Monday, January 21, 2008
I have found it far better to give people, "Just the facts, ma'am."
TELL THEM the truth. A delicately crafted, filigree- or "vintage"=look band in karat gold has a twenty-year life-span at best. And that rock-climbing could shorten it considerably.
Then, proceed to explain that it simply would not be a function of crafting failure if such a ring failed. Truly, errors in craftsmanship rear their ugly heads within three months of wear.
Not that I want to be so cheap as to purchase 3 months of insurance (not really sure how I would do it, anyway!), but what I do is I pay for the first full-year of all-peril jewelry insurance on any piece I custom craft.
So, not only is my artwork covered for any errors I would have made (can you imagine?), it is also covered for any errors on the part of the wearer. And you're building a lot of good will, to boot.
And, by pointing out that the insurance is "for real," and not contingent upon quarterly inspections or restrictive limitations, you build a lot of good will.
Think about it.
Sunday, January 20, 2008
Here are some of the local community organizations to which I belong, and/or on the board of which I sit:
Downtown Bozeman Association http://www.downtownbozeman.org/
While towns and cities all over the nation toil to “create” or “revitalize” their downtown areas, we have the “real deal!” Historic downtown Bozeman has been a continuously vibrant and lively “Main Street USA” for nearly 150 years. The Downtown Bozeman Association, of which Alara is a member, has a tremendous deal to do with our downtown’s continuing vibrance and vitality. Our founder, Babs Noelle, is also President of the DBA.
With a wonderful mix of shops, restaurants, and businesses, our Bozeman downtown is a hub of great events, as well. Hometown parades, the Christmas Stroll, and Crazy Days are but a few.
Bozeman Chamber of Commerce http://www.bozemanchamber.com/
The largest Chamber of Commerce in Montana, the Bozeman Chamber is a great place to meet leaders in the community, foster new business and charity ideas, and give back to the community. Alara is an active member in the Chamber, and would be pleased to have any who ask as a guest at a Chamber event.
Bozeman Business and Professional Women http://www.bozemanbpw.org/
This organization seeks to empower women and girls in southwest Montana's Gallatin Valley, serving as a vital link to services and opportunities that enhance leadership skills and enable self-sufficiency. As a woman-owned, woman-operated company, Alara echoes those goals.
Missoula Downtown Association http://www.missouladowntown.com/
There’s so much to do in downtown Missoula! Vital and thriving, with events upon events! Highlights include Gallery Walks on the first Friday night every month of the year; the Los Dias de los Muertos celebration every November 2nd; the annual Parade of Lights in December, the Farmer’s Markets, the Day of the Dead Parade, Out to Lunch…
Thursday, January 17, 2008
I fall into the lattermost group.
Custom design is a process I find fulfilling on a multitude of levels. First of all, a wide panel of fellow humans is far more likely to demand out of you greater variety than you could ever conceive out of your one brain, set of experiences, and personal aesthetic.
But, the custom design process is often mysterious to those on "the other side of the counter." Below is a bit of my "to the customer" explanation that I choose to offer:
You have taken the first step towards your dream piece of wearable art. You either dreamt of it, saw something similar in your past, have some very creative ideas of your own, or just know that the piece for you isn’t mass-manufactured.
The next step after you finish reading here will be setting an appointment with me. That’s where the magic happens!
The process by which something is made just for you is an intimate interaction in many cases, involving a tremendous amount of communication between the “lucky one,” myself and my staff. The proper communication on the front end guarantees no disappointments when the finished piece is presented upon completion.
We will spend all the time you need to bring you to your comfort level. And I'm professional enough to know that the custom jewelry design process just isn’t quite right for your personality type, and I will try to accommodate you a different way.
I am a European-trained master jeweler, and I have a number of major design awards under my belt. My skill is confirmed by my training (generally regarded as the most rigorous in the world), my experience, the accolades awarded by her peers, and over twenty-five years of delighted clients.
The smooth execution of your project is important to me. But like all of us, my time is limited.
Please know that when you set an appointment with me for custom design, you will be charged a $150 consultation fee, which will be applied towards any design I craft for you.
The very nature of custom work is that no two pieces are alike, so therefore there is no “standard fee.” To provide you with some frame of reference of “entry level” custom design pricing, please note that my prices for the custom mountings pictured below are based on the gold market being at $800/ounce. These styles are considered “entry level” because of the quantity of 14K gold used and the amount of labor required for their crafting.
