What is a bespoke piece of jewellery? The term 'bespoke' is widely used, but bespoke, or custom jewellery, is an item of jewellery that has been created or 'made to order' especially for a particular customer or client. The piece could be a collection of ready made components assembled and modified to the client's instructions or could be completely made from scratch. The benefits of bespoke jewellery are that the item has often been designed in a collaboration between the designer with ideas and a general brief from the customer, to create something unique and personal to one individual; no one will have owned or worn that particular creation before.
There is now a growing trend where buyers of jewellery are moving away from mainstream, high street branded jewellery in favour of expressing themselves through the bespoke jewellery route where the world is, literally, their oyster (or pearl in this case!)
The connection between the jewellery designer/maker and the client is becoming much more personal and encourages the flow of ideas in the creation of the piece. Material choices for the piece and where they come from have become more of a concern to the client as well as to the designer/maker, and many choose to work with more environmentally friendly sourced materials in their choice of metal and stones such as diamonds and sapphires.
Before mainstream jewellery became popular, it was traditionally made by hand to order for a client and, generally, only wealthy people could afford to have items made for themselves. Mass production manufacturing techniques made stock pieces from wholesalers of jewellery more accessible and affordable, and many companies moved their manufacturing bases to the Far East to take advantage of low labour and overheads costs in an attempt to stay in business. This move, although attractive to begin with, created different problems, and many traditional, long established companies have since fallen by the wayside, but this in itself has recently created a resurgence in interest for handmade bespoke jewellery.
Some traditional high street jewellers that once only specialised in selling mass produced jewellery are recently jumping on the bandwagon and also offering limited bespoke services. It's not uncommon now to see these jewellery shops offering a bespoke wedding ring service alongside the more mainstream options and 'in house' customisation, such as in the form of engraving, to add the extra personalisation to an item of jewellery, is on the increase. Even some large well known jewellery brands are featuring 'bespoke' ranges in their offerings, but as to how truly these products are 'bespoke' is debatable.
Bespoke is a way for the client to express their style and individuality, but the term is also being more loosely associated and marketed by some jewellers to give the impression of a more prestigious product that they think customers will pay more for due to the 'bespoke' tag when, in truth, it's a mass produced item. True bespoke jewellery is defined in various ways.
At it's loosest meaning, ready made jewellery that has been altered to the customer's specifications can be described as bespoke; small alterations can be made to a piece to create a totally different look which becomes unique to the individual wearer. Handmade jewellery starting only with the core materials and a unique design is truly 'bespoke', but the actual manufacture of the piece can vary by incorporating different processes.
Assembling premade components can still be classed as bespoke in it's simplest form, as the components need to be decided on and chosen to the customer specification; unlimited options are available in this case where the finished piece is customised and possibly engraved to create something unique. The skill of the craftsman is a large factor in the look of the finished product, assembled, soldered and finished components performed by one maker can look infinitely better when done by another with higher level of skill.
As well as traditional handmaking techniques, technology can play a large part in the creation of a bespoke item of jewellery. Companies exist that offer a service where they can create a design to customer specifications using CAD (Computer Aided Design).< The design is created as a high resolution simulation graphic, often in 3D, and can be viewed and rotated to view on a computer screen to show the customer an accurate representation of their design. This is often beneficial as a visual aid to confirm the specifications of the job and that the customer actually likes the more realistic view of the design as opposed to the one in their head. At this stage, changes can be made quite easily to the design.
When the design is confirmed, the same 3D model used for viewing purposes can then be used to print a wax or resin pattern of the design for the next stage of the process, casting in precious metal. CAD designing is beneficial as the design can be viewed before being made in precious metal, saving many hours of work and wasting valuable metal if it isn't quite what the customer expected.
CAD design packages require many hundreds of hours to master, but experience in jewellery design and manufacture is also an essential skill requirement of the designer/maker to have the capability to actually make the piece and to advise the customer accordingly.
Modern bespoke handmade jewellery makers combine technology and hand craftsmanship to create beautiful works of wearable art and, in the hands of an expert, your bespoke item of jewellery should become a treasured piece to be appreciated for many years, if not generations to come.
Commission your own bespoke item of jewellery through a Guild of Jewellery Designers member on Odissa