Studio Notes: The Custom Jewelry Challenge Part 2

Last week, I blogged about making a custom cuff for a priest, working long distance with a client in California. A second custom jewelry project involved making a confirmation medal for a teenager. According to her godmother, this young woman was just my type. In addition to her religious studies, she liked working on motorcycles with her Dad and taking fencing lessons. The godmother wanted these two passions reflected in the cross I was making.

To help me, she sent digital images of the youngster in action. It wasn’t hard to bond with this future powerhouse. I also spotted details in the images – the pistol grip on the fencing foil she was using, and the fenders on the motorbike she was rebuilding with her Dad. From there, I searched for images online that I could use as patterns for fabrication and etching.

Custom Jewelry: Skills Needed

I knew how to etch on sterling silver and would be able to create the look of a motorbike. I also had fabrication skills that would allow me to cut out a cross (they can be tricky) and solder together two pistol-grip foils.

Once I finished the proposed design, the godmother signed off on it, sent me a check, and I went to work. Knowing that turnaround time was just a tiny bit tight, I etched the motorbikes in a variety of sizes and included one of them as a lapel pin – a sort of gift with purchase.


“Thank you again, Betsy. The pendant is all that I had hoped it would be and also thank you for the lapel pin. I am so tempted to send a picture to her mom, but I want her to be as surprised as my goddaughter.”

custom jewelry religious medal

Custom Jewelry Tips

  • Ask yourself if you are suited for custom jewelry work. Do you have the ability to listen and make someone else’s design?
  • Does your own personality mesh with your potential customer? Will you be able to communicate well together?
  • Assess your jewelry-making skills before agreeing to do a custom jewelry job. Do you have the skills you’ll need to complete all of the work? If not, do you have vendors you’ve worked with in the past who will deliver on time?
  • Develop a “no excuses” policy for yourself. Don’t take on a custom job unless you can do it and deliver it by the deadline you work out with your customer.
  • Make sure you have enough lead time to complete the project. Two or three months is great. That way if problems come up, you can make adjustments.
  • Pricing is always tricky for a custom jewelry project you have never done before. Price out parts and services, your time, materials, postage, sales tax. You can always give a higher estimate on the job, letting the customer know you will reduce this if you find places to economize.
  • It’s OK to charge a lot more for rush jobs; same is true if you are really, really busy. Just be sure to communicate this in advance.
  • Let the customer know that once they approve the final design, any changes after that will add to the cost.
  • Keep the customer informed of your progress. Email them progress shots. This helps them feel part of the artistic process and is reassuring. And if problems do come up, you will have a better bond with them.
  • Thank the customer for their order.
  • Ask them for permission to showcase the jewelry on your website once the gift has been given, along with their comments.

Betsy Lehndorff has been writing for Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist since 2010. You can reach her at [email protected].

Make your own custom jewelry designs with these resources!