Certainly, I hope this article will lead you to choose Gary Dawson Designs as your custom jeweler. Why would I write an article that would advise you to choose a custom jeweler from my many competitors? I may have my reasons to be generous, “We all do well when we all do well.”, right?…read on.
So, why would you pick me over any of the other custom jewelers available to you both locally and on-line?
And what if you are dedicated to shopping locally and you are 5 states away? I’m glad to help that guy or gal get your business. I understand local, and hopefully this article will be more than just a promotional piece. I hope it will help you understand just what custom jewelry really is, both in breadth and scope, and how you can make wise decisions regarding just who will help you achieve your dreams in custom designed jewelry.
What is Custom?
It can be confusing. When you order a custom automobile, for example, you pick a model you like and then you get some choices. Exterior and interior color might be part of that, automatic or manual transmission…maybe; leather seats? You will likely have some choices in trim and detail. And that’s about it. All of your choices will be limited to what the manufacture already has in production and only assembled to your preferences. You cannot go to the car dealer with a sketch of the dream you had about an outrageous car design and have her make it from scratch. You CAN do that with custom jewelry! That’s HUGE!
But some jewelers, in the same manner as car dealers, call the way with limited choices…”custom”. It is confusing when both of those methods of working with customers are called custom jewelry with no real explanation of just how custom, custom can get! And there are even more variations of what can be legitimately called custom jewelry.
I’m proud to be a founding member of the MJSA (Manufacturing Jewelers and Suppliers of America) Council of Custom Jewelers. We have come up with an answer to that potential confusion and we have worked to define custom jewelry and various levels of custom work.
We say custom jewelry is, at its core:
Jewelry designed and produced by a jeweler for a specific client, almost always with the client’s input, and adhering to the highest standards of quality craftsmanship.
MJSA and the council are also promoting a three-tiered system in which custom design projects can be grouped according to the level of design involved. The three levels are:
Full Custom Design: A jewelry design made from scratch specifically for a customer.
Semi-Custom Design: Existing designs that have been modified to alter their shapes or appearance.
Made to Order: Existing designs manufactured by request, modified only by sizing and choice of metal and/or gemstone.
From my perspective, these definitions may still be a work in progress, but it’s a great start.
Advice: Be aware! Before you go further find out if your jeweler is offering choices within existing parameters or designing from scratch.
To drill a little deeper into additional things you might consider when you choose your custom jeweler, we’ll talk about reputation and value.
Choose a custom jeweler for reputation, value, and the integrity of their designs.
It is easy to research reputation these days and nearly everyone starts there. There are multiple on-line sources to find out what other people say about any business, jewelers included. I think that reputation goes hand-in-hand with integrity. The more positive reviews any given business has the more likely you are to have a good experience with that business. But bear in mind that new businesses many be absolutely fantastic but have not had the time to build that all-important on-line reputation…yet! Also, nobody can please everybody all the time so don’t let a bad review or two scare you away from a business that otherwise looks good to you.
Advice: Do your on-line, preliminary research but don’t stop there, there’s more.
Value vs. Perceived Value
Mass marketers in jewelry industry began shooting themselves in the foot, (and the rest of us in the head) when they adopted the practice of marking their things up to unrealistic prices. And then they never sell them at that price because they never intended to sell them at that price. Continuous deep discounting has become the scourge of the industry and this practice has gone a long way toward devaluing jewelry and eroding trust for anyone in the industry. Personally, I rarely have a sale of any type. My creations are worth what they are worth and that’s that. Now, that’s not to say I won’t negotiate a little sometimes. Heck, I’m human and the mortgage payment comes regularly. And if you have already purchased valuable things from me I may even offer the “family” deal. But any discount from the asking price will be small because I do not have outrageous margins to begin with. I price fairly. I price fairly so both of us will be happy when a transaction is complete and I’ll still be here when you come back.
Advice: Beware of continuous sales and drastic mark-downs.
This is my term for making my prices understandable and to represent the actual value of what you are purchasing. Example: I have a competitor that tells his clients that he will make a new design for them for $40…and then marks his gold up 10 times to make up the difference. I hate that. It is misleading in several ways. Yes, I mark up my materials, that’s the nature of business. But I do so fairly and my design pricing honors my expertise and the work I put into each design and the integrity of my execution of that design. My final price will probably be pretty similar to my buddy down the street but the breakdown represents each part of the piece honestly.
Advice: Ask for a price breakdown and see if it makes sense to you.
A Final Word about Value…
It is likely that “Full Custom Design” will be worth more to you over the long term than other categories because you participated in the design and it is uniquely yours. It will be more meaningful to you (have more value) but SURPRISE, IT MAY NOT COST MORE!
Why is that? Couple of reasons. A competent designer will likely only be sourcing raw materials (lower cost to him than commercially produced parts) and your Full Custom Design concept may not require superhuman effort to create.
Let me explain. Even though most of my projects are full custom design, I still do have pricing tiers based on the level of complexity in any give piece. And all of these pricing tiers include providing a rendering of your concept and giving you the opportunity to provide feedback for modification if necessary!
Full custom design might be, in some cases, a simple band of a width, thickness and shape that you choose, and maybe include a symbol of importance to you. If your symbol is simple, that may not cost much at all! The next level is a mid-tier design. It will still be something completely new and made for you, more complex than a simple band but not a lot more difficult to execute. This will likely cost more than the simple band but still be relatively inexpensive to design and produce. Then there is the superhuman effort category. Certainly, this will cost more than the other two tiers I commonly use.
Advice: Don’t assume you cannot afford true custom design.
Choose a Custom Jeweler
Local or Remote, it’s still good business (and maybe even good karma)! In working with a custom jeweler on-line or local you will be dealing with a real person.
The key benefits to you? Your piece will be made to suit your taste, size, color and budget for starters. But there’s more…
Most custom jewelers will be smaller, family owned business and working with them locally will keep more of your money in your community. And if you choose to work with an on-line custom jeweler that is remote, your money will be spent helping to support a family, and not investors in corporate profits. Real people working with real people is where it’s at these days and only good things can come of that. You will get a better, more tailored and well crafted piece of jewelry, and you will be participating in a community-type economy rather than simply being a consumer cog in a big machine. Thank you for considering this in all your shopping!
Advice: Have fun with your custom design project!
Call us up!
I will be delighted if you choose your custom jeweler to be Gary Dawson. I am also interested in helping you make the right choice if you would like to work with a custom jeweler near you! Well-connected throughout the industry, I may be able to provide recommendations in your area for someone I know will serve you well. Either way, call today at (+1) 541-729-2531 or contact here for a rapid response to your query via email.
It doesn’t matter if it’s been 10 days or 10 minutes, I think most people probably have some version of the thought, “Why did I wait so long to do this?” after great sex. Sex is calming, inspiring, and healthy and we should all probably have it more often. And only because what happens in camp stays in camp, this will be more about not waiting for good things than it will be about sex.
I’m a poster boy for the Seth Godin quote, “Instead Of Wondering When Your Next Vacation Is, Maybe You Ought To Set Up A Life You Don’t Need To Escape From.” I love what I do and nearly every day I experience a type of bliss where time disappears and I’m in the “zone”. I work for hours at a time without really being aware of myself, just the process within which I reside at that moment. I feel like the luckiest guy in the world that way. But the downside (there’s a downside to everything) is that I forget to do other things. Take a few days off, see other parts of the world, think different thoughts. Get inspired in new ways.