This set of six stackable rings crafted in 18K gold ranged in price between $464 and $935 apiece (@ $800 gold), not including the diamonds, which were provided by the client.
Pearl-and-Diamond Ring: An unusual cultured pearl and diamond ring custom crafted in 14K white gold, and set with a black Akoya pearl and two round brilliant-cut diamonds for $1,856 (@ 800 gold).
Gent's Diamond-and-Slit Band: A substantial 8mm gent’s white gold band with precision-cut slit and a round brilliant-cut diamond. $1,567 (@ $800 gold)
Postmodern Solitaire: Lady’s faux tension ring custom crafted in 14K white gold, set with an 0.80 ct radiant-cut diamond. The 6.5mm wide version of this design, not including diamond, is priced at $1,427 (@ $800 gold).
Here is a quick synopsis of what this process entails, so you don’t wonder how it works. I hope to hear from you very soon!
While appointments can be as brief as a half-hour and as lengthy as one-and-a-half hours, an hour is usually typical. Please set aside that amount of time.
If you are having something designed for someone else as a surprise, please bring as many of these with you to your appointment as is applicable:
--Finger size, necklace length, bracelet length
--Photos of the lucky recipient
--Favorite pieces of jewelry (if you can sneak them—if not, memorize how they look, best you can)
--Any pieces to match or coordinate
--Any existing stones to be remounted
If you are having something designed for yourself, please bring as many of these with you to your appointment as is applicable:
--Examples of necklaces or bracelets of perfect length
--Photos from magazines that show elements of pieces you like [Alara does not copy other people’s work, so we ask that you only show us photos that are meant to be instructional/descriptive, not a “request to duplicate.”]
--Favorite pieces of jewelry
--Any pieces to match or coordinate
--Any existing stones to be remounted
I will be asking some straightforward questions and then others that might seem odd at first, but will make sense in the long run.
Before concluding the meeting, I will confirm with you that I have a clear understanding of what you are seeking.
Usually spaced about a week after the first meeting, it is during this meeting that you are presented with a Custom Design Proposal, featuring full-color, actual size renderings of the proposed design(s), along with a detailed breakdown of costs for various options.
It is at this point that any questions are asked, clarifications are given, and modifications are made. Unless the modifications are numerous, a new Custom Design Proposal is not prepared. Notes are simply attached to the original.
Design proposals and drawings always remain the intellectual property of the designer; and as such, are not released to customers. While there is no charge for preparing a Custom Design Proposal, there is no change in its possession, either.
Most designs require a one-half deposit to commence, with the remainder due at the time the piece is complete; which is normally 4 to 5 weeks, with the occasional piece taking less or more than that.
As already stated above, there’s no such thing as a “typical” price for custom work. It stands to reason that an “atypical” piece will have a very individual price. On occasion, there are styles that folks describe to us as “so simple,” yet as it turns out, it requires an expensive manufacturing method to properly and accurately execute it. And sometimes things that look complex are actually inexpensively manufactured using clever assembly. Please know that it is highly unlikely that a custom-crafted piece of 14K gold jewelry will cost less than $1,000, with $1500 being a very typical benchmark for straightforward rings. Platinum pieces can easily cost double a comparable 14K piece.
Because of the malleability and ductility of precious metals, how a piece of fine jewelry is treated when worn begins to be the most important factor in its longevity and condition at about the 3-month mark. That’s not to say that your new necklace, ring, bracelet, or earrings is about to fall apart at that point. It’s just that a true manufacturing defect will rear its ugly head before then.
So, to show that we back our quality, we fully insure any of our custom designs against all perils for a full year. That means regardless of loss, partial loss, theft, breakage, or mysterious disappearance, you will receive the respective replacement for the first full year. No having to stop in quarterly for a “check-up,” to be covered only for diamond loss, rather than having full coverage.
This insurance does require you to complete a form with some sensitive information, so I provide you with the form and the instructions...completing and mailing it is your job; paying for that first year is mine! After the first year, the renewal reminder comes to you, and continuing with the insurance is your decision (although we highly recommend it!).
Tuesday, January 15, 2008
I take that very seriously.
And that means I make it all about you, your lifestyle, your desires, your aesthetic, your dream. There is no one-size-fits-all bride or groom, so why are there so many jewelers selling one-size-fits-all jewelry?
You know what I mean: commodity jewelry. Things you’ve seen again and again; things that will be “dated” once the market over-saturates.
