Custom Jewelry Designer Spotlights Diamonds Education Uncategorized

Designer Spotlight: Rachel Boston

Rachel is a London born and based jewelry designer, educated at Central Saint Martin’s College of Art and Design as well as the Gemological Institute of America. She is becoming more and more recognized for her work as she was nominated for New Designer of the Year at the UK Jewellery Awards, and chosen as only one of seven designers to exhibit in the “Made in London:Jewellery Now” exhibition in the Museum of London.

Rachel’s design signature is strong natural setting with often aggressive posturing and a nod to London punk rock. There is a sophisticated edge to her designs and a quality about it that keeps it off the shelves of hot topic and on those of luxury retailers. Boston has risen near the top of new designers all driving raw organic designs, with her attention to detail and direct response to the natural inclusions within stones. From the Cosmos Collection of stunning diamond slices with delicate ballet of inclusions rivaling a Cy Twombly painting, to the living forms of “The Ritual” Collection Boston has done the booming trend right.

Here are a few of our favorite pieces of Rachel’s. Explore her collections and find something that sparks a creative fire in you to make your own Boston inspired custom piece.

Lizard Skin Cuff - Rachel Boston
Lizard Skin Cuff – Rachel Boston


Custom Jewelry Education Technical

Modern Wax Making printing & milling

In our increasingly fast paced world traditional manufacturing methods are dying off to make room for automation, cost cutting and mass production. Art forms such as jewelry are quick to adopt new technologies though for slightly different reasons than our more industrial manufacturing counterparts. In any art form one is always pushing the envelope searching for a way to make their vision a reality and let’s be honest, to pay the rent. New methods to generate waxes suitable for lost wax casting are allowing jewelers the world over to create pieces never before possible, or in the least, prohibitively expensive.
First there was CNC milling, a tremendous breakthrough especially when considering its predecessor, hand carving waxes. CNC milling technology has allowed jewelers to produce three to four waxes a day up from one or less. Along with this increase in productivity came greater precision and accuracy to be expected from a mechanical process. Now 3D printing has raced to the forefront allowing for such large scale, precise, rapid prototyping that it has even replaced molds. Designers and customers have been liberated from many of the constraints formerly imposed. Long gone are the days of “how can I open this up so the mill can get in there?”. The pain staking process of creating a scaled master mold and shooting forty pieces is gone and replaced with printing them all at once with confidence they will all be accurate.
Modeling technology is opening new doors every day as the users grow in their understanding of its potential applications. These innovations are making custom jewelry more and more accessible to individuals and DBD plans to use this to make one of, if not the most personal purchases of anyone’s life unique, personal, and fun. Don’t settle for off the shelf jewelry and engagement rings, come enjoy the process of creating a custom piece with Dickinson by Design.

Custom Jewelry Diamonds Education Hearts & Arrows Diamonds Uncategorized

Custom Making Jewelry (Part 2 Diamond Guide)


The comments that Peter made in his last entry on the importance of research are well taken. This applies equally to both the mounting and to the center stone. I am still surprised that frequently during our initial meeting customers have little idea what they are hoping to create. This obviously throws the creative ball solidly into my court as far as design and although I am always game to move in what I feel is the appropriate direction, it is obviously helpful if there is some input at the outset. After all, our goal is to thrill the customer, not me. As Peter notes, a tour of the local jewelry stores really is a great place to start. Make it fun, commit a Saturday to inspiration and education (if you are lucky….). Include a stop for a special lunch – maybe a glass of wine….This exercise may also provide an opportunity to do some diamond research. If you do intend to look at diamonds here are a list of basic questions and recommendations that might help you elicit whatever information is available:
Ask if the diamond certified by an independent grading authority such as the Gemological Institute of America. If not by GIA then find out by which one. Bear in mind that not all grading authorities were created equal and that some companies even offer their own very convincingly packaged certificates claiming characteristics that have not been independently verified. .
Insist on getting the SPECIFIC color and clarity grades of the diamond? By this I mean do not settle for a range such as “GHI” or VS2 to SI2, or generalizations such as “all our diamonds are blue white”. If a range is offered and the stone is of interest then insist on specific grades for both color and clarity. Inform the store that it is your intention to have the diamond independently graded by a certified gemologist. Say that you will require written documentation detailing the specific color and clarity as a condition of purchase and check on their return policy if the diamond has been misrepresented in any way.
Ask if the diamond has fluorescence. Fluorescence is a fairly complex subject and it is a characteristic that is not always discussed (or visible) in jewelry stores. It may not be noticeable until seen under the correct fluorescent light. Generally speaking fluorescence in white stones is not considered desirable. In slightly off color stones, perhaps in the J/K color area, faint fluorescence may slightly minimize yellowness. Stronger fluorescence may make the diamond appear milky or cloudy in certain lighting conditions. Regardless, fluorescence should be reflected in the pricing of diamonds and should be disclosed.
Ask to see the diamond under a microscope. You do not have to know what you are looking for, but casually asking with confidence may change the demeanor and approach of a salesperson and make them more inclined to share important information. If the store does not offer a microscope for the use of clients that raises a red flag. To me that’s a little like asking someone to buy a house without going inside as all inclusions in diamonds that are given SI2 or better clarity grades by GIA require magnification to be visible.
If anywhere during their presentation the salesperson uses the expression “trust me” – RUN!