Not that I/we haven’t taken some time… In the last few years we’ve been on several trips to South America, visiting 3 different countries, some of them twice. And yet it’s been many months since we’ve been to the Oregon Coast, only an hour away from where we live in the Willamette Valley. Going to the Ham Radio convention in Seaside OR doesn’t count. And it has probably been 20 years or so since I last visited Steens Mountain. Alysia, never. I was lucky enough to hunt there before it became nearly impossible to get a tag for the area, so for a time, I got to return every year. But we forget. We don’t forget how magnificent a place is, we forget to go back.
Great Sex…Just do it!
But after talking about it for years, we took the time this last week to pack up and go. Just do it.
What does this have to do with fine, custom-made jewelry, you ask? This is a custom jewelry site, after all. Well, nothing and everything. It has nothing to do with it because in this post, I’m not trying to sell you anything directly, nor am I talking about jewelry or the process of making it. But this also has everything to do with it in that when we go out and experience more, we become a better version of ourselves. Both as makers, and consumers. We get a better perspective on what’s important in life; relationships, the quiet-clatter of quaking aspen leaves in a cooling high-altitude breeze, air so clean that you can feel your body smiling, the pure joy of watching your dog-buddy exploring every new scent, cooking being still fun without a fancy kitchen, and on and on. I’m better…more focused and mindful for having taken this trip. So I am trying to sell you the idea that one mustn’t postpone things like this. Having just re-experienced one of my “happy places”, I’m keenly aware now that we all need to do this for ourselves frequently. Put on your own oxygen mask before helping somebody else, right?
I am hoping you’ve enjoyed this short diversion from our focus on custom jewelry, and will forgive the cheap lure of “great sex”. I’ll be back on the jewelry topic soon and have interesting news! So stay tuned…
Trust your instinct?…maybe. And right now I’m not talking about who to trust to make your custom jewelry. Let’s assume that you’ve already found someone, or a company, that will communicate well, and will complete your project in a timely manner at a fair price. You have started a project with someone that embodies professionalism.
The next phase will likely be for the designer to show you a rendering of one, or several design options. This is a great time to offer constructive feedback! Your new piece should reflect both your aesthetic desire and also utilize the expertise of the designer. This collaboration should result in making your piece unique and insure that it is made with integrity.
“Trust Me”, She Says…And so you have worked with your jewelry designer, and you have just approved a final version of your new piece of jewelry. It’s off to production. You are getting a haircut and just can’t wait to show off the new piece so you break out your phone and show your hairdresser, the confidant that you tell “everything”!
“Oh no!”, she says, “That isn’t right for your finger shape.” (or size, or something…anything to let you know that she really knows what’s best for you.) In a semi-panic you fire off a text to the designer, “we have to make some changes.”
Professionalism and Trust
Prior to sending that text would be a good time to remember that you interviewed a bunch of designers and finally found one that you just knew that you could work with. And remember that the professionalism he or she embodied are those characteristics that made you choose him or her. That professionalism likely carries through to making sure that you won’t make a huge mistake in approving a random design. Think about it this way; your designer’s reputation is on the line with everything s/he lets out of his/her shop!
Turn it around for a moment and think whether you would send your lawyer a panic text saying, “Hey Paul, my hairdresser just reviewed your brief and we have to make some changes!” Seems pretty silly, right? There’s a good chance your jewelry designer has at least as much, if not more time, in his or her profession than your lawyer…
Too Many Cooks
It’s a fairly common problem we all have. In seeking out approval from our friends, or just sharing good news, it is easy to run into some among them that will try to convince you that they know what is best for you. It’s almost always well-meaning. And in some cases, they may in fact be right! I always take into consideration advice from people I know, solicited or not. And then I balance that with what I know about myself, and the situation I’ve shared that they don’t know. Too many cooks in the kitchen can make for a lousy stew a lot of the time.
A website called Show Me Strength puts it another way with regard to the topic of weight training…
“To put it in its simplest form, and stick to the original analogy, its not hard for a single chef to boil a pot of water: it becomes tough when fifteen chefs have to boil one pot of water and every one of them has a different method for boiling water, a different trick to speed up the process, and so on.
In short, you need to be careful who you listen to. In the age of the internet and commercial gyms, there is no shortage of weight-training advice, and certainly no shortage of bad weight-training advice. Just because that guy in your gym has huge biceps doesn’t mean what he says should have any bearing on your training. Chances are, he is not an expert on building rotational core strength or optimizing the timing of your rotator cuff.”
The above quote was taken directly from their website and I love the graphic they used! I also love their tag-line…”RUTHLESSLY IMPROVING LIVES”.
Gary Dawson Designs has over 40 years of design and manufacturing experience. We won’t let you down. And we won’t tell your hairdresser how to do your hair!
Anyone who knows me at all knows I enjoy a good meal and I particularly enjoy my time preparing good meals. After a day of making jewelry wearing the Gary Dawson Designs hat, I like to play in my kitchen! This past Sunday breakfast was no exception. Slow is the way to cook bacon, BTW. On a Sunday, you can have a reasonably low heat and take the good 15-20 minutes it takes to first render the fat from the bacon, and then slowly crisp it up. Cooked this way it never sticks, even in a Stainless pan!
Crêpes SauvagesSome years ago I came across an unusual recipe in my tattered copy of Joy of Cooking, a fantastic reference for all things culinary. In the hard-copy version, you can find instruction for just about any cooking skill or recipe, from making blueberry muffins to breaking down a beef carcass. The recipe I landed upon was called Crêpes Sauvages and it produces a light, yet hearty flapjack-type pancake with a flavor similar to fried cornmeal mush, a flavor that maybe only a Southerner can immediately access in memory. Although I grew up in Oregon, my Mom was from Alabama, and my food memories reflect a lot of that heritage. Here’s the recipe, direct from JOC, along with the notes about the recipe that were included in my original cookbook…
About twenty thin 2-inch cakes
A distinguished botanist friend had as visitors on a field trip a Parisian confrère who traveled accompanied by his gifted Indonesian chef. To amuse the chef, our friend cooked his favorite corn cakes for him over a campfire. As he tossed the flapjacks, the chef cried out in delight, “Crêpes Sauvages!”
If you make this version up without the eggs, the pancakes become lacey.
1 1/3 cups white corn meal
1 ¼ t salt
½ t soda
¼ C sifted all-purpose flour
Cut into this with a pastry blender:
¼ C butter
Combine and beat:
2 C buttermilk
Stir the liquid into the sifted ingredients with a few swift strokes. Make the cakes small for easier turning. The batter settles readily, so beat it between spoonings. To rest griddle, bake and serve, see About Pankes, page 211
From earlier versions of “Joy of Cooking”. The recipe is in newer editions as “Crisp Corn Flapjacks” but without the backstory.
Lost & FoundDuring a move, or maybe a “relationship readjustment” I eventually lost my first Joy and was extremely dismayed that the newer version that I subsequently purchased did not have this recipe! Alas, I had not yet started my personal recipe archive. So for years I missed this occasional breakfast treat. But, lucky guy that I am, I ended up with Alysia, and amazingly, she had an older version of Joy. I’ve since discovered that the recipe is in fact in newer versions of the book, but without the backstory and listed as “Crisp Corn Flapjacks”.
Enter Sourdough…and the Spirit of AdventureWhile I really enjoy the recipe just as it is above, this last Sunday I decided to try making it with the addition of Sourdough. It was good, great really but I’m my own worst critic. I know what I’d do differently next time.
If you try this, let me know how it turns out! I’d love to hear your story.
We all want value for our hard-earned dollars. But just what is value? I think many people equate price alone with value. I’d like you to consider that those things are not always the same.
