Considering A Custom Piece?

I enjoy working directly with a customer to create a custom design that reflects the wearer's personality and taste. Here is some important information for anyone interested in commisioning a unique fair trade piece. If you have any questions at all, please feel free to contact me.



Getting Started

A great way to start exploring what you do and don't like is to take a look at my past work; the most comprehensive collection of these images is on my Flickr page.



Ring Size

To be sure that you order the correct size, I suggest stopping in at a local jewelry shop to have your finger sized. Be aware that wider ring bands may tend to feel snugger than narrow bands, so if youíre going to order a wide band, ask your local jeweler to use a wide band sizer. Another thing to consider is the fact that comfort-fit bands can sometimes feel slightly more loose than straight-sided bands.

If you're trying to surprise someone with a ring and you need help guessing his/her ring size, check out these helpful tips.



Stone Type(s)

There are a huge variety of fair trade stones available for your custom piece.

Whether you are looking for something traditional and diamond-like (I use moissanite), or something more colorful, chances are, there is a fair trade option that will meet your needs. Iíve even put together a guide to fair trade birthstones.



Type of Metal

I use recycled Harmony Metals in all of my work.
[ Read about my commitment to working with ethical materials. ]

Sterling Silver is a low-cost option. It lends itself well to a wide variety of finishes, from a high polish, to a brushed, or even oxidized (blackened) effect. Sterling silver does tarnish over time; however, tarnish is easily removed with a soft polish cloth. Sterling silver is softer than gold, so it is more susceptible to showing scratches, nicks, dents, and dings.

Most of my designs are also available in Palladium Sterling Silver which, just like traditional sterling silver, is composed of 92.5% silver; however, palladium sterling silver also contains 3% palladium (a precious metal akin to platinum), which gives the alloy a bit more tarnish- and scratch- resistance than traditional sterling silver. Palladium sterling silver is still quite a bit softer than gold though.

Neither sterling silver nor palladium sterling silver are generally recommended for wedding rings due to their softness and susceptibility to showing nicks, dings, and scratches with daily long-term wear. While I do still offer some rings in my Etsy shop that contain silver, I am no longer able to accomodate custom orders in silver.

14k yellow, white, rose, and green gold are also available for most designs. All will hold up well to a lifetime of wear. Gold does not oxidize (or tarnish), and it accepts a variety of finishes, including polished, brushed, etc.

Please be aware that I do not rhodium plate my regular 14k white gold, so it will have a warmer tone than the rhodium plated versions you may have seen in mass marketed jewelry. If you want to order something in white gold and like the bright-white look that rhodium plating offers, you should be able to have your ring plated locally after you receive it. This is a non-permanent treatment that will likely need to be re-applied every couple of years to maintain a bright white finish. Regular 14k white gold, left un-plated, can tend to acquire a yellower tone than some customers like with the passage of time.

14k Palladium White Gold contains the same gold content as conventional white gold (58.5%), but adds a small amount of palladium to the mix, which gives it a slightly brighter color and better workability. The added palladium is supposed to give some measure of increased resistance to yellowing over time when compared with regular 14k white gold. This is also an excellent nickel-free alternative to traditional white gold, for those who have sensitivities to nickel.

18k Palladium White Gold is also nickel-free, and has the best grey/white (non-yellow) color of any of the white gold alloys I work with.

950 Palladium is made up of 95% pure palladium, which is a noble metal in the platinum family. 950 Palladium is nickel-free and hypoallergenic, and it has a brighter (non-yellow) color (I would describe it as silvery-white when polished and more grey when given a matte finish) than any of the white gold alloys. It will not yellow over time, and for those who are very color-sensitive and don't want any yellow tone to their jewelry, it is my top recommendation. It is also a bit more affordable than either of the palladium white gold options.




Metal Comparison Chart
Metal hardness is indicated by a measure called Vickers Hardness (HV).
The chart below shows the composition and HV ratings of each of
the metals I currently work with.

Alloy Composition   HV  
Sterling Silver .925 silver, copper
75
Palladium Sterling Silver .925 silver, .03 palladium, zinc, copper    
80
14k Yellow Gold .585 gold, copper, silver, zinc
140
14k White Gold .585 gold, copper, nickel, zinc
165
14k Rose Gold .585 gold, copper, silver, zinc
125
14k Green Gold .585 gold, copper, silver, zinc
105
14k Palladium White Gold     .585 gold, copper, silver, palladium
125
18k Palladium White Gold     .752 gold, copper, palladium
130
950 Palladium .952 palladium, other proprietary metals
125

recycled gold rings
Top to bottom:
14k palladium white gold with moissanite
14k yellow gold with citrine
14k green gold with Oregon sunstone
14k rose gold with Oregon sunstone

Band Size/Style

Many varieties of sizes, shapes, and finishes are available for the band of your ring, from the narrowest little 2mm band to a substantial 8mm band (and on up). I can do smooth bands, hammered bands, floral textured bands, square-edged bands, comfort-fit (rounded edge) bands, and more.



