To help advance the art and appreciation of custom jewelry design, MJSA is undertaking several initiatives guided by its Council of Custom Jewelers.
Chaired by Lee Krombholz, a third-generation custom jeweler and the owner of Krombholz Jewelers in Cincinnati, the Council of Cusom Jewelers comprises some of the industry’s leading custom jewelers and related suppliers (see list below). Together, they are helping to direct MJSA’s efforts in two key areas of custom jewelry design: education and consumer confidence. Current initiatives include:
"Almost every jewelry store in my city claims to do custom jewelry now, but the experience and outcome can vary widely," Krombholz says. "Many simply take orders, while others who try to develop a design don’t have the expertise to create well-crafted jewelry." The result: a bad experience for consumers, who become confused and even fearful about the whole custom concept.
To help avoid this outcome, the Council has developed a basic definition of custom jewelry:
Pieces designed and produced by a jeweler for a specific client, almost always with the client’s input, and adhering to the highest standards of quality craftsmanship.
MJSA and the council are also promoting a three-tiered system in which custom design projects can be grouped according to the level of design involved. Spearheaded by Jim Tuttle of Seattle-based Green Lake Jewelry Works, the three levels are:
Full Custom Design: A jewelry design made from scratch specifically for a customer.
Semi-Custom Design: Existing designs that have been modified to alter their shapes or appearance.
Made to Order: Existing designs manufactured by request, modified only by sizing and choice of metal and/or gemstone.
"By creating and publicizing standardized levels, custom jewelers can better stand apart from ’order takers’ and create a better understanding of true custom design among consumers," Krombholz says.
In addition to the creation of custom-design levels, the council would like to see custom jewelry defined by the highest level of craftsmanship. And the best way to ensure that all custom jewelers can reach that level is to disseminate the knowledge and expertise of experienced designers.
Toward that end, MJSA and the council have created a new designation: the MJSA Mentor Jeweler.
This designation is open to any MJSA member who has shown a long-term commitment to sharing custom-design expertise—whether through articles, seminars, webinars, classroom teaching, or individual instruction—and pledges to continue those efforts.
"By formalizing the process and recognizing those who are contributing their knowledge to help advance the profession, we hope to spur more jewelers into passing along their wisdom and knowledge," Krombholz says. Mentor Jewelers will also be able to contact MJSA for assistance with such tasks as sourcing images or obtaining research materials for presentations, articles, and classes.
This site, scheduled to launch by the end of 2017, will serve as a primary resource for consumers interested in learning more about custom design and finding the right jeweler for their needs. In addition to explaining the levels of custom (with illustrations), it will include a searchable database of MJSA members who offer custom design services, which will be identified by level.
"MJSA has long been a place where serious custom jewelers have found a home," says Krombholz. "These initiatives, along with the development of the council, are just a continuation of MJSA’s efforts to advance custom jewelry and benefit us jewelers—no organization has our best interests more at heart."
To learn more about MJSA custom design initiatives, e-mail Travis Searle or call 1-800-444-MJSA (6572), ext. 3024.
Lee Krombholz (Chair)
A Jour Jewelry
Bristol, Rhode Island
D. Muscio Designs
Pleasant Hill, California
Gary Dawson Designs
Christopher Duquet Fine Jewelry Design
Krikawa Jewelry Designs
Liverpool, New York
Green Lake Jewelry Works