Low Price Good Value
Low price and value can exist together. I shop at a small community market where I know I can trust the food. They stock mostly organic and they label conspicuously. One of the first places I check when I walk in is the “distressed” veggie bin.
I love all kinds of peppers and cook with them in most of my dishes. And for some reason this market pulls peppers with only tiny blemishes from the regular shelves. Sometimes I can’t even find a blemish on their distressed peppers. Since I’ll be cooking with them soon and am perfectly capable of paring away any small blemishes that I find, buying these cheap peppers make sense to me. They represent a great value! In this case, cheap is good and instead of paying full-bore for organic peppers, I buy great “distressed” organic peppers for a fraction of the cost.
Now let’s look at another scenario. You find the love of your life and in our culture a ring is often used to represent dedication and love to the world. You are shopping for an engagement or wedding ring. There is a plethora of options from local boutique jewelers to on-line overstock re-sellers…and everything in-between. In this case, while your budget is, or should be a factor, does it really make sense to just shop price?
Probably not…but you still want value. And in this circumstance where do you find it?
You Get What You Pay For…Maybe
Can you pay too much for jewelry? Certainly. No question that there are jewelers and jewelry companies that play on your emotion while they play up their brand. And you end up paying more for attitude and a fancy box than you might have paid for the jewelry in that box. And that doesn’t even begin to address how well the jewelry was made.
On the flip side of that coin, there are many companies out there that will try to convince you that their cheap stuff is great and represents the best value. I suspect that lightweight, poorly-conceived designs manufactured without quality control are not what you want to represent your commitment to another human.
Fortunately, the majority of jewelry “makers” out there sincerely want to provide you value in a well-made product.
What to Do
Buying jewelry is often an emotional experience. Honor that and try to remember that you may be vulnerable to making a costly mistake. Take a little time to clarify your goals first. Set both your budget and your priorities for your purchase. Then look around and check your options. Price shopping may make sense if you are comparing apples to apples; a 6-gram 14K yellow band with another 6-gram 14K yellow band, for example.
And for anything beyond a simple choice like that, rather than buying something pre-made, you may want to consider having someone custom-craft your treasured jewelry item. A custom jeweler should consider many factors in designing your jewelry and be willing to work with you on all of them. Your lifestyle (level of activity), personal style (aesthetics), and budget can all be considered as a project is discussed and initiated. A custom jeweler can make something that perfectly fits you in all these ways.
Custom Jewelry, Trust & Integrity
Finding someone you can trust for this process is easier now. With the preponderance of social media ratings, it’s not hard to check reputations these days. How long have they been in business? What do clients say about them? Even a good store can get an occasional bad review but note the trend in the feedback you encounter. And your judgment is important too. Do you feel comfortable in the establishment? Or is both phone and on-line communication personable and clear?
Find someone that listens to you and communicates clearly about each of the important parts of your project mentioned above. A good designer/goldsmith will not let you make poor choices, they want you pleased *and* your return business!
How does it work?
Each custom jeweler/goldsmith may work through the process differently.
As I lay inside the bathroom vanity I watch intently as the first gallon or two of water flow into and out of the newly installed sink through Ikea-designed plumbing. I smile as I observe myself taking a lot of pride in seeing no leaks and immediately wonder if Jim Harrison ever had prideful moments like that. Did Harrison, one of my favorite authors, ever install an Ikea sink? And if he did, did he regret not spending the day writing?
Jim Harrison and Brown Dog Mentality
I’m no Jim Harrison, though I like to think of myself as a writer and I relate to him and many of his characters in their lascivious thoughts and behavior. After all, I did offer to fuck my wife right before we started installing the sink together. Harrison’s character Brown Dog would have been proud of me! Alysia paused, shirtless as she changed into work apparel, to decline the opportunity but wasn’t a bit offended by the offer…we get along that way. And then she said April Fools…the shirt stayed off for a while. It being designer’s day off, Easter Sunday in fact, (and April Fool’s Day) we were working together to get through a seemingly endless list of cosmetic remodel projects. The idea being to sell this place for the most possible income which makes it totally ironic that with every completed project, we love the place more.
Designer’s Day Off
Designer’s day off…right. Sort of a joke in the rarity of any real days off as most people would visualize them. I’m thinking it would be nice to be fishing with a bobber from the shore of a quiet lake while I sit in my zero-gravity chair with a cold beer in the holder and a bunch more in the nearby cooler. I know, this scene does not impress real fishermen, but I’m talking about a day off here, not the strenuous fly-fishing that I actually enjoy. This place, a huge house on 5 acres out in the wine country near Eugene, Oregon, would have been paid off by now had I not made bad relationship decisions prior to meeting the game bird with which I now cohabitate. But the last one did me poorly, so I work like a driven 40-year-old instead of the guy with senior discounts that I am. No regrets…well maybe a few. But if the timing had been different, likely neither I nor my beautiful, young wife would have been single when we met, and for that I’m ever thankful. She appreciates my lewd comments.
Not All Work and No Play
And really, I’m the luckiest guy in the world in that I like, no, I LOVE what I do. I’m a jewelry designer and manufacture. I specialize in custom work and I have the best clients in the world, working worldwide and locally. I’m also a fair handyman. And I like to write.
Throughout my entire 43 years as a jewelry designer and manufacturer, I’ve practiced a process called sole authorship. This means that for nearly every piece of jewelry that I make, I solely perform every aspect of its creation, from concept to final finish. In today’s world, this is mostly an anachronism.
Even most handmade jewelry items are created in a collaborative process these days. One person does the design, another person or another shop entirely does the casting, another does the gemstone setting, and sometimes yet another applies the final finish. Certainly, an argument can be made that this process is effective, and may, at least in some cases, provide the client with the best possible work. Since a specialist is performing work at every stage, doing something that they do exclusively every day, I can see the logic in that reasoning.
I feel differently about what that might mean for my own work. When it comes to executing my jewelry designs, I may not be the absolute best at any particular process. But I’m very good at all of them and I put my heart into each one in a way that I feel makes the outcome of the whole better for it. The sum is even greater than the parts, so to speak. There are a few others like me making jewelry, but the concept of sole authorship is much more prevalent in among my knife-making friends.
Master Bladesmith Test
For example, to achieve the status of “Master Bladesmith” within the knife making community a journeyman’s work must be executed as the product of a sole author and pass several stringent tests…
The following is from Wikipedia:
The tests for Master smith include using a forged Damascus steel blade with a minimum of 300 layers and fashioned as a “stick tang knife” (as opposed to a full-tang) to cut a free hanging rope, chop through 2 2X4″ pieces of lumber, and retain an edge capable of shaving hair. Lastly, the knife is placed into a vise and flexed for 90 degrees. The knife must spring back without breaking, must remain functional, and must not slip from the handle. Once the performance test is passed, the applicant must submit 5 knives to a panel of judges, all knives are judged on balance, beauty, and symmetry, but one must be either an “Art Knife” or a “European style” dagger. The first smith to receive the Master title under these requirements was Wayne Goddard.
I think a good argument can be made that knifemakers are producing some of the finest metal work in the world.
Sole Authorship = Soul Authorship…or Ego Trip?
The following comment, “I feel “sole authorship” is fine, but ultimately a destructive ego trip for craftspeople…” was a response I got upon mentioning sole authorship as a possible category of makers within all jewelry makers. I should clarify that this comment was made by a good friend of mine with no intent of bashing…and I can see her point, to a degree. At the beginning stages of learning and making jewelry, for a student to be obsessed by the concept of sole authorship may impede their learning. I’m an advocate of students building skills as their interest leads them and some may never get around to creating within the parameter of sole production.