Other Design Considerations

Resizability

Okay, I might have just made that word up. But you know what I mean, right? Some designs are easy to re-size, while others are impossible to re-size. If it's important to you that you are able to size your ring up or down, either right away because you're unsure of the size you need, or down the road to account for weight gain/loss, pregnancy, etc., you should consider a few things.

  • Rings with flush-set stones spaced evenly around the entire circumference of the band are impossible to re-size without disrupting the spacing of the stones.
  • Bands that have one metal type layered on top of another metal are very difficult, if not impossible, to size up more than perhaps a half size, and can be sized down, but will likely have a visible solder seam in case of downsizing.

    Durability

    If you're looking for a ring that will stand up to a lifetime of daily wear, you need to carefully consider your choice of metal (see above) and stone(s). My list of available stones includes information about the hardness/durability of each stone type. Also, if you are considering purchasing a band that includes flush-set stones, please be aware that these may require occasional maintenance/replacement. Each tiny flush set stone that I set into a band is triple-checked for security - once by pushing from behind with a tiny tool, then by processing in an ultrasonic cleaner, and finally by some time in a rotary tumbler. When the band leaves my studio, the stones are secure beyond a shadow of a doubt. However, due to daily wear and tear, these tiny stones can sometimes break, or the metal around them can sustain impacts that cause tiny bits of damage, causing an occasional stone to be lost. The stones are replaceable, but it is important that you are aware that this could potentially be a periodic maintenance issue over the life of your ring. Many of my customers never experience the loss of a single flush set stone, while others have had it be more of an issue. I can only assume that this is a result of how hard you wear your ring, so please give that some thought before buying a band with flush set stones. I am happy to work with you on replacing lost or broken stones over the years, so long as you are aware of the potential need.

    Engagement Ring/Wedding Band Integration

    If you're planning to purchase both an engagement ring and a wedding band (even if you're ordering one now and one later), it pays to give some thought at the outset to how you'd like them to fit together. If, for example, the base of the bezel on the engagement ring bulges out wider than the band on the engagement ring, and you want the two bands to sit flush together, we can either notch the base of the bezel, or notch the wedding band. Click here to see some different examples of ways to make a set of two rings sit together nicely.


  • A Note on Customer-Supplied Stones

    I often receive requests from customers to build a ring using a stone they provide. Unfortunately, at this time, I am unable to assume the liability associated with working with customers' stone. There is a very slight (but ever-present) risk of damaging a stone during the setting process, and it's not a risk that I am currently comfortable accepting.

    As an alternative, I am happy to discuss creating a ring without a stone, which you can then take to a local jewelry shop to have your stone set into - most jewelers will charge less than $100 for this service.



    Turnaround Time

    My turnaround time on custom orders is usually around 3-4 weeks. Rush orders can sometimes be accommodated, and are subject to a $50-$100 rush fee (the exact amount depends on the complexity of the design requested).



    Payment Terms

    I require a 50% deposit on custom work at the time the order is placed, with the remaining 50% payable upon completion of the piece (prior to shipment). I accept payments via Paypal, money order, or credit card (if you prefer to use your credit card outside of Paypal/Etsy, please contact me to schedule a phone call).



    Return Policy

    Ready-to-ship rings (which you can peruse in the sections of my Etsy shop labeled 'In-Stock Rings') are fully refundable (less shipping cost) if returned within two weeks of the purchase date in original condition. Due to the significant investment of time, materials, and creative energy that go into each custom piece, and the difficulty in re-selling a ring that has been made to custom specifications, I do charge a 25% re-stocking fee on these items, except in the rare case of product defect or artist error.

    I know that it can be tough ordering custom jewelry online, but there are a few things you can do to ensure a positive outcome. First, ask questions. If there's anything you aren't totally clear on during the process, just ask me for clarification. Second, seek out jewelry in person with similar dimensions to what you're ordering from me; if, for example, you're thinking about ordering a ring with a 5mm wide x 2mm thick band and a 7mm stone, stop in to a local jewelry shop and try something on that's about that same size.

    Also, depending on what you're interested in ordering, I may have a similar piece in stock that I can mail to you to look at in person for a couple of days (this requires an authorize-only transaction on your credit card, which reduces your available balance by the cost of the item, but does not actually charge you for the item).

    If you have questions or concerns about this policy, please feel free to bring it up for further discussion with me, either by phone or email. My goal is always to have happy customers, and I will do all that I can to ensure a positive outcome.



    If you have any questions or comments about the information I've provided here, or if you're ready to chat about a custom design, please get in touch.



    © Tamara McFarland / McFarland Designs, 2014