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Custom jewelry is a cool gift trend

By Stephen Chupaska

Published November 13. 2013 4:00AM   Updated December 09. 2013 3:29PM
Local jewelers can help you design a special gift or update an heirloom.

Whether they are precious gems or bands of bent gold, custom jewelry down the years been the inspiration for some custom-made stories.

Ivan Sadler, who works in sales at Mallove's Jewelers in Waterford, encounters one nearly every time someone comes into talk about making a necklace or ring their very own.

"A lady came in recently," Sadler said. "And I noticed while she was talking to me she looked up at the clock."

The customer pointed out to Sadler it was 11 a.m., and that was the same time on the same day that she went with her husband to Mallove's former location on State Street in New London to have her engagement ring sized.

"It's that sort of relationship that makes it more than a sale," Sadler said.

Now, most jewelers will tell you that a large slice of their business around the holidays comes from men doing some late-in-the game shopping the week before Christmas.

"It's the eight-day shopping season," Mike Gillen of Mystic Gems quipped.

But if the more ambitious shoppers out there want to get custom-made jewelry to make into the stocking, the earlier, the better — as most stores would need the order by early December at the latest.

And even though it takes some foresight,independent jewelry shops in southeastern Connecticut say custom and refurbished jewelry have been a steady part of their sales.

"This has been a large area for growth," said Gillen. "The custom market really has become a large part of the business."

Sadler said that he's noticed "more and more" customers coming in for custom pieces, for everything from wedding and engagement rings to gifts.

One of the reasons, jewelers say, is the intersection of applying two very modern notions to the ancient art of bodily adornment — the Internet and computer aided design programs.

Because of the web, Sadler said that he's noticed that people come in with more ideas about what design they'd like on pieces.

"We love the fact that customers are more knowledgeable," Sadler said. "They research what they want."

And most jewelers these days avail themselves of CAD, or computer aided design programs to more accurately depict what customers have in mind.

From there, jewelers will sometimes send their stones to off-site facilities around the world to actually cut and set the piece.

Still, most jewelers enjoy talking to their clients about their particular vision. At times, the process can resemble that of getting a tattoo, which is a collaboration between the client and artist.

Matt Hopkins of Goldsmiths and Silversmiths in Mystic says that some customers have a "good idea of what they want" but others might need more suggestions.

"I try to get a sense of their likes and dislikes and their lifestyle," Hopkins said. "We really want to come up with something they can cherish."

Often customers come in with an older piece of jewelry they found or something that's been in the family for generations.

Nancy Shaw from N.L. Shaw & Company on West Main Street in Mystic, who noted that antique jewerly can account for as much as 85 percent of her sales, said she enjoys helping customers discern the age of certain pieces.

"I've had jewelry come in that dates to the mid-1700s," Shaw said.

Gillen said he's taken gems from one piece, say a pendant, and reset them as part of a bracelet or part of an engagement ring.

And even if they are buying some out of the cases, there's always the chance that ring or necklace becomes something special, with it's own story as the years go by.

"They get passed down to children and grandchildren," Sadler said.

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As our children crash from Halloween candy overload, we look ahead to the next big holiday: Thanksgiving. What are you looking forward to seeing on your dining room table on the 4th Thursday of November?
Cranberry sauce: Whether it's the home made stuff containing actual cranberries or the reddish jelly shaped like the can it plopped out of, it reminds me of childhood.
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