Would you like me to create a unique piece of jewellery for you?
People have many reasons for commissioning an original piece. You may want to mark a special occasion such as an anniversary or life milestone; to commemorate a particular person; or just to treat yourself. You might have a very specific idea of what you want, or you might need to discuss it at length. I am going to assume that if you choose me to make your unique piece it’s because you like my work and want something in that style – sculptural, sinuously curved, made from flat metal sheet, without straight lines, flat surfaces or sharp corners.
In any case, the first step is to contact me. You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or phone me on 07594 667211. We will need to discuss designs. It would be really helpful if you can send me sketches of what you want, or images of things you like which we could use as a starting point. Please note I do not copy other people’s designs; this is intellectual property theft and not something I would want done to me! All makers put a lot of time, effort and heart into their designs and it not only hurts us financially but emotionally too if we are copied.
We would also need to discuss budget. Obviously the design eventually chosen will depend on how much you can afford to pay, not only in terms of materials but also the time taken by both the consultation/communication process and the making process. As a rough guide, a unique piece will probably cost about 50% more than a comparable piece which I produce “off the peg”. Use of materials such as gold will push the price much higher. (I am not equipped to work with platinum, which requires specialised equipment.) At this stage, any price given is an estimate.
You will need to give me a deadline – a realistic one! In general you need to allow between 4 and 12 weeks for the process from start to finish. This may vary depending on the time of year. In the three months or so before Christmas I will have a lot of other work on; probably not so much in the spring. I can’t make you that special Christmas present if you don’t contact me until the beginning of December! There are other considerations such as hallmarking and plating which will add to the time taken. Silver over 7.78g must be hallmarked by law, as must gold over 1g; to get items hallmarked overnight (“early hall”) is much more expensive than the normal process, which can take a week or more. Gold plating normally takes a week to ten days; again, in the approach to Christmas this tends to increase.
Before I start making I will need a non-refundable deposit of 50% of the (estimated) price to cover the cost of materials and any design/consultation work done in the event that you change your mind and decide to cancel. Cancellations must be made in writing and agreed to be me before a piece is returned.
Depending on the nature of the piece, fittings may be needed – most obviously for rings, but scale matters for other pieces too – what looks delicate on one person may appear too bold on another.
Case study - Ampersand brooch
This was commissioned as an anniversary present for a calligrapher and glass engraver. The commissioner approached me at a live event – Made Brighton – and discussed what she wanted: a brooch in my own style, made from silver with yellow gold plating on the inner surface. I made a sketch, which she agreed, with size stipulated. We agreed a price and a delivery date, three and a half months from then.
Back at the studio, I broke down the sketch into its various elements – straights, curves, loops, pin, catch – and estimated roughly what length of material would be needed for each.
I drew up a preliminary template based on this and cut out a blank in copper, which I formed to give me a first maquette. This showed me how the proportions needed to be adjusted.
I continued to work in this way through another 3 maquettes, at each stage sending images to the commissioner, until we were both satisfied with the proportions of the piece.
At this point I moved into silver and began the piece proper.
When I had finished the forming process I sent images of the brooch from all angles to the commissioner to get approval before sending the piece for hallmarking and plating.
The brooch was delivered on time.
Comment received: THANK YOU the brooch is really beautiful and was really loved by (recipient’s name) ...many many thanks.
Case study: Small gold cross
This was a cross created in 18ct gold by special request. The total length was about 2cm.
Case study: Monogram pendant
This was commissioned by a customer who wanted something very specific to her - a pendant composed of her initials. I designed a piece which exploited the typical features of anticlastic work - flowing curves and twists.
This piece is made from a single strip of silver. I worked up two maquettes to get the proportions correct before committing myself to the precious metal.
Having established the length of metal I needed and where the principle curves needed to go, I completed the commission.