Tuesday, December 7, 2021

Avoid beautifully impractical jewelry

Richard Alan

Richard Alan

Unusually beautiful and equally expensive, but why is it such a nuisance to wear? In my line of work I am often called upon to right terrible wrongs. No, nothing like the nostalgic super hero Mighty Mouse, yet I am expected “to save the day,” so to speak.

I’m talking about jewelry that has issues, like “it hangs all wrong,” or “it snags on everything,” and most commonly, “why does it keep falling off?” I have often mentioned that jewelry is wearable art, but it should also be practical to wear.

One of my first questions to a customer requesting a special design is whether or not it is to be worn as an everyday piece or an accessory for special occasions. My jewelry designs and re-designs are a never-ending learning curve: each customer and jewelry situation is always as different as the individual.

A ring that is to be worn 24/7 has to be able to take the wear and tear of every day life. It’s that simple. Or is it? Even something as simple as gravity has to be considered. A ring that is top heavy or bulky will always slip to the left or right if improperly designed. All pendants require first finding the center of gravity to assure they hang correctly on a chain or omega necklace. Naturally rings, bracelets, and even pendants with clusters of stones requiring multitudes of prongs will snag clothing. Prongs also require constant inspection and maintenance. The loss of one prong on four prong settings will result in stone loss. My last column explained prong wear in detail.

Designs that incorporate channels or bezels to hold diamonds or gemstones are absolutely snag-proof; there are many ways to hold gemstones in jewelry without the use of prongs.

I’m not saying that I’m totally against using prongs. In many design applications they are required to achieve a certain look. On my contemporary pieces I try to avoid the use of prongs.  As long as the prongs are short, strong, minimal in quantity, and not high up in the air, they are less likely to snag.

One of the worst design mistakes is attaching a pendant directly to a chain or omega. More times that I can count, I face an unhappy new customer with a new expensive pendant (not my design) that refuses to lay flat, or it flops to the left or right, which can be annoying.

Most of the time the problem is with the original designer who failed to address an obviously simple fact… GRAVITY. A pendant on a neck display in a showcase will lie perfectly. On a moving human being it’s another thing. Shape a chain or omega to a solid “V” in the center is a moronic design, and little can be done to right the problem.

Just last week I waited on a couple who recently purchased a very expensive diamond “V” pendant from one of my competitors, their complaint to me was that it refused to hang correctly. They became annoyed with me when I explained the pendant will never hang right unless I do a total re-design of the piece resulting in an expensive undertaking on their behalf. I suggested they bring it back to where they shelled out the big bucks and demand the seller rectify the problem. To my surprise, they said they went back to the jeweler and he sent them to me! Gee thanks! To my amazement, they paid me over a thousand dollars to fix another jeweler’s problem!

All-around diamond bands look and feel exquisite, but they can be a problem. For instance, if the owner of such a ring loses or gains weight the ring is obscenely expensive  to size, and some rings impossible. There is also a large risk to stone breakage or loss. In my designs I try to convince ladies to leave a small blank area so future sizing is possible.

This also holds true for the owners of most invisible set diamond mountings: they require a miraculous feat to adjust the size; no jeweler will touch them for perpetual stone loss is guaranteed. Many opal inlay ring owners are also disappointed when told their purchase cannot be sized to fit properly and the ring suffers constant opal breakage.

Feather-light tennis bracelets are an accident waiting to happen. The thin connecting points fail almost immediately and the diamonds fall out post-haste. You get what you pay for. Cheap price = cheap bracelet. Expensive diamond stud earrings should also have an equally secure fastening system to prevent loss, for example going for a swim in the gulf. The spring-loaded “Guardian” system is the best I have discovered. My wife proved it beyond a doubt while wake-board skiing one Sunday. A spectacular wipe-out on a wave caused a traumatic semi-disrobing of her swimsuit. Low and behold the diamond earrings were still intact! Try that accidental test with ordinary friction backs.

The new “martini” style three prong earring settings prevent droopy earring syndrome; they pull deeper into the ears and lay flatter, thus making them look more flattering.

Probably the most crucial jewelry problem is the catch or clasp systems. I constantly come across ridiculously expensive pieces with non-functional clasps where wearing them will surely lead to losing them.

Some jewelry pieces either open too easily or they are difficult to remove. The popular lobster claw is the most common and the most practical but most of my elderly customers find them impossible to manage. The new magnetic clasps make accessorizing a breeze! It is always advisable to contemplate the wearability of certain pieces of jewelry before purchasing.

Richard Alan is a designer/goldsmith and owner of the Harbor Goldsmith’s of Marco Island and welcomes you questions about things that glitter harborgoldsmith@comcast.net or 239.394.9275.

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