The other side of this is that a designer with no concept of downstream processing of the designs they produce will often make engineering mistakes. This can lead to outcomes that are, at best, difficult to produce and sometimes inferior in terms of structural integrity, durability, and comfort.
The Force is With It
At peril of seeming a bit new age woo-woo, one of the important things in my service to my clients is my intimate familiarity of each process that goes into the design and manufacture of each piece and my innate knowledge that the energy that goes into a piece of jewelry stays with it. I have written about my concept of “conscious intent” and how it plays into how I work with my clients. Working as sole author on most of my pieces allows me to direct and control that energy in ways that both I and my clients seem to appreciate. To find out more, or start your project with Gary Dawson Designs, use our convenient contact form, found here!
These days there seems to be a huge interest in antique style jewelry that spans several stylistic periods.
Antique Style: Turn of the 20th Century
One of our stylistic favorites are the very detailed designs that were first made popular at the turn of the last century, the early 1900’s. These styles were manufactured using a technique of die striking the designs from relatively thin pieces of sheet metal, usually platinum in that era. The process is similar to “coining”, which is explained here. The style fell out of favor for a while, but interest in these designs were revived in the 1950’s when someone discovered the old dies used to manufacture these rings and began using them to make the designs in white gold. Platinum in that era was becoming a strategic metal and prices soared so making the designs in white gold made them more accessible to a broader market during that era.
We’ve had several recent requests to reproduce this style of ring.
This one was a request to remount some family diamonds for one of our fantastic clients. She sent this picture as a reference…
Faithful, But Better with CAD!
So we went to work! Going through several changes as we evolved the design. The pitfall of the old way of making these designs using die-strike technology is that the ring is “struck” in halves, and soldered together along the longitudinal center line. Not that solder is bad technique, but that technique makes for a thin shank, as is visible above, and also very thin sides on the top of the ring. So thin that these hollow rings can have pretty sharp edges in contact with the finger. I’ve seen these designs that, when worn with another ring along side, wear to knife-sharp edges, really problematic for the wearer.
Faithful, to the original aesthetic but better in that with CAD and 3D Printing combined with the traditional technology of lost wax casting, we can make the ring in one solid piece, with more structural integrity and larger finger contact areas. This results in a sturdier and more comfortable ring.
With our client’s blessing, we can now offer this antique style ring, that retains the flavor of an era and is built to our standards of aesthetic and structural integrity! Have fun as you choose your materials! We offer both Natural and Lab Created diamonds and although the design is currently designed to accommodate a 1/2 Ct. center and 1/3 Ct side gems, we can modify to your preferred sizes or even your family diamonds! Contact us here for your personalized request! Or simply order from our catalog page here!
One Other Recent Antique Style Ring
Here’s another recent antique style reproduction. Shown here both the original ring and our finished product. Our client first brought the original ring, in sterling silver, pearl and rhinestones with the idea of restoring it to use as a wedding ring. Unfortunately, the original ring was modified at some prior time using lead which makes any further work on a piece of jewelry impossible. Not only is it somewhat toxic, it contaminates a goldsmiths bench. You can see the new ring is very similar, thought not identical to the original. It was made with 14K white gold, diamonds and a black button pearl. The client decided that she preferred a black pearl and we suggested using a button shape to keep the profile of the pearl lower, and therefore less likely to snag on pockets and clothing.
These types of projects are fun for us and help to preserve a style and sometimes preserves a family tradition.
Connection as Theme
Within the plethora of trashy, hedonistic and often meaningless media, occasionally arises something that makes us pause and think. That is a connection. And they are sadly rare in our contemporary media culture.
Two series recently caught our attention, and we connected to both. “Sense8” and “The Handmaid’s Tale” both speak strongly to the concept of connection, and they do it from vastly different perspectives.
The Handmaid’s Tale
The version to which I refer here is on Hulu as a serialization of the novel by Canadian author Margaret Atwood, originally published in 1985. The story is set in a dystopian near-future in which a totalitarian, cisgender, christian theonomy has overthrown the US government. Told from the perspective of Offred, (Elisabeth Moss) a “handmaid” by virtue of her reproductive ability in a society made largely infertile by pollution and disease, this story connects us to our worst fears regarding the resurgence of fanatical religious right-wing political elements in our very real present world.
Connection, for Offred, comes in several forms, from her overtly Stockholm Syndrome-ish connection to her commander’s wife, her tenuous connection with her peers, always fearful of betrayal, to her covert messages to an unseen co-conspirator, courageously scratched on the dark, hidden inside wall of a closet in her room. Those scratched messages are left there, like a message in a bottle, for the next person in her situation, to offer hope in a possible connection. Trust, in this story, is a shadowy optimism of connection, at least as far as we’ve watched into the series.
This story seems to illustrate how important our connections are as humans. When strong connections are not available, the thinnest thread of connection serves to keep us wedded to ourselves, our humanity, our hopes, and to the motivation to persevere.
The title of this created-for-web television series is a play on the word “sensate”, which means to perceive things by one or more of the senses, or the ability to sense something physically. Sensing physically is a strong theme in this Netflix series, created by Lana and Lilly Wachowski and J. Michael Straczynski for Netflix. The connection is strong between a group of 8 people, called a “cluster” in the series, separated geographically yet connected, somehow telepathically, by shared experiences. At first random but growing more frequent as trust develops between the 8 people sharing experiences, they begin by channeling various talents of other individuals in the group. The slight, yet powerful Korean woman Sun (Bae Doona) “loans” her martial-arts expertise to the African bus driver Capheus (Aml Ameen) when he is attacked. The confused Cop infuses the abused-by-the-system trans-gender female in his group with his lock-picking abilities to allow her to escape a mad doctor in a mental institution.
The theme of physical connection despite distance in Sense8 elaborates on the expression of connections through time established in Cloud Atlas, also by the Wachowskis.
I was not surprised, yet very pleased to see jewelry once again used to convey symbolism in the series Sense8. The character Amanita (Freema Agyeman) wears a large pair of hoop earrings that remotely resemble both the symbol for anarchy and/or an A and an O, perhaps meaning All One.
Sense8 seems to be as hopeful for humanity as The Handmaid’s Tale is ominous and yet both treat connection as one of the most important elements of humanity. We celebrate and honor connection in just about every project we do here at Gary Dawson Designs. Creating heirloom quality items in precious metal and gemstones, we are humbled by our responsibility in helping people to honor their connections with the people that they love and respect, and the important events that they share. We often re-purpose or recycle either metals or gemstones that have a long, rich, family tradition, and in so doing find our work transcending both time and form as the old becomes the new in loving transformations.
We look forward to working with you! Let’s connect soon.
Sundays are a time for reflection and contemplation. Even if one finds oneself in their workshop planning the next week of production, the tone of an otherwise lazy Sunday brings a thoughtful mood. This past Sunday, as I was tinkering in my shop, my eyes landed on my bench alter. I’m not conventionally religious, more of an animist, or Buddhist, if anything, so I do have a small collection of things meaningful to me presiding over my workbench. Must be a human need.
Mortui Vivis Praecipant…
…stuck with me after I made a custom ring, a band with those words around it, for a forensic expert that left our town of Eugene, OR for a time to help in New Orleans after the Katrina disaster. The words are in Latin, and translate as “Let the Living Learn from the Dead”. If you search that phrase, you will find several stories about Katrina. And so that goes…I don’t dwell on the potential morbidity of that phrase, but see the complete wisdom of learning from our mistakes. Both in the broader aspects of life, and in the workshop!
