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Couples Have Many Options When it Comes to Custom-made Wedding Jewelry

Jodens Jewelers

There are many ways to make a wedding special, and creating a ring as unique as your relationship is a great place to start. Not only can you work with a jeweler to design a piece of jewelry that fits your style, but here in Pittsburgh, you can even forge your own ring.

Craig Cowan, owner of The Barefoot Forge, teaches clients how to forge, pattern, machine and finish their own custom stainless Damascus steel rings at his shop on Harts Run Road.

“My average customer flies here from out of town, because we are a nationally known destination,” he explained. “It all started when I decided to make a ring for myself; I took a picture of it and people wanted it, so I started making and selling rings on Etsy.

“A friend reached out and wanted me to make his wedding ring but asked if he could be here when I did it,” Cowan continued. ”Before you know it, he was interacting with it and taking part in its creation; while customers originally did about 30 percent of the process, they do about 85 percent now.”

The rings take about 10 to 14 hours to make, depending on a person’s level of experience. “For an average person, it’s an all new experience and all new tools, so it depends on how much fun they’re having and how good or bad they are at it,” laughed Cowan. “If they have a background in machining or fabrication, it can go more quickly.”

While Cowan primarily makes men’s wedding rings, he has had couples come in to make both rings. And every ring has a unique pattern, depending on how the person making it manipulates the layers.

“Your ring should be special, and no two rings of ours are the same because they are forged individually,” he said. “You know it’s one-of-a-kind because you make it right here in-house.”

For those who prefer to design their own rings in a less labor-intensive way, Cirelli’s Fine Jewelry in Beaver has a fully equipped jewelry shop where they can custom-make engagement rings and wedding bands, in addition to other jewelry.

“We do quite a bit of custom work,” said owner Michael Cirelli. “A lot of times people buy engagement rings that aren’t really engagement rings, per se, and they want us to custom-make a wedding band to match it. Or they want the whole set to be custom-made.”

He adds that Cirelli’s can also adapt heirloom jewelry to make it fit a more modern style, whether by replacing stones, bands, or melting the entire thing down to create a brand new ring.

While a lot of work can be done on CAD/CAM software, Cirelli’s jewelers still use hand-carving waxes, which enable rings to be made a little more quickly. While a basic ring can be available within a week, a custom ring may take closer to four to six weeks to complete.

Cirelli, who has been making jewelry for 42 years, has seen a lot of trends come and go.

“Right now, we’re seeing that lab-grown diamonds, instead of natural diamonds, are becoming more popular with the younger generation, and the colors of the metals are shifting, going back to yellow gold,” he said. “For a while, everyone wanted white gold or platinum, but now we’re seeing more of a balance between yellow gold and white.

“In custom jewelry, you don’t have to stick with traditional diamonds or gold, either; alternative metals, like titanium and stainless steel are big now, especially for males. And some women want colored stones, though the majority still prefer traditional diamond jewelry.”

While preferences may have changed, the reasons why someone wants a custom ring have not.

“Usually, a client has something in mind and they’ve looked around, but they just can’t find it,” said Cirelli. “We help them take what’s in their head and put it down on paper, and then work together to come up with that custom piece.”

Joe Murawski and his son, Jay, are co-owners of Joden Jewelers in Grove City, which has the largest inventory of antique and estate jewelry between Chicago and Philadelphia, in addition to a wide selection of more modern jewelry. As experts in heirloom jewelry, they are able to do restorations of authentic pieces from the past, including items made by German, French, English and Dutch master jewelers.

“Most jewelry that is antique or true estate jewelry is one-of-a-kind, and restoring these pieces is no task for an amateur; it takes many years of bench experience,” said Joe Murawski, who has won four national awards from the Gem Trade Association and the Jewelers Choice Awards for items that he has designed and made in the shop.

Murawski works with customers seeking custom-made jewelry and credits Joden’s enormous inventory and in-house talent for the ability to create these unique pieces. “We carry 1,800 to 2,000 mountings just for engagement rings,” he said, “and have two highly skilled, very experienced people in the shop. When a client comes in with an idea or concept, or in rare cases, a design, we can literally build it from scratch.”

Depending on complexity, and how much of a ring is made from components or raw materials, a custom ring usually takes under a month to create. Joden’s also carries a wide range of heirloom jewelry that can be customized to fit more modern owners, as the jeweler is an active buyer of estate and antique jewelry and is always looking to add to its inventory.

“If you make the drive to Grove City, you will discover the finest jewelry you have even seen, no matter where you shop,” said Murawski.

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