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Elizabeth Galton's advice on commissioning jewel

Elizabeth Galton, founder of EGStudio, gives advice on how to commission a piece of jewellery. Hear it from the expert, get it right and enjoy it for a lifetime.

8 November 2011

Elizabeth Galton, founder of EGStudio, gives advice on how to commission a piece of jewellery. Hear it from the expert, get it right and enjoy it for a lifetime. Elizabeth Galton, founder of EGStudio gives sound advice for budding patrons of the art of jewellery to be heeded before taking the first step in commissioning a piece of jewellery: "If you're a budding aesthete akin to a Daphne Guinness or are simply looking to build a diverse collection of jewellery or own a truly unusual engagement ring or pair of gemstone cufflinks, then commissioning a jeweller represents a great investment, providing the ultimate talking point at a party. Although a commissioned piece of fine jewellery is likely to cost a good deal more than something that is mass-produced the price is representative of its unique, highly original nature and reflective of the highest standards of craftsmanship and design excellence. An accomplished designer invests a great deal of energy and passion into the creative process and it's not unheard of for firm friendships and lifetime collaborations to flourish as a result of a commission. Choosing a piece of bespoke jewellery is an intensely personal experience, it allows the opportunity to celebrate a person or an occasion, and encapsulates the spirit of a moment or emotion forever. My new online luxury jewellery destination sets a thoroughly modern tone with its bespoke  service, which takes the legwork and effort out of the equation. As former Creative Director of Links of London, it showcases Independent jewellery from over 60 award-winning independent designers handpicked by me from all over the world. The personal shopping team at Elizabeth Galton Studio will meet a client to discuss their requirements, they then match this to a short-list of Jewellers from their roster which they feel best suit a client's individual needs. They prepare a tailored brief on behalf of the client and manage appointments with the designer to ensure expectations are met as the creative process unfolds. The impressive roster of designers includes young London jeweller de jour, Ana de Costa who has created the 'Royals Royce' of bespoke jewels in the form of a pair of impressive £100,000 Ghandi Emerald Earrings. The production of a bespoke piece can take up to 6 weeks and in some cases longer due to the complexity of a creation. It can involve sourcing specific gemstones or specialist artisan techniques, which can take time and require patience on the part of the client. Finding a suitable designer used to be a case of hunting down individual workshops, visiting veritably unglamorous craft fairs, summing up the courage to pass through the doors of austere galleries or trailing round obscure boutiques selling multi-brands. Yet commissioning the perfect piece of custom jewellery need not be nearly as daunting as the idea may at first seem. The bespoke journey starts, like any good relationship, with a conversation. Reference points such as photographs, sketches or magazine clippings illustrating what a client has in mind provide a useful tool for the Designer and inform their creative Universe. These references can be diverse and unconventional, from a piece worn by a celebrity, a much loved trinket or a treasured heirloom that needs reinvigorating. Clients should discuss with the designer whether there is a particular outfit or gown they are looking to accessorize, or a precious stone or colour that they perhaps have an affinity for. One of the great advantages of bespoke design is in its flexibility, being able to tailor something to suit your chosen sense of style. Sarah Ho, Creative Director of SHO Fine Jewellery whose glamorous Fine Jewellery is also showcased at Elizabeth Galton Studio sums up the bespoke journey, "Special commissions give me the chance to express my love of design in a different way. As a designer it's fabulous to indulge in creating jewellery that is personal and unique to a customer. The inspiration comes from the customer; I always spend time with them, getting to know and understand their likes and dislikes, their stone and colour preferences before starting to research and create initial sketches. It is very much a partnership so I involve them as much as possible so they too can appreciate the thought and attention to detail that goes into making their dream piece." SHO is all about having fun with fine jewellery. Each piece Sarah designs has a story to tell, whether it is a new collection or bespoke piece for a customer. The same attention to detail goes into researching and designing each piece. Sarah's inspiration comes from her heritage, her love of architecture and fashion and her designs represent different chapters in her life. The same principle works with customers. Sarah spends time getting to know them; finding out their own inspirations to create a meaningful piece that has its own story to tell. Designers are used to guiding a customer, introducing ideas or materials that a client may not be familiar with or adding a 'light bulb' moment to a specific brief. One such acclaimed designer is 'UK Jewellery Designer of the Year' Tomasz Donocik who is no stranger to the bespoke process. Tomasz says: "Private commissions are a fantastic project; you have to work closely with your client as it is always very personal to the wearer. These Grousse cufflinks were designed for a gentleman who loves grousse hunting and consist of 18ct rose gold and white gold, ruby pave eyebrows, bulls eye stone beak and star sapphire eyes." Tomasz's first debut fine jewellery collection is the epitome of femininity and a masterpiece in luxe object. 'The new collection is inspired by the paradox of the natural world; 'The Garden of Good & Evil' fuses the sinister side of beauty with the evident as delicate snowbells with fluid moving cups juxtapose Venus fly traps. Half of the collection encapsulates a more edgy yet romantic gothic look, which is counterbalanced by fairytale-esque snowbell drops. Forgotten gardens and ponds, overgrown by moss, foliage and Venus fly traps sets the tone of the collection with green tsavorites, rubies in 18ct white and rose gold.' Clients should convey to the designer whether they are looking for a purely decorative piece, perhaps a statement cocktail ring or standout necklace of daring proportions, or a practical keepsake to wear everyday. A bespoke service should always set out a clear remit, detailing the cost in the form of a written quote specifying whether or not this includes a one-off design fee and who owns the copyright of the design. A timeframe should be agreed with the designer, establishing milestones for reviewing the design sketches, before a finished piece is made. It should also detail whether final adjustments can be made to the design and the precious materials and finishes to be used. It is always best to agree a final date when a custom piece will be ready and when the balance will be due. It is not unusual for designers to request a deposit in advance, often 50% of the total fee. All jewellery designers have their own unique style and method for executing a design. Some work in the traditional Fine Jewellery House style creating hand sketches and a final 'paint up' of the finished design. In some cases a client can opt to own this original signed sketch as part of the commission, which adds value to any bespoke piece. Others will provide clients with a computer-generated design including gemstones for selection on a subsequent visit before the bespoke piece is made up. The design process hinges ultimately on communication. Since there is the potential for misunderstandings and differing expectations on both sides, clients should always ensure they are clear in their mind what they are looking for before proceeding and ensure that all aspects of a bespoke commission is clarified in writing before. Commissioning a bespoke piece of jewellery need not be a complicated affair on the contrary it should be an enjoyable process and the destination is a unique jewel to treasure. Ultimately, the journey will be exciting and satisfying giving clients the opportunity to create their hearts desire, a unique piece embodying their influence and the designers creativity and craftsmanship, which in itself is rewarding." Elizabeth Galton

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