Make Your Own World
It seems for me, some of the best gifts pop up out of nowhere. And usually just at the right time if you think about it. I found (it was a “ground score”) the “Make Your Own World” button sometime shortly after I began making jewelry, over 40 years ago. I think it helped to inspire me to start my business, rather than pursue a job with someone else. Woodstock had come and gone by then, but the US was then still reaching for a new era, redefining many aspects of our culture. Seemingly, much of the impetus for real change has now been co-opted for that new I-phone…or whatever.
Anarchism for me, by the way, has nothing to do with riots or breaking windows, and everything to do with being as independent and self-sufficient as is possible in today’s world. Check out the link above for a good overview of its true meaning on Wikipedia. So this button remains a reminder to me to stay strong and not allow myself to be too caught up in the acquisition of things that, in the long run, probably don’t matter too much.
There are other things on my bench that have similar purpose. The little frog my son gave me, a note from my daughter. I look at them and smile…
Your Own Symbolic Journey!
You too have things that are meaningful to you, something that symbolizes what you believe in, or what and who you love. Through the magic of Custom Jewelry Design, it’s possible to memorialize an idea, a moment, or a love in a physical object. Many people do that by way of a wedding ring, or some form of commitment jewelry. Ring us up here at Gary Dawson Designs (541-729-2531) and let us turn your symbolic theme into something you can wear to show the world. We love doing custom design! You can also use our convenient Contact Form to start your project today!
Happy New Year! 2018 will be a great year for Beauty and Craftsmanship at Gary Dawson Designs.
There’s never a bad time to reflect on what gives meaning to our lives but the new year seems to compel us in that direction. Serendipitously, as I was driving to my office the other day, starting my new year of design and custom work, I heard an NPR Ted Radio Hour that really set me afire with reflection and contemplation. “What is Beauty” was the title and while all of it was good, a particular segment caught my attention as being relevant to what I do.
The wisdom of Denis Dutton, now passed, is preserved in his TED talk entitled, A Darwinian Theory of Beauty, given in February of 2010. Dutton was educated at UCSB and went on to be a professor of philosophy at the University of Canterbury in Christchurch, New Zealand. He was perhaps best known for his site Arts & Letters Daily, which he founded in 1998 which, in the words of Lev Grossman, secured him a place among “the most influential media personalities in the world”. (Time Magazine, June 13th 2004)
Beauty, Craftsmanship and “Fitness Signals”
I highly recommend listening to his entertaining presentation, but I’ll eschew here his verbatim transcript. In it he makes the point that humans are likely hard-wired to seek beauty. Specifically with relation to artistic beauty, he refers to what he calls “fitness signals” and relates that concept to craftsmanship as it developed in the evolution of the Acheulian hand axe. Fitness, in this case being the ability or fitness to breed. These artifacts go back about 2.5 million years and display what may be the first evidence of artistic beauty as created by a human. In that far too many of them have been found in some sites to account for only butchering game, some are too large to be used for butchering, and many show no evidence of ever having been used, it seems evident that at least some of them were created for their beauty alone. According to Dutton, “Their symmetry, their attractive materials and, above all, their meticulous workmanship are simply quite beautiful to our eyes, even today!”
He further states, “Competently made hand axes indicated desirable personal qualities — intelligence, fine motor control, planning ability, conscientiousness and sometimes access to rare materials. Over tens of thousands of generations, such skills increased the status of those who displayed them and gained a reproductive advantage over the less capable. You know, it’s an old line, but it has been shown to work — “Why don’t you come up to my cave, so I can show you my hand axes?””
So when you find yourself over-thinking why you want that nice piece of Gary Dawson Designs jewelry, just remember…it’s about survival! You want to signal fitness, right?
Contact us today to start your project! It will be executed with attractive materials and meticulous workmanship!
As mentioned in part one in this series on jewelry care, wear is normal. And because it is, realistic expectations on both wear and the maintenance your precious metal jewelry will need is appropriate!
Certainly, it is a reasonable expectation on the part of the consumer that the piece of jewelry will hold up for an extended time after purchase. Unfortunately, while I can say with certainty that most manufactures in the industry are very honorable, like any industry, we have our unscrupulous bad apples. I encourage you to look closely at any prospective purchase. Do the components of the piece look to you like they will hold up over time? Your judgment is valid! Jewelry care and maintenance usually begins with the purchase.
Your Results May Vary
By this I mean that every jewelry owner subjects their jewelry to different conditions. The landscape business owner that often works without gloves will have a different experience with their jewelry than the office manager that doesn’t recreate outside. And there are times when you just shouldn’t wear jewelry. Rock climbing is a good example. A wedding ring does not make a good protection nut. You will fall and your finger may stay in the hold…jus’ sayin’.
Sizing may be the most common repair because a human finger size is a moving target. Even if your weight is stable, your hands will change daily with the ambient temperature and time of day. Blood pools in your extremities, for example, as you sleep horizontally at night. When you are cold, blood migrates to your core to keep your vitals warm and your fingers shrink a bit. Age, emotional state and many other factors also affect your finger size on any given day. A good designer should check your finger size at least a couple times during the design phase and shoot for a good average. I also offer one free size adjustment with any ring purchase, just in case we miss it the first time. See if your maker will do this for you too.
The typical procedure for ring sizing is to make a cut at the back of the ring, (called the shank, the part that goes around your finger) and then add to or subtract from the material in the shank. Don’t panic. A skilled goldsmith will complete this task with the same color and quality of material that was in the ring originally, and the area of sizing should not be visible once the repair is complete.
I won’t give prices here, but you should be aware that sizing prices vary with up or down sizing and the thickness of a shank. So don’t be surprised if your 10mm wide ring costs a lot more to size up than your friend’s 2mm ring cost to size down.
While I prefer to work gems “into” my designs or use a bezel, many gems, even in some of my designs, are set with prongs. Since prongs are not that big or thick to begin with, they are often the first maintenance needed to insure the security of your gems. Note in the picture below, the flush setting is still in perfect condition.
Prong heads can be replaced, and prongs can be tipped and/or rebuilt by a skilled craftsperson. Depending on the gem material, this can sometimes be done with the gems in place. The somewhat recent addition of laser welders to the tool box of many facilities that engage in repair work makes it a little easier to work around a larger variety of gems. But don’t expect a huge price break since a laser welder is an expensive machine.
Restoration is a broad topic but here is a great example…
This ring came to me with both sides worn nearly completely out. There was enough of a remnant that I could determine the original design so using a CAD application and 3D printing, and the traditional goldsmith techniques of casting, soldering and finishing, I was able to restore this ring completely!
Preventative Jewelry Care
Most places that design, make and repair jewelry will be happy to clean and inspect your jewelry and many perform this service for free. Have someone look at your pieces every 6 months or so, at least after the first three years or so of normal wear. Especially, if you notice any snagging or something unusual about your jewelry, have it checked out.
One way to check the tightness of your gems is to hold your piece very close to your ear and tap on the main gemstone. The piece should be cleaned, per part two of this series, first, and allowed to dry. If you hear any clicking sound, you should have a professional inspect it.
With some common-sense action on your part and timely maintenance, your well-made jewelry can give you and succeeding generations many years of enjoyment. Have fun and if you have any questions at all, don’t hesitate to seek me out! There’s a great contact page on my site, and you can call (at any reasonable hour) at 541-729-2531.
Ciao for now!
