Want to customise your jewellery? Here’s what you need to know

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Women love to personalise their jewellery. They want it to reflect and complement their style, preferably in a unique and personal way. The name that jewellers give to this process is customisation.

Customisation, you should know, does not mean copying. Replicating the design of a famous brand like Tiffany & Co. or Harry Winston is not customisation. In true customisation, a prospective buyer has given her planned jewellery piece some thought. Her chosen jeweller must understand the buyer’s idea thoroughly, see how it applies to his own stock and his technical specialties, and then build on it to develop a practical design.

Do remember that customisation is neither quick nor easy. If you take this route, take it with your eyes open and, of course, never forget the wonderful reward waiting at the end of your journey.

You will also need to know the following:

  • Customisation costs. A customised piece of jewellery invariably costs more than a ready-to-sell piece. Is has a prolonged gestation period. Typically there are various agreements and disagreements over the design, which has to be worked and reworked. There are last-minute changes and alterations. All of this work by experts raises the cost of the typical customised piece 15 per cent or more above readymade.
  • Cost estimates will vary. When you order your piece of customised jewellery, your jeweller will give you a fair estimate of the final cost. Do remember, however, that while the design is worked upon and the piece comes into being, the cost normally deviates by 15–20 per cent.
  • The scope for change is limited: True, it is not a ready-to-sell piece, and the jeweller will involve you at various stages of making — but you won’t have unlimited freedom to seek alterations. A jeweller can take requests for design change up to the CAD stage. Make sure you see the CAD and are completely clear on what the jewellery will look like, at that stage.

  • Pick a jeweller that has a design team.

Designers know how to interpret an idea and take it from concept to physical form. A retailer with a sound grasp of the design process as well as of other technical aspects can preempt unforeseen issues related to manufacturing and sourcing.

  • “Customised” no longer means “high-priced”. Customisation is about high-end <i>design</i>, not high price or high grammage. The trend of customisation has percolated to smaller and lower-priced pieces. Jewellers are willing to provide customisation for jewellery even at basic price levels. Every customer deserves the experience of nurturing her own design. This cannot be measured purely in monetary terms and, indeed, budget is no longer the main determining factor.

  • Be flexible, and do listen to your jeweller’s advice. Your jeweller has provided women with fine adornments for decades, and will have a good sense of the kinds of designs that suit different people. Therefore, do hear the jeweller out if they say a particular design will not flatter your appearance. Keep in mind that design limitations do exist, and not all imagined designs can be given shape.
  • Be clear on timeframe. The time taken for customisation differs from jeweller to jeweller. If the piece you are ordering is meant for a specific occasion, please plan in advance! It may take your jeweller two weeks to two months to customise your piece. Much depends on factors like the amount of time taken to finalise the design and source the materials — especially if, for instance, the design calls for a hard-to-find gemstone. Then on top there is manufacturing time.
  • Be firm about heirloom stones.

Most jewellery retail chains refuse to work with stones a customer herself provides, because of handling risks like a polish coming off or a stone cracking as it is being set. If your jeweller agrees to use a rare heirloom stone in your customised piece, insist on having the setting done with yourself present. This will save you sleepless nights, and the jeweller too will breathe easier, because he won’t be trapped later in a nasty blame game.

  • Experience the process!

Retailers today are open to sharing the progress of your piece, step by step. Ask for photos of the design in the making. Even at that stage modification is not impossible, though it will be extremely expensive.

So now you know. Customisation isn’t easy, but the reward is a truly exclusive design and a genuine experience. Take part, go along on the ride, as your cherished idea turns into a real and beautiful creation — one that personifies you.

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