F A Q
- Where did you learn how to do this stuff?
- How do I go about getting a custom-designed ring made?
- You used to have this one ring, but now I don’t see it in your etsy shop! Do you still make it?
- I sent you an email yesterday/3 days/a week ago and haven’t heard back yet. What gives?
- Can you make it in silver instead?
- Can I use my grandma’s diamond?
- Can I reuse the gold too?
- Will you make me a ring just like this one by Cathy Waterman except cheaper?
- How long does it take to have a custom ring made?
- OMG my wedding is in a month! Can you do mine faster?!
- When will my ring be ready?
- What are the differences between all the white metals you use?
- And the yellow ones?
- How much does a diamond cost?
- No, really.
- How can I be sure a diamond I buy isn’t a “conflict” or “blood” diamond?
- I’d prefer a colored stone; what are my options?
- Do you have your rings in any stores where I can try them on?
- Can I come to your studio?
- How the heck do I get a hold of you?
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I’m primarily self-taught as far as carving and technique go, though I did take two weekend seminars on very specific jewelry processes (that I have never actually used officially… but they were fun classes!). Years ago, I worked a summer in a tiny jewelry shop in Texas and saw casting for the first time. This pretty much blew my mind and my boss gave me a chunk of wax and a broken dental tool to play with. I toodled around for many years thereafter, making a few wedding bands for friends and family along the way. I very randomly got a stint carving custom waxes for a fancy jewelry shop in Palo Alto, which was where it occurred to me that live actual money could be made from this sort of thing. A few years ago I decided to try Etsy, and the rest is history.
I also have a graduate gemologist degree from GIA, which is more academic gem stuff like diamond and colored stone identification and grading. It is indispensable for scrutinizing stones I want to buy or that my clients send me. My binocular microscope is one of my favorite studio tools.
We start out by gathering ideas: motifs, overall size specifics, metal preferences, stone or no stone, etc. and I begin to make sketches. I can send these to you, adjust, resketch, until we have a design set. Then I can make a final quote (actually, I can give you an idea of ballpark price as soon as I have a general idea of what you have in mind) and invoice you for a deposit. I usually do 1/2 the total, which seems to work for most people. Then I begin to carve the wax model. I take photos along the way and a zillion of them once the model is complete and send these to you. Any adjustments that need to be made can be made to the wax until it is perfect. Then it is cast into metal and I get to the finishing work: filing/sanding/polishing/stone setting (if any). I invoice the balance when the ring is about ready to ship and that’s it!
I probably do, but sometimes I forget to renew listings or don’t notice that they have expired. Just send me a note and I’ll get it back up there.
I try to keep up with correspondences, but sometimes I get behind. Or the weekend happens, or my child has a meltdown when I don’t pay 100% attention to her. Or I did actually respond to you but haven’t yet clicked the send button. Still need more excuses? I never mind a reminder though—just send me a note if I seem to have forgotten you and I’ll get my act together.
Unfortunately, while I technically can make all my rings in silver, I prefer to not do most of my carved pieces (especially the delicate ones) in it for a few reasons. Sterling silver is not as hard of a metal as gold, particularly when cast, and tends to wear away quite a bit faster. With pieces that have a lot of detail or very delicate areas, I worry that they may not hold up as well. Not to mention that fact that silver tarnishes, scratches more readily, does not hold a polish quite as well, and is generally a higher-maintenance metal than gold. Another thing is my carved rings are very labor intensive and the pricing reflects this; making the ring in silver rather than gold doesn’t automatically make the ring a lot more inexpensive as it is exactly the same amount of labor on my end. I just don’t feel right making a ring for a client that is still quite pricey, yet may not hold up to wear very well over time, will be a generally higher-maintenance piece, and won’t have the intrinsic value that gold carries.
I am happy to reuse your stones (with few exceptions). Send me an email with a description and dimensions and we’ll discuss it.
I do not personally melt down the old gold into the new piece. What I can do instead is send it to my refiner for a 96% payout on gold obtained (based on current gold market rates). The payout may then be used toward your new piece. Send me an email and I’ll give you all the details.
