Tuesday, November 12, 2019

What Exactly is a Signature Piece of Jewelry?

All That Glitters


I received a lot of feedback from my last article when I mentioned a specific type of very wearable jewelry that I have been designing and creating for my clients with sophisticated tastes for almost a half a century. Yes, it’s true I’ve been doing my thing and making a living from it for a very long time. A signature piece of jewelry is almost always a “custom made” creation, and usually a one-of-a-kind piece.

The process involves one-on-one face time so I can understand to some extent what the customer likes and dislikes; is it going to be a ring, a pendant, a bracelet or something else? I made scores of custom money clips, tie bars and cuff links for gentlemen over the decades. Since moving to Southwest Florida in 1994 my requests for custom made gold cufflinks is next to nonexistent (due to short sleeve shirts, I suppose?).


Signature pieces are rarely inexpensive. All custom made jewelry takes time and are labor extensive, by a skilled goldsmith where each piece is lovingly created by hand, sometimes the same way jewelry was created centuries ago.


People’s taste in jewelry is all over the map, literally. Jewelry that is popular in Los Angeles or New York, even Miami, would languish in my showcases here on Marco for seasons on end, if they even sell at all!

Most of the jewelry-buying population walk into a jewelry store, see something that appeals to them, try it on, purchase it, and off they go. Most of the time, moments later the salesperson replaces the empty jewelry display with exactly the same piece that just walked out the door, ready to sell to the next interested customer. It’s called identical backup.

Most of my signature pieces are created for that one special individual and I never make another one. I have destroyed many a mold or a prototype model to prove that point. I once had a woman who had seen a signature piece that I created for her friend ask me to make one just like it for her. I refused, and she stood there dumbfounded. I explained it’s not something I would do again. Besides, if her friend saw her personal signature piece on another woman, especially her close friend, I would probably catch some forthcoming wrath. I’ll pass. I offered to come up with something different for her and three weeks later she had her own special ring to enjoy.

I have prided myself to not only create my own designs for whoever may fall in love with it, but have traveled to other countries to search for the unusual to bring back to my shop. You could call it cherry picking because I don’t get duplicates of what I find. In many cases I won’t ever find another one a year later in the same country! Meaning, I don’t always have to make every single signature piece that leaves my shop.

Signature pieces are rarely inexpensive. All custom made jewelry takes time and are labor extensive, by a skilled goldsmith where each piece is lovingly created by hand, sometimes the same way jewelry was created centuries ago.

Today we have jewelry that can be created almost entirely by a computer. It’s called cad cam rendering and it is huge in the industry. Some mass produced pieces are hardly touched by human hands.

I use 3-D cad cam design renderings in many cases to show the customer exactly what the finished piece will look like in a full color picture, complete with diamonds or gemstones. That way and I can clear up any misgivings or uncertainties before the piece is completed.

My signature piece process involves several trips to my shop so the customer can see “the work in progress,” and alterations or any changes to the original design, which can be completed before the finalization of the piece. In other words, there will be no “Gee, I didn’t expect it to look like that!” jewelry surprises.

In closing, my signature pieces are extremely well designed for wearability. Also when worn, it makes the owner not only look good, but feel good as well. You are recognized by it, especially when it becomes your everyday wearable piece.

Richard Alan is a designer/goldsmith and owner of The Harbor Goldsmith at Island Plaza and welcomes your questions about all that glitters. Contact him at 239-394-9275 or harborgoldsmith@comcast.net, or visit his informative website at www.harborgoldsmith.com.

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