What Is It Like to Work Long-Distance with a Custom Jeweler?

by Kristin Zhivago May 19, 2017

What Is It Like to Work Long-Distance with a Custom Jeweler?

I first came to the Plantes with an engagement ring that my best friend, Marcella, had bequeathed to me when she died at 92 years of age. I wore that ring for many years, thinking of Marcella every time I looked at it.

Before: The original engagement ring, given to me by my friend Marcella when she passed away.

One day while out sailing, I injured the finger on which I wore the ring, and my finger swelled up. We had to cut the ring at the base, so I could take it off and let the finger heal (which is why, if you look closely, the base of the band is cut). I started thinking during that time that it was the main diamond that reminded me most of Marcella, and that the ring really didn't quite fit my lifestyle.

I began to wonder if I could have a new ring designed around that diamond.

Custom jewelry - the remote design process 

Knowing that the Plantes created custom jewelry, I started having email conversations with Pam Gauthier, Plante’s in-house designer. It was pleasant, being able to discuss desires, ideas, and options, with Pam. She was patient, articulate, empathetic, and completely engaged. It was like telling a friend the secrets of your heart, without worry. 

I explained the story and the sentiment behind the ring, and the thoughts I had about what I hoped the final ring would represent. And I also sent her links to examples of styles that appealed to me. We decided it would be a sailor's ring - my friend Marcella was also a sailor - with rose and white gold, looking like sailor's rope, surrounding the diamond.

That’s when the process got really exciting, because the next set of emails from Pam contained new designs, rendered on a computer so I could see the rings from all angles, including on a hand model. It was like Christmas in July, something I could look at carefully after a day of work, considering before going to bed. 

After a few more email discussions, the ring design was perfect, and it was time to wait for the ring to arrive a few weeks later. 

Pam let me know the ring was coming, to make sure I’d be there to sign for it. Then the package arrived. I opened up the carefully secured package, pulled a small dark blue box out of floral tissue paper, and had one of those Very Special Moments, when you lift the lid of the ring box, and There. It. Is. 

It was my friend, smiling back at me through a diamond that she chose and wore for many years, a symbol of her husband’s love for her, nestled in a ring that was more suited to my lifestyle and that I was very happy to wear.

After: The redesigned ring, featuring the main diamond, and designed to be a "sailor's ring" - with the braided rope, made with rose and white gold. 

I suppose what is most amazing about this process is how well it worked using email discussions, links to examples, and computer renderings of the final design. I would say that is not because of all that technology; it was because of Pam. It is her ability to understand exactly what is desired and to translate that into something that works perfectly, so the sentiments are all taken into account, but are combined artfully with the realities of creating something beautiful and functional out of gems and metal.

Two more custom rings

Marcella actually gave me two engagement rings; apparently her husband had given her the one below when they first got engaged, and the one above some years later as an anniversary present.

Plante Jewelers Custom Ring - Before

Before: The other engagement ring that Marcella bequeathed to me. We were able to make two more rings out of the diamonds from this ring and those left over from the other ring.

One ring is designed in a cross shape (Marcella and I studied the bible together for 12 years before she died) and the other is a more fanciful birthstone ring with an Alexandrite surrounded by delicate patterns and small diamonds. 

After: The "cross" ring - with three diamonds along the band on one side and 5 diamonds on the other, so when I wear it, it truly represents a cross. It's also delightfully sparkly, thanks in part to the small rose gold bumps, but in a modest way. 

Plante Jewelers Custom Ring Design Alexandrite

After: The Alexandrite ring as shown in the computer mockup. Part of the design process involves looking at computer-generated images, including one showing the ring on a hand. As you can see, it is a very accurate representation of the final ring, shown below. 

After - The finished Alexandrite ring, in real life. The Alexandrite from Russia changes color, depending on the light shining on it, and the whole ring is delicate, well-balanced, and delightfully detailed.

There is no question that the long-distance design process works, when you have someone like the Plantes on the other side of the process. 

I could not be happier. My friend Marcella is still with me, in a new and beautiful way.

- Kristin Zhivago


Kristin Zhivago
Kristin Zhivago


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