Saturday, January 15, 2011

How to Buy Custom Handmade Jewelry

I found this article at: and
The jewelry photos in this article are mine and most of them can be found at

"If you are looking for custom handmade jewelry, Etsy is packed full of jewelry designers that can make exactly what you want and need.  Jenny from Authentic Art has written a great article on purchasing custom handmade jewelry."

By: Jenny Hoople
"Buying custom handmade jewelry is like participating in a dance with the jewelry designer.  In my last post, I discussed how the pleasure we receive from customization may be an ancestral urge, and is fast becoming a badge of social change and of the Handmade Revolution.  Since I’m a Jewelry Designer myself, I’m most qualified to walk you through the process of working with a Jewelry Artisan to cooperatively create your most perfect, custom piece of jewelry.  Though the principles discussed here could be applied to purchasing almost any custom, handmade item.
First, we’ll learn how to find the right artist to work with.  Then I’ll give you some tips on how to create Right Communication between you and the jewelry designer to ensure that both parties are happy with the process of collaborating on a custom piece of handmade jewelry.

Custom Handmade Jewelry – Right Artist
This should be pretty easy to determine, though the final decision about whether the artist is someone you want to work with should be made after your first communication with them.  If you love their work, and they are willing to do customization, and they are clear and easy to communicate with, then you’ve probably found a good match for your ideal custom handmade jewelry designer.
  • Before contacting them, check out their “about” and “policies” pages to see if they have any information about accepting custom work (and to see if they seem like the kind of person you’d be comfortable working with!) Take a look at as many of their websites as you can find, look for customer testimonials and keep your eye open for their attention to detail to get a complete picture of how responsible they are and of whether they have a personality that you’d be comfortable working with.
  • Pay attention to the details of their work when making your decision (for example, do they only use natural stones in their work? then they may not be willing to order dichroic glass beads to include in your piece, or they’ll need to charge you quite a bit extra.)  Know ahead of time that if you want a material included in your custom piece of jewelry that they need to special order and it’s a material that they won’t be able to use in the rest of their work, then you may have to pay for a whole strand of beads, even though only a few will be used in your piece of custom jewelry.  But go ahead and ask them about the possibilities, they’ll let you know what they’re comfortable with.
  • Decide ahead of time how much free reign your comfortable giving the artist in the creation of your custom piece.  I had one customer who picked out the exact stone they wanted me to use in a pendant necklace and told me how long to make it, and I had another customer who only told me that she wanted a necklace that she could wear with her red turtleneck.  Both were completely happy with their finished necklaces because each person approached the customization process knowing how much control they wanted to have over it.
Now, it’s time to contact your Jewelry Artist and initiate the customization dance:
Custom Handmade Jewelry – Right Communication

What you should let the handmade jewelry artist know in your first communication so they can best help you.
  • Let the artist know what you like about their work (is it the colors, the style, which pieces in particular are you drawn to, is there a specific piece you love but would like a different size or color or you really need a different clasp?)
  • Let the artist know what problem you have that they can help solve (are you allergic to base metal ear wires, do you have trouble with a certain type of clasp, do you need the perfect necklace to wear with your red turtleneck? are certain colors unflattering to your complexion?)
  • Know that the jewelry artisan may ask for partial or whole payment ahead of time (This common precaution will help them buy the supplies for your custom piece and protects the artist from insincere requests.  If someone has them make a custom piece and then backs out of the deal capriciously, the artist has lost a lot of time and money to create something that they may not be able to sell to anybody else.  If you’re uncomfortable with this, you could ask to pay half at the beginning and the rest upon completion, or at least whether the artist will refund your money if you aren’t happy with the finished piece.)
What the artist should communicate back to you – if they don’t go ahead and ask them!
  • Whether they accept custom orders (if not, then you’ll have to look elsewhere, obviously.)
  • What your options are and what costs are associated with them (for instance, if they write back with a suggestion of how something could be made and what materials they might use, they should include price info.  Some artists charge more for customization services, and some materials are just more expensive than others, or if they need to custom order a stone they don’t keep in stock, they may need to pay the extra shipping charges, which means you’ll have to pay the extra shipping charges.)
  • They should provide photos, if possible (If they give you some options, they should include photos of the beads they’re talking about, or of jewelry that’s similar to what they’re trying to explain.  Ideally, they’ll also provide a photo of your finished jewelry before sending it to you to make sure that you’re getting what you expect to get.  If you want this service, go ahead and ask, any serious, professional jewelry designer won’t be offended at your request.)
  • They should let you know how much time is involved for each step along the way (A truly conscientious jewelry designer will let you know how long it will be until you hear from them again.  If they say they’re going to check out some options for what materials are available from their supplier, they should also let you know if they’ll be getting back to you in a few days or a few weeks, so that you aren’t left hanging.  If you feel like you got left hanging, don’t fret, just drop them a quick note to inquire how long until you can expect to hear from them again.  Likewise, don’t leave your designer hanging.  If they write to you requesting payment, but you can’t pay until your paycheck gets deposited, that’s okay!  But drop them a note to let them know when you’ll be sending payment.  They’ll be understanding and it’ll be much easier on them to know that you’ll be paying in a week or so than to be left wondering whether you’ll ever even write back.)"

I hope this article makes your jewelry buying experience easier and less intimidating!  As a jewelry designer I always welcome inquiries from potential customers so ask away ;-)

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