A Father’s Love and a Love of Horses
My client Cheryl had a special coin from her deceased dad that she wanted to wear. She also happens to loves horses.
I encouraged her to add her love of horses to whatever piece of jewelry we ended up making to make it that much more wearable.
This is as much a story of a jewelry designer and a challenging situation as it is about the making of this very cool leather bracelet. And the fact that sometimes you have to learn something more than once.
Starting With an Example of a Loved Piece of Jewelry
Sometimes you have a piece of jewelry that fits you really well and is comfortable. That alone can be a great starting point when designing a new piece of jewelry.
Cheryl had a leather watch cuff that she loved. We started out the with the idea that I’d collaborate with a leather maker to make a cuff bracelet similar to her watch band . We’d set her coin in a bezel frame and make two gold horse heads to go onto it. Great idea!
Use That Good Jewelry Example to Take Your First Steps on Your New Jewelry Design
Momentarily digressing to illustrate a great idea (That I didn’t follow).
My client Debra had a tanzanite ring with a wide band and a square shank that was the most comfortable ring she’d ever had.
When we embarked on the redesign of her wedding ring we had decided to incorporate that comfortable fitting style into her new wedding ring.
My wax carver, with Debra’s tanzanite ring in hand, was able to replicate that same style of fit into Debra’s new ring.
When her ring was done it had that same comfort and pleasing fit for everyday wear.
We were both really thrilled as it was an improvement over the fit and feel of our previous design.
I Ignored My Well Learned Lesson. Oops.
Cheryl wore her leather cuff watch everyday. It had that comfortable fit and we thought we’d model her coin and horse heads project off of it. She really didn’t want me to ship it across the country to the East Coast to my leather guy. I totally understood that. I figured we can work from pictures and measurements right? I had reached out to three local leather workers I found online and no one called me back!
My East Coast leather worker did beautiful work. This could work right? Well….
Starting the Steps of Making Cheryl’s Coin and Horse Cuff Bracelet
I leaped forward enthusiastically on the horses heads and making a strong bezel to hold the gold coin. I knew the bezel frame for the coin had to be extra strong, as I imagined Cheryl might decide to wear her bracelet while horseback riding.
For the record I’d rather you love your jewelry and wear it until it breaks than “protect” it by leaving it in a box.
The horse head waxes were carved to oppose each other and to be strong. Bracelets get banged and bashed around a lot more than people realize.
You often don’t notice when it’s taken a good crack. I do a lot of bracelet repairs and you can see all the dings and dents and missing diamonds. And the owner usually says, “I didn’t do anything.” I’ve thought the same thing as I looked at the damage I’ve unknowingly done to my jewelry.
Waxes of Horses, I can do That!
I showed Cheryl the waxes and she was liking their realistic look. I didn’t go for cartoony or too artsy. No one gets excited about waxes of bezels so I didn’t show her those.
The Leather Prototype
The first leather cuff prototype shipped to me lacked the vibe I was looking for. As did the second. I felt that my East Coast leather guy and I were too far away from each other to figure it out. I also felt that the design itself was part of the problem. But being out of my area of expertise – leather – I felt a bit lost.
The Brick Wall, That Place No Jeweler Wants to Be
I told Cheryl that I was not loving these leather prototypes. I didn’t feel that I was able to effectively communicate with my leather guy in order to problem solve this. I’d hit a brick wall.
I’d been referring to my collaborator as “my leather guy.” “We need another leather guy” I told her. I hate telling someone I don’t know the answer and that I’m stumped, but that’s what I had to do.
The Most Wonderful Problem Solving Client
Luckily, Cheryl was willing to jump in and help out. She saved the day by finding Finn, the owner of The Leather Shop in Morro Bay. She called me and said, “I found ‘The Guy!’” She meant the leather guy who’d ultimately make her leather bracelet dreams a reality.
Finn, the new leather guy, took the leather design in a different direction, he suggested a leather bracelet that fully closed instead of a stiff cuff. It turned out to be a great idea because it was more secure and a better fit. I was happy to see the snug tailored fit it gave instead of the more stiff look a cuff would have had.
I’m a Better Jeweler Because of This Project
I believe there is a designer in each of us. Cheryl has proven this is true with her regular collaborative contributions to our projects. I also learned that if I hit a brick wall, and I just tell my client “I’m in the weeds” that they may be able to help me. Cheryl sure did.
With her help we had a better project than our original plans would have led us to. The day I saw the finished leather bracelet back from Finn I was speechless. I loved that I’d been a part of this unique project.
Now that I know Finn I can work with him in order to make other wonderful leather and gold bracelets. I can be creative and solve any gold problems while he can figure out the leather part!
Your Jeweler is a Person too
When you are next having something designed, you can ask to see the CAD images or the wax.
You can make sure that what you pictured is being worked into your future piece of jewelry.
And maybe some bright idea of yours can improve your design, but your jeweler won’t know if you don’t share.
Your Input Counts
Some of my finest designs have come about because my clients pushed me out of my familiar, comfortable areas and design habits.
A national jewelry magazine, MJSA, published a two page spread on just such a project. “The Architect’s Ring.” (The fifteenth item in “Calla Gold in the News” section.)