Commissioning jewellery, my experience

19 04 2013

I recently wrote a post with some tips on commissioning jewellery.

I’ve taken a number of approaches myself and thought I’d share:
[note: no images in this post to be reproduced without permission]

  • My first was a ring made by my jewellery teacher – obviously direct contact; I knew exactly what I wanted and gave him a technical drawing (as such, not allowing much individual maker creativity!).
    my collection; not to be reproduced without permission

    my collection

  • My second was a pendant for my mum’s 50th birthday – again I made a technical drawing and cannot exactly remember how I found the jeweller but I’m pretty sure it was via internet search. A ‘technical drawing’ is very detailed with measurement, kind of like an architectural plan – it needs to be accurate enough for the jeweller to make from it without any other information or need for interpretation (see my example below).
  • My third was a ring by Jessica Morrison – through Studio Ingot. I’d been loving her work for ages and on a regular visit to the gallery decided to go ahead with getting a piece. There was a similar ring in the cabinet, though it’s size wasn’t right for me. I asked Sarah, owner of the gallery, to commission a ring – the only boundaries were that I’d like something similar to the ring in the gallery, same colours, I loved the gold addition, and just the size. So this is an example of trusting the maker, with an exemplar for the maker to go by.
    Jessica Morrison; amended copyright notice as above

    Jessica Morrison

  • My fourth was a brooch by Claire O’Halloran – being a friend, this was directly with the maker. I saw a piece of hers at the RMIT auction and wanted one! We talked about size and colouring, and apart from that I trusted I’d love what she made me.
    Claire O'Halloran brooch; amended copyright notice as above

    Claire O’Halloran

  • My fifth was my magnificent ring by Katherine Bowman. I’d been a long-time admirer of Katherine’s work through reading her blog, and that’s how we’d made contact and connected through our love for making. I knew I wanted a ring, and that I wanted a large stone; Katherine showed me some of the rings she’d made for herself and I immediately fell for this shape. From there I described the kind of stone I wanted and it took a little time (naturally) to source some – again, I knew immediately which one was for me. From there it was trusting the maker.
    published with artist permission; image not to be reproduced without permission

    Katherine Bowman

  • My sixth was another Katherine Bowman ring. Again by personal contact, but using an exemplar that I saw at the NMIT auction. It was kind of like saying ‘I want one like that, to fit this finger here’ … simple!
    Katherine Bowman ring; image not to be reproduced without permission

    Katherine Bowman

  • My seventh was a pendant by David Neale. Again, David is a maker I’ve been admiring for many years through his blog. I’d been in love with his Aster earrings for years, though I don’t wear earrings. So I emailed David and asked politely if he’d consider making a pendant. We talked about size and materials, and again it was a matter of knowing I’d love the outcome.
    David Neale; image not to be reproduced without permission

    David Neale

  • My eighth was the pendant for my Mum’s birthday. I made a technical drawing and knew exactly what I wanted made; and I also already owned the stone. So it was then a matter of what I wanted from the maker – this time it was technical expertise and time capacity (I think first contact was made two months ahead of her birthday). All jewellers have their own preferred aesthetic, and as one gallery staffer once said to me: ‘not all jewellers are okay with making conservative pieces’. I knew this design was the very definition of conservative; and so the more organic and more alternative jewellers wouldn’t have matched it. I know Anna Davern through her blog and work at NC4 (and just generally in the community I think!)… and I thought she’d be perfect. By no means do I mean this to belittle Anna’s expertise, it is fair to say this was less about creativity on the jeweller’s behalf (I did have a technical drawing after all!), and more about making.
    By way of example of a technical drawing, this is the one I made for Mum’s gift (you can see we changed the bail after this drawing):
    image not to be reproduced

    my technical drawing; image not to be reproduced

Not everyone is going to be inclined to make a technical drawing! Most jewellers are happy to just chat about your (even vague) ideas and distill them and perhaps sketch some ideas for you. It can also be helpful if you have pictures of jewellery with features or aspects you like.

As an example, I once just had a feeling I wanted a ring for my middle finger and I wanted it to be ‘statement’ and a dark coloured feature (pretty vague right). Through chatting with a gallery staff member within a few minutes that was refined to something more square or rectangular, a flat top, a white metal, less organic and more geometric, perhaps carved onyx. I didn’t go through with making that piece however, as at the time I was distracted by Jessica’s ring.

I’ve also been commissioned a few times by others to make pieces for them – you can read more about them on my 2012 page. Jewellers honestly LOVE being commissioned – there’s something so very special about making for an involved client who wants your artwork.

There is so much to love about commissioning jewellery – go ahead, I’d love to hear about your stories of commissioning.



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