Creating a ring that's uniquely you

At the Columbus Weddings Show in January, Worthington Jewelers gave away a jaw-dropping grand prize: a stunning loose diamond and a store credit that the winner would use to create a custom piece with the stone. That giveaway got us thinking—how exactly does one create a custom jewelry item? Worthington Jewelers' sales floor manager, Kathryn Givens, and store manager, Theresa Capace, shed some light on the question.

The Inspiration

“Typically, it all starts with a picture,” says Givens, adding that the picture often is sourced from the internet or a magazine. Many times, the initial design request consists of multiple images, with a desire to incorporate different elements of each. “Pinterest is huge in the sense that people say, ‘I like this ring, but I want to change this,' ” adds Capace, who estimates that about 40 percent of the shop's bridal orders have some level of customization. “That's the nice thing; you can take a design portion from one ring and a design portion from another ring, and create something that the customer wants.”

The person or couple wanting the custom piece brings the inspiration imagery in to Worthington Jewelers and has a consultation with staff. At that point, the consultant will give a price quote and sketch out a basic design either on paper or in CAD (computer-aided design) software.

The Prototype

Next, the design gets “waxed up,” says Givens. This is done in one of two ways: The old-fashioned way is to hand-carve a model ring from a piece of wax, based on the initial design consultation. The more high-tech alternative is to use the CAD design to 3-D print the wax model.

“A lot of brides really want that tangible product,” says Givens. “They want to be able to hold it, see how high it'll be off their finger, how wide, where the diamonds will be set.” The wax isn't a perfect representation, of course; it's usually a funky color and only includes the mountings where the stones will be placed in the final product.

The Casting

After the customer approves the wax design, it's used to create a lost-wax casting. Because the casting process requires a stable, precise environment, Worthington Jewelers works with several casting companies, including local ones, for this part of the process.

“From the wax, what they'll do is make a ceramic mold. And then the molten gold or platinum gets pumped into the mold, and then it hardens,” explains Givens. “Then it has to be polished and tumbled.” Those who had a rock-polishing tumbler kit back in their youth will be familiar with this process; the ring is placed in a magnetic, rotating drum with steel beads, which smooth the metal. Further hand polishing give the metal its gleam.

The Result

The ring is then shipped back to Worthington Jewelers, where goldsmith Marilyn Gissinger sets the stones and the ring gets its final appraisal before the customer picks it up. The entire process typically takes six to eight weeks, though Givens says that can vary greatly based on customer demand.

“I've helped people of all ages and walks of life with custom,” she adds; recent clients have ranged from a young couple who loved a Pinterest design to an older woman who wanted a band to match her mother's antique ring. “Typically, [a custom ring] is for the customer who wants something different,” Given says. “They want something that none of their girlfriends have, that they're not going to walk down the street and see on anybody's hand.”