Choosing the right custom jeweler isn’t something you do on a whim. Think of it as the start of a new relationship and, like in most relationships, you should choose wisely.
Custom jewelry is a booming industry set to double in 2035. Because it’s becoming so popular, finding a quality custom jeweler or jewelry supplier at a great price can be difficult. Also, there are crooked dealers out there who will sell you a fake or poor-quality product to make some fast cash. Protect yourself from becoming a victim by doing your research and buying only from verified sources.
Here are a few questions to ask when selecting a custom jeweler:
Are you an experienced, certified professional?
Would you trust an unlicensed real estate agent or an uncertified accountant? Probably not. You shouldn’t trust a custom jeweler without any certifications, either.
As with many professions, there are certifications that custom jewelers should acquire to prove their validity in the industry. Ask if they trained at the American Gem Society, the Gemological Institute of America, or a similar institution.
Are you a member of a professional organization?
There are multiple jewelry associations in the US, including but not limited to:
- American Gem Trade Association
- Diamond Council of America
- Cultured Pearl Association of America
- American Gem Society
- Jewelers of America
- National Association of Jewelry Appraisers
Reputable jewelers are usually members of one or several of these organizations. If they aren’t, there may be a reason why.
Can I see a portfolio of your work?
When shopping around for a custom jewelry designer, you should research their work first. Every designer has his or her unique taste and aesthetic, so you should spend the extra time trying to find someone whose aesthetic is comparable to what you’re looking for. If you haven’t done your research before going to a jeweler, ask to see some of their designs.
Who is your supplier?
Even the best custom jewelers can be compromised if they’re working with a less-than-reputable supplier. If they fail to deliver quality materials, the end-product will leave a lot to be desired.
Is all of your custom work done in-house?
Choose a jeweler that does all of their work in-house. You may save money by having the jeweler hire a subcontractor to do some or all of the work for them. However, you’ll also have to hope that everything is being accurately conveyed to that subcontractor. Working with an in-house custom jeweler cuts out the middleman.
Do you cast and/or hand fabricate your own custom jewelry?
Many custom jewelers can cast items, but hand fabrication requires someone with finer skill. If your piece needs to be hand fabricated, see if they’re up to the challenge.
Do you do your own computer-aided design (CAD) work?
If your piece is complex, a custom jeweler will usually use CAD software to ensure an accurate sketch. The design process often requires going through and making a lot of small changes. These changes need to be accurately conveyed in the CAD design. If this is all done in-house, you don’t have to worry about someone else disrupting the process.
Do you set your own stones?
Stone setting is an art. Your custom jeweler should be well-versed in setting all types of stones across many different designs – especially the one you’re hiring them for. Here are a few ways that gemstones are set.
Do you do hand engravings?
Custom jewelers who are proficient in hand engravings are usually also expert stone setters. While engraving is considered one of the basics in the custom jewelry world, it never hurts to ask if they’re skilled at it.