But do not be mistaken. I am not embracing only “over the top,” hyper-modern, or hyper-traditional jewelry. That couldn't be further from the truth.
What I do, and do darn well, is design and sell personal classics. In other words, if it’s a traditional style ring, it is the purest, truest version of that ring—not a diluted one. If it’s a more industrial-style ring, it is done with such balance that it would never look dated. Certain to always catch attention, certain to not be to everyone’s taste, but never dated. A good number of my best-selling “small production” bridal collection styles are still best sellers after 20 years of design. And the ones that were created those two decades ago are still eliciting compliments today.
The same care goes into how I choose the bridal lines I carry, to supplement what I make myself. Simply put, the designers of my “out-of-house” lines are people who have a similar approach to fine jewelry design. I consider them peers. So, when you are drawn to a ring by one of my other designers, know that you are certainly not choosing something typical.
So, how do I do all that?
By being design driven. I let the best design for you, your lifestyle, and your aesthetic taste, rise to the surface by asking all the right questions. Getting to know you. Once that basic design concept reveals itself, I am able to perfect it by staying faithful that particular design style. If I carry a designer whose work is an ideal fit for that style, I will steer you that way. If not, I make it myself.
That way, nothing’s watered down. No commodity jewelry.
Below are some various styles I design and carry, and how I approach designing and crafting them or choosing and selling them.
traditional / classic
It is such a shame that Tiffany’s original prong-set mounting has become a commodity. And in so doing (even in the industry, we refer to the prongs as “Tiffany heads”), all the subtle grace in the original Tiffany engagement ring is gone.
So, that having been said…
If you are too unsure about having a custom bridal ring made to “take that plunge,” but would like to make the proposal a surprise, that is the only time I sell a “commodity style” Tiffany engagement ring. In other words, we all agree it is for “temporary purposes only,” until you come in together to choose a more individual mounting.
But, if what you like is the simplicity of a solitaire, and would like the ring to be beautifully traditional and classic for years and years to come, let me show you some solitaire mountings that have grace and style, and a number of which are completely handcrafted to order. Something to wear with pride and joy.
“I’m rough on jewelry.”
[also known as, “I’m very active.”]
No messing around here.
No jewelry made of precious metal can be made to tolerate the ravages of rock-climbing, weight-lifting, construction work, river guiding, mountain biking, or moving a grand piano. One of the reasons why precious metal is so precious is because it can be worked, which means it is malleable and ductile. If you subject it to forces similar in power to those subjected to it during the jewelry-making process, you will bend it, scratch it, scrape it, and wear it in ways that are just plain cruel.
Anything can be ruined if you try hard enough.
So, provided a few sensible rules can be followed, I am an expert at designing bridal rings for both men and women that aren’t clunky, but still mitigate against semi-abusive behavior. From high school soccer coaches to landscapers to construction works to river guides, I have many satisfied, very active, rough-on-their-jewelry folks.
classics with a twist
This is for the couple who want a design that is classic in basic concept, but which has enough individuality as to feel special. Often a good choice when a larger center stone (whether a white diamond, a colored diamond, or a colored gem) is involved, so that the overall ring doesn’t look too overblown in terms of volume and message.
I can carefully guide to choosing a ring that has balance, taste, and luxury.
“I want options.”
Sometimes I'm more like an engineer than a jeweler. Whether you want stackables you can interchange, a three-ring set that allows for varied combinations, or a second ring to work with an existing one that every other jeweler (including the one who sold the original!) said “was impossible to design,” my technical expertise can get you out of a pickle.
“I want different.”
Basically, most of my customers come in to Alara because we’re different, and so is so much of our jewelry.
Clearly, it takes a lot more effort to fill a gallery with unusual, high-quality lines than inexpensive plain ones. And it takes confidence. And passion.
It is certainly easy for us to provide classic jewelry, because it is only through a knowledge of classic styles that you can build balanced, beautiful designs that will withstand the test of time.
But, a store that shows nothing but plain ol’, plain ol’, "been there/done that" jewelry, will most likely not have the resources to create a design that pushes the edge of the envelope a bit. Without pushing it off the edge.
Different is as different does. And I find that word means such vastly different things to different people. It is our great pleasure to find out what it means to you, and pair you up with the rings that meet your definition.
For some people, it means unusual materials or combinations of materials. For others, it means “conversation starter.” For yet others, it is personal symbolism, a texture from nature, or a hidden secret.