This post is a follow up to my previous article on the topic of Jewelry Care and Maintenance. The first in this series discussed the idea that wear is normal since jewelry is worn on the body or clothing and has continuous contact with the environment that surrounds it. I focused mostly on the wear of metals in that article and will shift my focus now to gemstones, cleaning, and what I’ll call “field maintenance”.
The cleaning, care and maintenance of your jewelry may vary depending on several factors. Materials, both metal and gems, and geometry all play a role. I’ll give some general guidelines first and then some material and geometry specifics.
Jewelry Care: Gemstones, Brilliance and Cleaning
It doesn’t take long for jewelry that’s worn every day to begin to lose that showroom look, especially if gems are involved. Soap, hand cream, and all sorts of things can build up within the design and especially under gems. It may not seem intuitive that it is better to have the back of a gem open and exposed to this stuff. But it’s important because every set gemstone (at least gems that allow light to pass through the stone) should have adequate access to the back of the gem is so we can get in there and clean! No matter how tight one secures a bezel around a gem with a closed back, nasty stuff will still work around and underneath the gem, making it dull if the gem is transparent or even translucent. See the top picture below for a great example of a dirty gemstone.
With no clean-out access, the gem stays dull. This is because of the way light works with the cut of your gemstone. Facets are placed to take maximum advantage of light reflecting off the pavilion (the back side of the gem) and back to you out the top of the gem as brilliance. Dirt on the back changes the angle at which light is reflected from those pavilion facets so brilliance is lost. Un-faceted (cabochon) transparent or translucent are also effected by this build-up of haze as the color and beauty fades. If you are interested in the science of gemstone appearance, I’ll suggest this great article!
Get the Vibe
Even opaque gems, which many people wear for attributed metaphysical effects, may derive some benefit from an open back in that those “vibes” have access to the body wearing them.
What to Do
My first recommendation is to keep an old, soft-bristle toothbrush in your bath or shower. Every week or so, or whenever you think of it, take your jewelry off and use the brush to gently scrub, paying particular attention to the backside of your gems, with warm, soapy water. Rinse well and puff a little air to blow away residual water to prevent water spots. Let it dry before putting it back on if possible. This will likely be all you’ll ever need to maintain brilliance of your gems.
The above two pictures were taken with identical lighting!
If you have a buildup that’s difficult to remove, a soaking in a mild solution household ammonia (see below for cautionary statement) may help to loosen persistent dirt. Then rinse and scrub as above. If you have an accumulation of really difficult-to-remove substances you can boil some types of jewelry in a mixture of TSP (Trisodium Phosphate) but again, see cautions directly below!
Be aware of the following…
Remember, many jewelry stores will clean and inspect your things free of charge.
If your jewelry is mostly solid, with little variation in geometry, you may not really need to clean it, see previous article. If it has detail, nooks and crannies, then cleaning it the same way as detailed above should help to keep it free of debris.
Next up, basic repairs…what to expect over time and brief explanations of the professional maintenance you may eventually need.
Wear is Normal
One thing that defines jewelry is that it is worn as personal adornment. On the body, or close to the body on clothing, it encounters nearly everything in your environment and like you, sometimes takes a beating. Both the metals and the gems in your jewelry are effected by wear. All jewelry contacts clothing and/or skin. Rings and bracelets contact, and are effected by, many more things. Also, the precious metals that make up most jewelry are malleable. So, jewelry that’s worn every day will go though some change over time. It is to be expected. Often, the wear on a loved piece of jewelry simply adds to its appeal…sometime not. This is the first part of a series designed to help you understand Jewelry Care and Maintenance.
Jewelry Care and Maintenance: Metals
The malleability of most jewelry alloys is a two-sided issue. Because the material is softer than some of the things it contacts, it will become scratched, or dull, or even gouged or dented. But its malleability also means that the surface will tend to become burnished or polished (to a degree) by other things it contacts. Over time, your precious metal jewelry will find its own natural state for the environment in which you wear it. As your environment changes, so will the surface of your precious metal jewelry.
While Your jewelry can always be professionally re-polished, polishing removes material, taking the tops off the tiny hills and valleys created by normal wear. If you get obsessive about re-polishing your jewelry, you are reducing its useful life-span. My friend, Klaus Wiesner presented a great paper in 2008 about polishing and if you are interested in the science of the process, you will find it here.
A trend in current aesthetics finds many new pieces of jewelry textured rather than polished. These pieces too will wear, and given enough time will find their own state-of-being within their environment.
Jewelry Care: Cleaning Metals
The metal itself in your jewelry may rarely, if ever, really require cleaning. The nooks and crannies in some designs may collect gunk though. It’s best to remove it before it dries, and hardens into a mass that can be more difficult to remove. My recommendation is to keep an old, soft-bristle toothbrush in your bath or shower and every few weeks or so, take your jewelry off and gently scrub it. If you get oil or paint or other stubborn dirt, solvents will not likely hurt your precious metals. Gemstones are another matter though and I’ll cover that in the next installment in this series.
Dispelling a Myth
I’ve heard many times the suggestion to use tooth-paste to clean jewelry. This is not recommended because most all tooth paste contains an abrasive. If nothing else, the abrasive will deteriorate the finish of your polished jewelry.
About your gemstones, cleaning and maintenance tips…
I love this ring’s overall shape for its grace, comfort and practicality. I wear a soft square ring!
If you can turn your hand so you can see a finger end-on, you will see that you finger is not round, but more a square shape with rounded corners. Hence the soft square ring.
This ring style will fit the contours of most fingers perfectly. Some people who have never worn a ring before find round rings somewhat annoying at first as the ring rubs on adjoining fingers. The soft square ring shank alleviates that pressure on adjoining fingers. Also, the soft square shape of the ring will tend to prevent the ring from rolling on the finger. This is important in a ring with a somewhat heavier top or even a band with a design element that wants to be on top all the time.
Video describing the soft square ring shape…
There are a few designs in my catalog utilizing the soft square shape, the Interstellar Portal ring for example. And the Matrix ring. There are others…
And I often use this style when designing special rings for my custom design clients. The header photo on this post is one example of a recent custom project, a wedding ring for a fisherman.
We have recently fielded many recent requests about, and have completed several projects using Moissanite, a white gem that is both sustainable and ethical.
Accordingly, we are now proud to announce our affiliation with the Supernova Moissanite brand and our dealership status.
What is Moissanite?
Moissanite is a variety of silicon carbide, the second hardest natural mineral. As a gemstone it is an exceptionally brilliant alternative to diamond that does not involve destructive extractive practices and is conflict free.
It is also very durable, at 9.25-9.5 on the MOS hardness scale. For comparison, sapphire and Ruby are about 9 on the MOS scale and diamond is 10 (though the scale is not linear).
Some say that “Moissanite is a gemstone born from the stars.” It was first discovered in 1893 by French scientist Henri Moissan who later won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry. He discovered microscopic particles of the gem that would eventually bear his name in Arizona, in a meteorite crater near Canyon Diablo. He initially thought that he had discovered diamonds, but later determined that the crystals were composed of silicon carbide, not carbon.
