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.