For jewelry designers like Todd Reed and Alex Sepkus who have a signature look, making wedding rings is a matter of tweaking a prototype. Others, like Jim Dailing of Portland, Oregon, see it as an opportunity to create something from scratch in collaboration with the bride and groom.
Dailing meets with couples a few times in his Portland, Oregon, studio, showing them rings he’s made and discussing techniques. His primary goal in initial conversations is to open their minds to the possibilities.
He gets them talking about things other than jewelry: what kind of art they like, textures they’re drawn to, nature, their favorite places to travel. These discussions often lead to rings completely different from the couple’s original vision.
A lesbian couple, for example, brought in photos of Art Nouveau jewelry and rings by Todd Reed “which I adore,” Dailing says. “But as we began to talk, one of them showed me her tattoo of an Inuit raven design, a powerful symbol in her life.”
He ended up carving the symbol into both rings using lost-wax casting, incorporating the textural quality of historic totem poles.
Another couple in their fifties mentioned that they collect Japanese woodblock prints and brought a book of them on their next visit. They ended up choosing a beautiful still life of maple leaves floating on water, and Dailing created a stylized version in 24kt gold inlay.
“Typically, my customers are less interested in brand recognition or status symbols than who they are as individuals,” he says. Because customers have a hard time visualizing the rings from sketches, Dailing often makes a prototype in sterling so they can see it in three dimensions.
Designing this way can be very gratifying. “One thing I love is that I get a lot of hugs from my clients,” Dailing says. “Many times people come to me because they simply can’t find what they want anywhere else – because it doesn’t exist yet.”
You can find more of Jim’s work and information about his workshops on his website.
Wedding rings reinvented: customizing for couples (Jacob Albee)