Natural Moissanite is incredibly rare, so Moissanite gems available today are laboratory-created. The particles Moissan discovered were eventually synthesized to produce what is now one of the world’s most interesting new gemstones. This gem holds a lot of interest among savvy consumers that appreciate a little “bling” but prefer not to support extractive resources when possible. It is also quite inexpensive when compared to diamond!Moissanite vs. Diamond, Gary Dawson Comments…
Having handled many larger diamonds over my long career, and now at least a few larger Moissanites, I can offer some comparisons. To the eye they compare very favorably. I think even the practiced eye of most jewelers may have a hard time telling any difference in a piece of jewelry at arm’s length, where it would be most often viewed. Some technical facts that support my statement are that the RI (Refractive Index, the angle at which light bends as it passes through any translucent material) of Moissanite is actually a bit higher than diamond, as is dispersion. This is important because the biggest difference between diamond and most of its substitutes is how the gem looks when it gets dirty.
When a piece of jewelry is worn, a film of “stuff” collects on the backside of the gem. Hand lotions, soap residue, sweat, all manner of things come into contact with the jewelry and on the bottom side of the gem, where it is not continually swept away from environmental contact, it collects. This tends to impede the reflective, and refractive qualities of any gem. They look dull over time. Both diamonds and Moissanite will begin to look dull if they are not cleaned periodically (more about that in a minute*) but gems with higher RI will retain brilliance longer as junk collects on the gem than gems with lower RI, like white sapphire, Cubic Zirconia and any other gem that might be compared with diamond. That’s what has, until recently, set diamond apart from its stimulants, and what now seems to make Moissanite seem very attractive, even compared to diamond.
Contact us here today to inquire about your next big bling using Moissanite.
* In terms of keeping your gems at their optimal brilliance, I recommend keeping an old, soft-bristled toothbrush in the shower, and once in a while, when you think of it but probably not every shower, scrub the backside of your jewelry with the brush and soapy water then rinse thoroughly. Once out of the shower, simply blow excess water from your jewelry. This is likely all you’ll ever need to do to keep your things looking their best!
We are building meaning into your jewelry by listening to what you want, using ethically sourced materials, and working with conscious intent to the perfect outcome.
I was recently referenced in an article published by “Rapaport Magazine”, a subscription service specifically for the diamond trade. It is an honor to be considered a voice of some authority in the field of jewelry customization. Not only is it my career, it is my love. And I take that honor as a responsibility. Both to my clients to be true to my vision of custom jewelry design (typically a full custom service) and to help further education and support for all versions of custom work.
Understanding Jewelry Customization
In my role as a founding member of MJSA’s Council of Custom Jewelers I am delighted to be helping to clarify the different levels of custom service provided within our industry. MJSA (Manufacturing Jewelers and Suppliers of America) …”is the trade association dedicated to professional excellence in jewelry making and design.”
Here’s a brief overview of what has been accomplished by the Council so far, the following is excerpted from the page in the link directly above.
“…the Council has developed a basic definition of custom jewelry:
Pieces designed and produced by a jeweler for a specific client, almost always with the client’s input, and adhering to the highest standards of quality craftsmanship.
MJSA and the council are also promoting a three-tiered system in which custom design projects can be grouped according to the level of design involved. The three levels are:
Full Custom Design: A jewelry design made from scratch specifically for a customer.
Semi-Custom Design: Existing designs that have been modified to alter their shapes or appearance.
Made to Order: Existing designs manufactured by request, modified only by sizing and choice of metal and/or gemstone.”
The link below will take you to the full Rapaport article, which provides a little more perspective.
I’d like to thank author Lara Ewen and Rapaport Magazine (diamonds.net) for allowing me to share the article linked above!
As always, we at Gary Dawson Designs would love to work with you on a custom piece of jewelry. We also maintain an online shopping experience of unique and interesting designs either ready to go immediately, or individually produced with a rapid production to shipping time. From our ever popular Janus line to a few exquisite special pieces, check this link to see what’s in the store now!
The 7 prolific Blueberry bushes at the Gary Dawson Designs studio are just beginning to ripen. If these were wine grapes we’d call it veraison, but for our blueberries we call it Thanksgiving in June!
We’ll be eating these for the next couple of months, first in handfuls right from the bush, and later in cobblers hot from the stove. And there will be enough to freeze for eating in pies for Thanksgiving, and smoothies for many winter mornings. Talk about being thankful… This is one of our most grateful moments of the year! Living in Oregon has its rewards.
Thanksgiving in June, But Christmas in July?
Well, sorta. At least we start thinking about Christmas in July here at the studio. We tend to get very busy in those few short months leading up to Christmas. And for this reason, we are going to offer something special this year for our astute clients who can think ahead a little bit. We will be offering a 15% discount for the Design & Production fee of any custom order, initiated by deposit, until the 15th of July. This gives us ample time to work carefully with you to insure the perfect special gift. And it takes the pressure off you since you will be secure in the knowledge that your custom work will be finished in plenty of time for the holiday! Simply mention “Blueberriess” when you place your order to receive this discount!
Our custom fees vary by project. Generally, simpler projects carry a Design & Production fee of US$350, more complex designs typically start at US$750 and challenging designs can go much more than that. So, your savings by thinking ahead this year will range from around $50 to as much as $400 or more.
Just about anything goes!
This year we have new services. We take great pride in our standard process of “sole authorship”, meaning that we do everything on most precious metal projects, from concept, through casting, cleanup, gemstone setting…right down to final polish. (Or texturing, if you prefer). And now we have added to our repertoire, working with outside Additive Manufacturing facilities, such that we can produce 3D printed objects in many more materials. From Stainless Steel to Porcelain, we can get it done for you.
In those cases, we still perform the design work working as closely with you as we always have, but then send the CAD file out to be printed.
Start your project today! Contact us here.
Magic in the Process
I’ve been casting precious metals for over 40 years and have a deep understanding of how it works on levels mechanical, chemical, and metallurgical. Metal density and flow temperatures, spruing and gating, I have even researched my own way to mix investment for optimal results with a variety of materials. And still, on a gut level, it remains something akin to magic. Transformational…literally.
Earth, Fire, Water, Air…All present and necessary in the casting process as a carved wax or 3D printed plastic model is transformed into solid gold…or silver, or platinum. Still blows me away and I hope it always will.
Magic in the Connection
The magic doesn’t stop there. Or begin there for that matter. Another very magical part of what I do is connect. I participate in some of the most important events in the lives of the people I work with. Relationships, weddings, anniversaries, births, deaths, and many other transition points in their lives are celebrated, or memorialized, or remembered by the jewelry I make. Often perfect strangers when first met, my clients share, sometimes confide, details of their lives no one else knows. I respect that. And it allows me to build aspects into the jewelry I make for them that would not otherwise be possible. Serial intimacy at its best…
Magic in Understanding
Understanding process is very important. We need to know how to go about what we do, each of us in our own way. And understanding the connections we make and build upon is even more important in that without context, what we do is largely irrelevant. In a recent presentation in front of 170 of my industry peers I made the point that body adornment may be one of the few, if not the only, essential differentiators for defining what it is to be human. If this is true, I think it is for both the statement it allows us to project and the connection it helps us make with our fellow humans.
I’m a screamer. Well, maybe yeller is more accurate. But I have passion about every project that I do and sometimes it comes out in the process!
This past weekend, we (mostly I but with critical intermittent help) installed the last major component in a bathroom remodel that has taken about three months of Sundays to complete, maybe more. Not that all that time was spent working. I think it took most of a month after everything else was finished to get the beautiful wooden countertop made. This was after we finally decided on something that a) we liked and b) we could afford.
I used to yell occasionally when I was learning to make jewelry, when solder wouldn’t flow, when I inadvertently melted something I was trying to solder, when I burnt myself…
Yes, that happens.
I like to consider myself “handy”. What that really means is that I’m too stubborn to hire competent help with household projects, or maybe too cheap. I gleefully embark on a project, not really knowing how to do all the steps, but confident that I can learn along the way. Thank Buddha for YouTube, right?
