Normally I am not interested in executing a client’s designs. I have enough or more of my own, and in situations where I am functioning merely as labour, I can’t be competitive in terms of price. Other workshops have economies of scale, and a number of workers to share overheads.
But there is one situation in which I insist on stepping out of the way and letting the client’s ideas come to the fore – the creation of engagement and wedding rings.
These rings have a special place in our culture, both as a public statement of marital status and as a signal of aesthetic preferences. To the jeweler, the challenge is to get out of the way and let the clients decide what it is that they want. Usually, if they come to me, they want a certain style of metal-work. They want the ring to appear “magical” or to contain certain symbolic motifs. What I do is give them a couple of picture books on rings – the books I use are The Ring by Sylvie Lambert and Rings: Symbols of wealth, Power and Affection by Diana Scarisbrick. I ask the couple to spend some time together looking at the books, and to bookmark the things that they like – whether an entire piece or a detail. This gives me an idea of what they’re after. Then we select a stone, or stones, or they give me a stone from a grandmother’s ring, and I come up with a design, which may be a scrawl on paper, and, once we’re all sure what we’re about, I make the piece.
Because these rings are supposed to be worn for life, there are certain constraints – the thing must be robust enough to endure a lifetime of wear (no soft stones or very fine engraving, no pointy little bits), should be more comfortable than a dress ring has to be, should make allowance for the probability of being sized, and above all should be sufficiently complex to support the projection of symbolic meaning which will make the ring magical for the wearer.
My interpretation of a jewish betrothal ring.
This client wanted to make a statement. The colour of the stone was important, as was the inclusion of ancestral stones.
My wife Julia’s “engagement” ring. We remain very engaged.
A set of 2 wedding bands and an engagement band.