Custom Jewelry Education Uncategorized

Custom Making Jewelry (Part 1 Getting Started)

An educated customer is a custom jewelers best customer, as long as they come with a layer of humility still intact. There is nothing more difficult, albeit potentially great, than a customer who comes in not having any specific direction they would like to pursue. When a client comes in without a foundation the first meeting can either be a long and arduous task or brief “ah ha” moment. If you’re just beginning the process I always recommend starting online with a simple Google image search. It’s the fastest and easiest way to get your first glimpse at what’s out there and begin to narrow down your search. After you have exhausted the first hundred pages of images you’re probably ready to see what some of your favorites look like in the flesh. A quick search of some local jewelry retailers to confirm they have pieces of similar style and price available for you to take a look at should be your next step. Take a look around their entire show case, you never know what you might find. Most likely you’re not going to find a complete engagement ring that has all the qualities you’re looking for, but don’t fret, you’re still just getting a feel for it all. Take pictures of rings you like or just rings with parts you like, your custom jeweler can always combine the shank from one ring with the halo of another and it will be much easier to explain with a picture. Now that you seen the real thing you might want to make one more quick image search online with your new found ability to visualize the real thing and collect some finale samples for the designer. Congratulations you’re now ready to meet with a custom jewelry designer and start your project.

Custom Jewelry Education Metals

Platinum Vs. White Gold for Your Engagement Ring

We are frequently asked about the differences between platinum and white gold for the manufacture of engagement rings. Each have advantages and drawbacks and your choice will depend upon the style of the engagement ring, your interest in weight and feel, and inevitably your budget. Although platinum is actually more durable than gold it is also softer and more malleable. Because platinum does not have the metal “memory” of white gold it will more likely flex under pressure and not crack. It will also be less likely to spring back to its original shape or, in the case of tiny prongs, its position. Although the tiny prongs in these pieces may require fewer replacements, this flexibility may contribute to stone loss in shanks set with micro pave as the shank is more likely to torque under pressure.
Most white gold jewelry requires rhodium plating to hide the yellow overtone still present from the pure yellow gold after mixing with white alloy. I say most because there are now alloys that better mask the yellow overtone. These are not as yet used in the majority of commercially produced white gold castings and are felt by some jewelers to produce stiff and sometimes brittle castings. Conversely platinum pieces tend to lose their luster more quickly than their white gold counterparts and require skilled polishing. Regardless of whether the choice is platinum or white gold an engagement ring should be professionally serviced at least every six months to check the security of all stones including the center and to refinish or rhodium plate as necessary.
Platinum is denser than gold and therefore weighs more by volume. It also melts at a higher temperature, freezes more quickly and requires a higher level of skill on the part of the jeweler to work and set. Most shops that work on platinum are also equipped with laser welders which is an additional cost factor weighed by manufacturers.
Even when the cost per gram for gold and platinum is similar, a platinum casting will both weigh and therefore cost more. Additionally both 14 karat and 18 karat gold contain a higher percentage of alloy than platinum which is either 90% or 95% pure. This further affects cost.
For me platinum is equally at home when used in a simple, opulent sculptural mounting where its feel and weight are showcased and the open accessible surfaces are able to be easily polished to that inimitable luster as it is in a reproduction piece featuring the delicate filigree work of bygone years.
White gold really shines when used in micro pave or multistone pieces where durability and cost are priorities. As previously mentioned, while platinum is in itself extremely durable, its tendency to give under stress can lead to problems for those of us who are a little rough on our jewelry.