However, I am all about having you send me inspiration images, including those of other pieces of jewelry. If you really mean you want a twisty vine ring, this I can totally do. Just don’t ask me to copy another designer’s piece.
Usually I run 4-6 weeks once we have a design set and a deposit made. It changes a little based on how busy I am so send me an email and I’ll give you an updated timeline.
Yes! However (and I hate to do it), I have started to charge an additional fee for rush jobs. Meaning, I’ll prioritize your ring order and the timeline might look more like 2-3 weeks (depending upon the type of order).
Email me and I’ll give you a status update! Please don’t be shy; I don’t mind at all! I can probably send you some photos of your piece in progress.
I can do 14K and 18K white gold (nickel alloy), 14K and 18K palladium white gold, palladium 950 and platinum 950. I do not rhodium plate any of my metals, though you may certainly have them plated later on if you wish. This means that all the different alloys have slightly different colors.
The difference between 14K and 18K is the amount of pure gold in the alloy (alloy means metal blend): 14K is 14 parts out of 24 parts pure gold, or 58.5%, 18K is 18/24, or 75% pure.
14K white gold (nickel alloy) is the whitest of the gold alloys, with just the barest hint of warmth to it. 18K white (nickel) is very slightly warmer, more of a light metallic ivory in color. It has a more vintage feel to it. Both alloys are excellent for any carved and cast pieces.
14K palladium white gold means that palladium is used rather than nickel to make the gold white in color. 14K Pd compared to standard 14K (nickel) has a very slightly darker, steelier look to it. Same with the 18K Pd: a touch darker/steelier in tone and a touch warmer in hue. Like the nickel alloys above, these are excellent for carved and cast pieces. The palladium gold alloys are priced just a little more than the nickel alloys. Palladium is hypoallergenic, and perfect for use if the wearer has a nickel sensitivity.
Palladium 950 is a 95% pure palladium alloy (the 5% is something of a proprietary secret but is probably mostly ruthenium). Palladium is in the platinum elemental family and is identical in look to platinum–bright white color with no hint of yellow at all. It is, however, a lot lighter in weight than platinum, just a bare touch lighter than 14K gold. The price point is similar to that of 14K gold. It is ideal for bands or solitaires that have lower relief carving, or are smooth in texture. Because of the intense heat required to cast it, the finished casting always turns out a little bumpy and the process of removing the bumps can also remove some of an intricate design or texturing. Ask me and I’ll let you know if your design would work with this metal. It has similar wear properties to platinum in that it “displaces” rather than rubs off with wear. This does not mean it won’t scratch, but that over a long period of time, the band is less likely to get thinner like gold can (think of how paper thin grandma’s wedding ring is on the underside). Also, note that this metal can be problematic if future re-sizing is required as it is a little trickier to solder (you mostly just need to be sure to find a jeweler who is familiar with working in palladium). All the gold alloys, in contrast, solder beautifully.
Platinum 950 ( 95% platinum, 5% ruthenium) is a wonderful, heavy, dense, bright, pure white metal. It is ideal for most pieces save a few with very detailed carving or texturing. Similar to palladium, it casts extremely hot and ends up a bit bumpy; I feel like I obliterate some of the fine detailing when trying to smooth out the bumpiness. Pieces in platinum end up costing roughly 75%-85% or more than their 14K counterparts.
I can do 14K, 18K, or 22K yellow gold. 14K and 18K are the more ideal alloys for rings but certain rings I can do in 22K, which is a softer alloy. 18K has a richer, more intense yellow color than 14K and 22K even more shockingly so.
I can also do a 14K or 20K rose gold (the 18K rose alloy was giving me trouble). The 14K rose has a classic bright rose hue like freshly cut copper, and the 20K rose is more warm and peachy.
Send me a convo with a general idea of what you have in mind, and I’ll send you my little “blurb” to get started (my blurb is too wordy even for this FAQ). I have great diamond resources and can find pretty much anything.
