're very flexible about design (because these designs can't be modified).
yes, you can be the designer!
Are you an artist, engineer, or architect, or do you simply fancy yourself artistic? We can actually instruct you on the use of our CAD system to create a piece. We'll be with you every step of the way, to make sure a design isn't created that lacks proper structure or isn't advisable in any way.
This can be such a meaningful way to give a gift of jewelry--with you as the designer! (We just will do all the crafting once you've come up with your design.) You'll need to set an Initial Custom Consultation to confirm that your design can be properly made using CAD techniques. [Hint: this is our most expensive option, because more of our designer's time is involved. But we are delighted to help you with this kind of "project of a lifetime!"]
corporate award jewelry
When Home Depot wanted corporate jewelry designed, who did the Southwest regional manager turn to? Alara's founder, Babs Noelle.
Whether you want something that is reminiscent of a class ring in design, or are seeking an unusual treatment of your company logo that your team will actually wear, you really should give us a shout. Our manufacturing capabilities are expansive, so don't be concerned we can't handle it, and handle it quickly if necessary.
"How much does a vacation cost?" (Depends on if you're camping at Hyalite, chartering a plane to a private island, or hitting up Disneyworld...right?)
Well...much like vacations, there's no "standard price" for a piece of custom jewelry.
The very nature of custom work is that no two pieces are alike, so therefore there is no “standard price.” To serve as a guideline for you, however, please note the price grid below. The prices shown in the grid are indicative of a piece that is prong-set with one round, 5mm gem, in a mounting that has no engraving or enamel), and not heavier than average.
When you add gems, the labor to set those gems, and embellishments such as hand-engraving, enamel, or inlay...the price goes up. What the prices below tell you is the typical “entry level” and also “average” prices for custom design, according to metal. "Entry level" pieces are ones that can be made by hand, with simple construction (so, no CAD work). Most custom projects, however, will have pricing that falls in the "Average Pricing" column on the right.
As previously stated, there’s no such thing as a “typical” price for custom work. It stands to reason that an “atypical” piece will have a very individual price. On occasion, there are styles that folks describe to us as “so simple,” yet as it turns out, they require an expensive manufacturing method to properly and accurately execute them. And sometimes things that look complex are actually inexpensively manufactured using clever assembly.
Sometimes we custom-craft pieces that fall below the above-listed prices. But the last thing we want to do is mislead you or provide information that makes you feel like there’s a “bait-and-switch” thing going on.
our skills, training, and competencies
Our founder is a European-trained, major award-winning, master jeweler. Her skill is confirmed by her training (generally regarded as the most rigorous in the world), her experience, the accolades awarded by her peers, and over thirty years of delighted clients.
Our in-house master jeweler is GIA-trained, and has vast experience. You will be surprised by his youth...but don't let it fool you. He is the consummate professional.
We also have designers and stylists on staff who are not craftspeople, but are skilled at assisting you with "massaged custom design."
Because of the malleability and ductility of precious metals, how a piece of fine jewelry is treated when worn begins to be the most important factor in its longevity and condition at about the 3-month mark. That’s not to say that your new necklace, ring, bracelet, or pair of earrings is about to fall apart at that point. It’s just that a true manufacturing defect will rear its ugly head before then.
So, to show that we back our quality, we provide a lifetime maintenance warranty through Preferred Jewelers International on any applicable custom piece of jewelry we design. And for designs that feature gems not acquired from us, we will offer you an appraisal suitable for insurance purchases at a very discounted rate, so you can properly insure your new treasure.