Custom Jewelry Education Uncategorized

Metal Fashion Trends

My how the “hot metal of choice” pendulum has swung over the last few decades. I recall when I first arrived in Texas in the late 70’s 14 karat yellow was definitely the “golden child” of the precious metals. It seemed that even the engagement business revolved largely around yellow gold and basked in the warmth and richness that it seemed to symbolize. Looking back I believe that most yellow gold jewelry designs still conjured up images of doubloons spilling from treasure chests, bullion in stacks in the treasury vaults or nuggets of gold found by panhandlers in the river beds of California. For some it seemed to hold the tacit stamp of approval of exotically named European designers who filled the cases of the fashionable boutiques with sumptuous creations in the 18 karat variety of this opulent material. In those days, for many bridal customers. Platinum was simply the metal that our Grandmothers had celebrated.
Little did we know that during the nineties we would be once again hoisting our flask temperatures by 150 degrees Fahrenheit for white gold casting and rolling out the “big torches” (or induction coils….) that are required to achieve the extreme temperatures necessary to melt platinum casting grain. The pendulum had once more swung in favor of the white metals not only for the production of engagement rings, but also for many of the basic staples of a fine jewelry wardrobe. This trend became particularly strong in the case of diamond ear studs, diamond eternity rings, classic straight line bracelets and Riviera necklaces in which yellow gold was correctly believed to adversely affect diamond color. The frequent questions about the differences between 14 and 18 karat yellow gold were soon replaced by discussions centered on the practical and visual differences between 14 and eighteen karat white gold and platinum (and occasionally even palladium). These were questions concerning durability, malleability and metal memory, rhodium plating and maintenance.
Concurrently gentlemen had become enamored of less conventional, more industrial and certainly less “precious” materials to make their personal jewelry statements. There seemed to be an emerging “inverted snobbery” surrounding the price and construction of men’s’ wedding bands. Gentleman who comfortably invested heavily in both time and money in a ladies engagement ring had become virtually dismissive when choosing their own ring, often demonstrating more concern about durability, scratch resistance and lighter materials than either style or value. Today we continue to receive as many enquiries about Tungsten, Titanium, cobalt and stainless steel as we do the more traditional “precious” metals for men’s’ bands.
“And then along came Rose”…………Although popular in Russia in the 19th. Century and here in the early 20th, only during the last fifteen years has rose gold really achieved universal acceptance as an alternative metal for use in both bridal and other jewelry. This was in part spurred on by the introduction of successful collections featuring rose gold from prominent houses such as Cartier and Tiffany & Co.
Here at Dickinson by Design the “hot metal pendulum” of 2015 currently hovers just slightly “white of center”. We have however definitely seen a resurgence of interest in both 14 and 18 karat yellow gold over the last decade. Popular fashion jewelry designers have created pieces in yellow with a more greenish overtone and some customers are intrigued by the higher ratios of gold to alloy that are the norm in other countries. It is normal to discuss hue and shade and we are more often called upon to blend alloys to achieve subtle differences in tone.
Has the ever shifting web based ocean of fashion alternatives that constantly washes over us diluted or reinforced the “power of the trend”?
The pendulum swings……..

Custom Jewelry Uncategorized

A Custom Perspective.

After many years working in traditional jewelry retail environments I have found that life in our custom jewelry studio is liberating. There is a sense of freedom that accompanies starting with a “blank slate” and creating exactly what a client describes. The focus is now on the creation and not simply the location of the piece. This does require a completely different approach to the interaction with a customer – less salesmanship and more craftsmanship, more interpretation less direction. The process requires heightened listening skills, an open mind and a certain humility. On occasion it may even require a thick skin…..
Success in the custom arena at any level demands not only a superior knowledge of jewelry manufacturing and materials, but also the intuition and the experience to bring only the most necessary technical considerations to the table. Ideally it is the combined imaginations of the participants that breathe life into the emerging creation……
Naturally In the real world the daily routine rarely culminates in explosive genesis. However, from simplest of shadow bands to the most creatively or technically challenging project, the exchange is as fresh and energized as the orchestrator wills it to be. It is never constrained by the familiar mantra of “sell only what is in the case”. Success in this fanciful world can truly be uniquely gratifying. It is a paradoxical world in which to the creative few only by beginning with nothing can you open the window to everything…….
Every custom jewelry shop is as individual and unique as the designs that pass through the hallways. Ultimately each reflects a combination of the drive, the skill and experience of all those contributing to the finished product, the equipment and resources available to accomplish the work, and the philosophy, goals and personalities of those at the helm.