This is a tricky question to answer. The short answer is it is extremely hard to be absolutely 100% sure but if you purchase a diamond in the United States or Canada or Europe or in most of the world, there is only a very very small chance that you will buy a conflict diamond. This is because in 2003, the Kimberly Process certification scheme was established to track rough material from mine to export to be sure that the proceeds from diamond rough was not being used to fund violent rebel, military, or terrorist groups (currently, this is mostly an issue in the Ivory Coast, from which a relatively small percentage of the world’s diamonds come). Diamond dealers in the US (and all of the major diamond cutting centers in the world) are bound by law to be sure they do not deal in any stones that are not KP certified. That said, conflict stones are still smuggled out of the Ivory Coast and passed off as KP-certified rough. Not to mention, there is still the potential issue of unfair labor laws or poor environmental controls. Roughly 60% of the world’s diamonds come out of Africa and it is only relatively recently that countries such as Sierra Leone, Angola, Liberia, and DRC have stabilized somewhat. It’s hard to say how much time older stones stick around before being sold, for example. And not all African mines are corrupt (nor are mines in other places 100% flowers and rainbows). Botswana is a good example of a country that has a stable and rapidly growing economy, thanks in part to a well-regulated diamond industry.
There are a few options for avoiding the bulk of the unseemly trade. Buy a Canadian stone, which is mined, and usually cut and polished in Canada, where there are strict environmental and labor regulations. A newer organization out of the US called Conflict Free Diamond Council has extremely strict guidelines that guarantees a diamond is 100% clean and only one Canadian province actually meets their strict criteria: the Northwest Territories. There are other countries that have very well-regulated industries (Australia, Botswana, Russia—arguably).
You could also go with a lab-grown diamond. This is a stone 100% identical chemically to its natural counterpart, except that it is grown in a fancy laboratory machine. They are supercool!
Yes! I have a handful of lovelies I’ve hand-selected at shows for you to peruse, or if you have something specific in mind, I’m happy to get it for you!
Initially, I can quote a general cost range for the stone you are interested in, and then once the custom piece’s design is more or less set and a deposit obtained, THEN I’ll go on the hunt for the actual stone. I’ll still be sending you photos, quotes, dimensions to refine the choice and make the final decision, of course. Once I have a budget to act upon, I’ll be able to seriously request information from my suppliers. I will also have the option of placing a 24-hour hold on stones to ensure it doesn’t get sold out from underneath us. It’s always a little different for each type of stone: some are more readily obtained (blue sapphires, say), and others are more complicated (black opal, tourmaline, or even just a very specific shade of stone).
The reason I do it this way is because it can take time and often is a lot of work on my end, not to mention on the part of the dealers I contact who send me lists of stones, dimensions, descriptions, photos, and prices. I have on many occasions spent a lot of time searching and gathering information on different stones (which in turn required a lot of my dealers’ time getting me the information about these stones) only to have my potential clients change their mind entirely. One other thing to note: good stones go fast. Something I quote one day may not still be available a week or more later. Delaying the decision or going back and forth on what is to be used can be a recipe for tragedy if, after exhaustive deliberation, the stone ultimately chosen was sold three days prior.
All that said: Thee Best Time for me to get a special stone is before February of each year when I attend the largest gem show in the country. I can find nearly anything there, and viewing a huge variety of material, comparing prices, and hand selecting pieces in person is far easier then doing it via email and hastily snapped iphone pics. It is still a lot of running around on my part and requires commitment on yours, but the chances of me quickly finding the perfect stone is very high.
I don’t. To have my rings in a retail store, they would need to be marked up I-don’t-even-know-how-much and then I would have to increase my Etsy prices accordingly. Because presumably any self-respecting retailer would be displeased if their stock could be found online for 40%+ less. I also don’t think I could physically (and mentally) handle any substantial increase in business either. I’m pretty happy with my current setup.
Well, not really. My studio is generally all akimbo with everything scattered just where I like it. Plus there is polishing grit everywhere, and my wobbly stool is getting to be downright dangerous and I don’t want to get sued. BUT! I would be totally happy to meet you at a coffee shop, or someplace tidy with an espresso machine and delicious baked goods. Send me an email and we’ll set it up!
Email works best: firstname.lastname@example.org. Or you can peruse my Etsy shop and contact me via Etsy convo, or view a gallery of pieces on Instagram @cheyenneweiljewelry and leave comments for me (I love comments!).