Fixing a bad haircut

July 25th 2016

When someone comes to me with a piece of jewellery that they have had made somewhere else that they are unhappy with, it reminds me of what a hairdresser once told me about bad haircuts. Often the only fix for a bad haircut is to let the hair grow out and start again. Today we are going to look at a "bad haircut".

I often say to my customers that I need to get inside their heads. I need to get a feeling for their likes and dislikes so that I can share their vision for the piece of jewellery I am going to make for them. This often takes a bit of time and effort. Skip this process to hurry along the process and you can end up with disasters.

The failure

Lets start with a photo of the look that my customer thought she desired. This was the image the other jeweller was asked to duplicate.

This next photo is of the ring that was created for her. She disliked it so much that when one of the gems fell out of it, rather than return it to the jeweller that made it for repair, she put it in the drawer and never wore it again.

After I spoke to her for a while I came to understand the following;

- she liked the messy style of setting in the original photo. The new ring was too neat
- the outside edges were too square, she wanted a softer look
- she disliked the holes on the inside of the ring for the gemstones, they were absent in the original photo.
- the inside edge on the finger was too sharp, she wanted a comfort edge.

Lets look at these issues one by one.

The messy look.

This took me the longest time to pick up on. What I saw as poor workmanship in the original design photo my customer found attractive. As I remade the ring I would need to make sure that I gave it a bit of a raw look. In this case the addition of imperfections was desirable.

Those square edges

When the ring was presented to the customer by the other jeweller she was told that those edges would protect her gems. This is true as many of the semi precious gems used in the ring to provide the colour have no where near the hardness of sapphire or diamond. In fact the missing gem may have been broken rather than simply fallen out.

My customer wanted a more open and rounded edge. If I look at the original photo and the ring made by this jeweller side by side I think he got it pretty close and that both rings have quite square edges….but that is not what the customer was seeing nor what she wanted and that is all that matters.

To no longer require those edges to protect the gems we needed to use harder gemstones. Amethyst and Peridot for example have a Mohs hardness of 6.5 to 7 and need as much protection as you can give them if you want to wear them everyday.

Using corundum (sapphire and ruby) and diamonds that have a Mohs hardness of 9 and 10 was a better option that would create a ring that stood a chance of surviving everyday wear.

The holes for the gemstones

The holes in this ring for the gemstone were primarily there to make setting and later cleaning easier. Gems such as Amethyst, peridot and topaz go very cloudy when the back gets dirty. The holes make it easier to clean the gems.

With diamonds and corundum the holes are not as vital. Both when cut correctly retain their brightness better when dirty and both also take heat which allows the rings to be cleaned with high temperature water/steam and even burning out if required. Most of the semi precious gems like Amethyst do not take heat.

Deciding on some colour.

My customer wanted the gemstones in pairs and to alternate in colour. After much trial and error it was decided to use the following gemstones in this order:

  1. white diamond
  2. yellow diamond
  3. champagne diamond
  4. green diamond
  5. ceylon blue sapphire
  6. red diamond
  7. pink sapphire

This colour pattern was repeated twice around the ring, 27 gemstones in total with a single white diamond giving the uneven number. The yellow, green and red diamonds were all colour enhanced (treated white diamonds). All other gems were natural in colour.

The 3d mockup, the draft stage and a design change

In 3d we were able to raise the gems up slightly, round the outside edges a little and finally add the comfort edge. Once the 3D mockup was approved a silver draft was made. With the draft I was able confirm her finger size and that all the other aspects of the ring were what she wanted. It was here that she asked for the ring to be rougher.

She had seen this wedding ring on my website and wanted me to apply its rough texture to her much narrower and gemstone filled ring.

I was not sure if I could but after some trial and error on her draft I got it to work, even on the claws!

The importance of the draft.

Pretty much with every piece I create I take a photo of the finished result. On this occasion I sent a photo along with the email advising that the ring was ready. The reply I got was that after seeing the photo she was now unsure if the hammered look was the right choice.

And this brings us right back to the start, my customer has trouble translating a photo to reality. What she had liked in the physical draft she now had doubts about when viewing a photo.

This is why the silver draft stage is so important, it allows my customers to try on the piece of jewellery before I make it. The silver draft is a final check that allows us to correct any potential problems and to negate the limitations of just creating jewellery by photos.

The ring she loves

The finished ring is pictured to the right in the photo above. When my customer came in to pick the ring up she was thrilled with it, everything she wanted. One month on when I saw her again for the rings check up she was still thrilled with it.  

As you can see from the photo of the finished ring the hammered surface has created a very different ring from that original photo. That one change has totally transformed the ring.  This happens a lot during the design process, we start with what we think will be a copy of a design but the small changes we make along the way result in a truly unique design. And the draft ensures that the end result is exactly what the customer wants.

This post is very long now so the story of the other ring in the photos will have to wait for another day :)