Something I’ve often said in discussions about “what is art” is that a plumber who can create a water delivery (and drain) system with no leaks is an artist. So yesterday, after spending a full day on a job that I thought was at most a half-day project, I was an artist. We were artists! Persistence on my part, and tolerance and help on the part of my spouse won the day. But not until sufficient yelling had taken place…Um, I mean, once we got passion for the project!
“This shit is so poorly engineered”, he yells…” Agghhhhh, poorly engineered!”
If you’ve ever worked under a small bathroom sink, on your back, trying to connect a delicate water management system with tools more suitable for either jewelry making or building demolition, you know what I mean.
After looking at the instructions though, it went fairly well.
Fortunately, with over 40 years of designing and making jewelry nearly every day, I tend not to scream much when I’m doing my jewelry art. But the passion remains…I yell loudly, “Fresh Jewelry” when a project is complete.
Speaking of fresh jewelry, I’d love to work with you on a fantastic piece of custom wearable art. Jewelry is a statement, part of the “personal brand” for which you have passion. It takes passion to conceive and execute these things, and I promise not to yell.
Investment in SelfDuring the morning break at the Santa Fe Symposium (SFS) yesterday, I made an investment in myself. I went out by the pool, took my shirt off and sat in the sun for a full half-hour. Hard to give up the networking, every moment here is an opportunity to meet a new, or reunite with an old friend. And SFS is populated by many of the most important people in the jewelry industry.
But the best investment can be elusive. And for me it is rarely about the money, or contacts or what many people would recognize as “opportunity”. I’ve come to recognize that an investment can mean many other things.
Here’s an example. When I first began coming to SFS 12 years ago it became customary for me to take an early-morning walk down to the Rio Grande River. It’s just over a mile from the hotel and at an early hour, as the sun comes up, a very pleasant walk. Part of that walk proceeds west from Rio Grande Blvd. along Central Avenue, old Route 66. That half-mile stretch from Rio Grande Blvd. to the river has several operating old-time Route 66 hotels. I became intrigued by one that was abandoned the first time I made that walk. It is called El Vado and is an adobe-type construction that, at least in my imagination, must have had a colorful history. I visualized buying that dilapidated property and restoring it to a vibrant bit of history with a contemporary, hip, spin.
Well, it is a good dream, and I have held on to it for all the years I’ve been coming down here, wondering what it would be like. Just what would it take to bring back to functionality and how cool could I make it? Of course, my real love is designing and manufacturing custom jewelry so I knew that El Vado would remain a dream for me. But I have built an “investment” in that property that will never go away! And on today’s walk I find that someone is making my El Vado dream come true for themselves. I’m ecstatic!
I knew I was never going to restore that property but every year that I walked down past it I feared I would see it leveled, or worse, a cracker-box hotel replacing my beloved El Vado. That’s a classic emotional investment that I’m happy to retain. And I can’t wait to come stay one day, drink a craft beer sitting by the pool that, under different circumstances, might have been mine.
Investment in Others
Now, most people should probably never really consider jewelry to be a monetary investment. But one can make a different kind of investment with well-made jewelry! The emotional investment that we all have in the relationships and special events in our lives are often memorialized in personal jewelry.
I love being a part of that! Contact me today to begin your project. It doesn’t have to cost a lot of money, the investment will be in the people you love, and the things that are important to you. Like sitting in the sun, or having a dream…
And although I’ve spoken at many events, and 5 times already at this upcoming event, I always have a little stage fright. Fear is good. Keeps you on your toes. When I was rock climbing more frequently, getting good enough to lead a 5.8 crack pitch with traditional technique, placing my own protection as I went, I was often asked, “Aren’t you afraid?” Hell yes I was. And that fear kept me safe, I truly believe that. Unbridled fear is dangerous, of course. Paralyzing. And it can easily become a deadly spiral if you are high on the rock wall and get locked up, too afraid to move, as you gradually lose the strength to stay where you are.
In fact, the most serious injury I’ve yet sustained in rock climbing was from trying too hard not to fall. When I realized I was going to fall, I should have just let go, trusting my gear. But no, I held on beyond the ability of my shoulder to keep it together and consequently suffered a little rotator cuff pain for the best part of a year as it healed up. The eventual fall didn’t harm me at all, as the protection I had placed served in just the way it was intended.
Fear as Safety
Fear, in healthy context, keeps you honest and safe. Fear compelled me to meticulously place my gear that day on the rock. And the result of that fear was an uncomplicated fall once I let go. One from which I could easily recover and continue the climb. My acknowledged fear of public speaking makes me pick topics that interest me, do appropriate research, and compose thoughtfully. And then practice. I rarely run through my whole presentation BTW, because I want my delivery to be spontaneous. My practice involves going through sections that fit together, and then practicing the transitions between them.
So next Sunday when I present my paper, I’ll step up to the podium and begin my speech. And then I’ll step away from the podium to let myself take over and own the presentation. If I stumble during part of it, the protection I’ve built into it, by thoughtful creation and practice, will allow me to recover and continue.
Biorhythms be Damned as Gary Speaks
Well probably. But the chart shows me to be on an emotional high about 6 days after the presentation, just when the feedback will start setting in.
Designing and making thoughtful jewelry is my first love. But I am growing to appreciate the opportunity to learn that comes from putting myself out there as a writer and speaker.
In 2 weeks from today I leave for St. Louis, the first leg in my journey to present my latest paper for the Santa Fe Symposium on Jewelry Manufacturing Technology (SFS). I’m leaving a couple days early to visit with my sister and family who happen to live in St. Louis and then will rendezvous with the rest of the speakers slated to present at the SFS. The 3-day junket prior to symposium is designed as one of the most important networking events in the jewelry industry. After 3 days of socializing and sightseeing together, the entire contingent of speakers and SFS staff are moved to Albuquerque, NM where the symposium is held each year. This will mark the 31st annual event, and will be my 6th presentation.
It is both an honor and very humbling experience to be involved with this event, a gathering of up to 200 of the most influential designers, manufactures, and suppliers within this ancient and fascinating industry. The Symposium was organized by the founder, Eddie Bell, to be a repository, the only existing archive, for detailed, well-researched investigations into metallurgy, design and manufacturing techniques. This international group of independent individuals can be contentious, hence the social junket prior to the actual event. This allows for friendships to form and builds tolerance among holders of disparate views. During the Q&A session following one of my more controversial papers regarding tarnish resistant silver alloys, people were standing up and yelling at each other across the room.
I’m Lucky……in that Mr. Bell seems have allowed me to present somewhat unorthodox topics. In 2010 my paper had the longest imaginable title…”Paradigm Shift in Jewelry Manufacturing and Market Structure: An Examination of Contemporary Small Shop Jewelry Production – Design to Manufacture to Retail” wherein I drew parallels between the then current state of the jewelry industry and the fall and eventual rise of independent breweries here in the USA. That was a fun paper to write!
And Gary writes again…my paper this year is titled, “Finding a Voice: The Challenge of Design in the Evolving Computer-Aided Design Era”. I’m excited to share this as both personal essay and critical commentary on the integration of CAD-CAM into the jewelry industry. It is composed of a bit of personal history and observation, and commentary about how the jewelry industry has integrated CAD-CAM into design and manufacturing. Frankly, as an industry, we could be utilizing these useful tools more productively.
To see how I use CAD-CAM in my processes, check out my website, Gary Dawson Designs! Hope to hear from you soon.