How to commission a unique piece of jewellery - 5 steps

Q - How much does a piece of bespoke, specially designed jewellery cost?

It's likely that this is the first question on your mind, when you consider commissioning a jeweller to make a bespoke piece of jewellery for you. 

Closely followed by:

Q - How do you make sure the final piece of jewellery is what you had imagined or hoped for?

Then there is the age-old question:

Q - How long will it take - and/or - how much of my time will it take up?

The answer to all of these burning questions is (unhelpfully!) "it depends"....

Like most things in life, there is no 'one size fits all', when it comes to commissioning a unique piece of jewellery. But there are certain principals that come into play, no matter which local handmade jeweller you choose.

My 5 steps to commissioning a unique piece of jewellery will help you find answers to these questions. 

Before we begin, some things to bear in mind:

  • I am assuming that you already have some idea about the piece of jewellery you would like and that this piece of original jewellery will be created from scratch. ("Remodelling" - conversely - is where you have a piece of jewellery, possibly inherited, that you would like turned into a different piece of jewellery, using either all or part of the original item - if this is what you would like, you would be best looking for a specialist in this area). 
  • To help you fully understand the process, I've included what the jewellery designer and maker might do in and around the 5 steps you need to take
  • The cost of a piece of bespoke jewellery depends very much on the designer, the materials used and the length of time it takes. I like to aim for a middle ground of between £250 and £800 (fairly unusual for commissions, but I want this bespoke jewellery service to be available for people like me and you).

      So onwards!  These are my 5 steps to commissioning a unique piece of jewellery (6 if you include the optional one at the end)! 

        Dawn left, grinning with her jewellers saw. Right, orthographic coloured drawing of engagement and wedding ring

          STEP 1 - Find a jeweller you love

          An online search for local jewellery designers and jewellers who make hand made jewellery, will usually throw up some options. You want to search for a jewellery designer who handmakes bespoke pieces. Add 'gold' or 'silver', 'beads' or 'gemstones', 'organic' or 'geometric' to your search depending on the style you're interested in.

          Sometimes, however, it's good to go old-school and ask friends and family if they've had a piece of jewellery made exclusively for them. There's nothing better than a recommendation from someone who has already had a fabulous experience, having already had a piece of jewellery hand made for them, by a brilliant jeweller!

          Not all jewellery designers and makers specialise in or will take on commissions. When you find one who does, check their website and social media channels to find out more about the kind of jeweller they are. You might want to read their 'About' page and check their ethics, approach and general attitude lines up with your own. 

            By doing a quick bit of research you will be able to see the kind of jewellery they make, what they have made in the past and - importantly - you'll get an idea of the prices they charge.

            Screen grab from Found by Dawn home page explaining how I make jewellery to treasure

            For example, by looking at you would learn that:

            • I specialise in 100% recycled silver and gold
            • that I sometimes use beads for my flowing, airy designs
            • I design and make unique and bespoke earrings, necklaces, bangles and rings
            • my prices range from around £65 to £250
            You can gather a lot about a local jeweller from their website! 
            TOP TIP: This will give you a ballpark idea of whether a jeweller's work is within your price range. although you should expect commissions to cost at least 40% more than the prices quoted for the designer's own-designed, pre-made pieces of jewellery. 


            STEP 2 - Contact your chosen jewellery designer 

            It doesn't matter how you go about making contact, but to save time in the long run, an initial phone call to the jewellery designer(s) you've chosen is often best.  Alternatively, you can send an email and most jewellers who offer commissions will provide a form you can fill out on their website.  

            During this initial contact, you need to explain a bit about what you want and the materials you're thinking about. You will also want to discuss dates, including when you might need the finished piece of jewellery by and the jeweller's projected delivery times.

            Realistically a jewellery commission is likely to take anything between 4 weeks and 2 months, possibly longer if there is a waiting list. 

              TOP TIP - This initial chat will often help you understand whether or not your chosen designer is a good match for the piece of jewellery you want made.

              Now you can move onto a more exciting part of the process: agreeing the design and seeing your piece come to life!  

              Designing a piece of commissioned jewellery from sketching to making


              STEP 3 - Agree on design, dates for delivery and price

              These are the things the jewellery designer will need to know before they start designing your piece of bespoke jewellery: 

              • What material(s) would you like it to be made in?
              • Sizing e.g. the ring size, length of necklace, total length of earring
              • Date you need the finished piece of jewellery by (they may need to charge more to prioritise your commission, and to cover associated costs such as additional delivery charges or express service costs for hallmarking, for example)
              • Guidance around style or any specific details of the piece 
              • An idea of your budget, so they can tell you whether the project is viable, using the materials and time frame you have specified 

              Orthographic drawings of various jewellery commissions and bespoke pieces

              Using these details, the jeweller can start to work on your design. They will provide you with a visual representation of what your piece of bespoke jewellery will look like. This is likely to be via something like:

              • a to-scale drawing (sometimes called an orthographic drawing)
              • sketches in black and white or colour
              • computer aided design (CAD) images
              • a prototype, in a cheaper metal like copper or brass, particularly if your piece will be made in gold or another more expensive alloy (note that a deposit for the commission is likely to be needed before any work on a prototype commences. Sometimes the making of the prototype, when needed, can be the most time-consuming part of the process!)

              Making a copper prototype (left) and alongside the finished gold version (right)

                Whatever the method, these drawings or models should give you a good idea of what the piece of bespoke jewellery will look like when it is finished. If you are not happy about the design or would like to change any elements of it, now is the time to tell them, so they can adjust things accordingly. 

                Handmade jewellery designers are often ingenious at finding alternative solutions, so it pays to be open to tweaks or adjustments they might suggest. 

                TOP TIP: Depending on the complexity of your design, and the working practices of the jewellery, they may charge for their design or prototype work, before work commences on the final piece, and/or as part of the deposit. Every jewellery designer is different so it is worth asking about how they do this, before you go any further. 


                STEP 4 - Receive contract and pay deposit 

                Once you have confirmed that you are happy with the design, the jeweller will prepare a quote and contract. From their point of view, the design prepared in Step 3, will have given them a detailed idea of the various elements needed, enabling them to work out the costs accordingly.

                Sometimes, they might present different choices on materials, or design, presenting a range of cost options. This can help you work out which plan best suits your budget. For example, with the ring below, the customer chose a thinner band for the back of the ring. Because the material chosen was 9ct gold, this dramatically reduced the cost compared to what it would have been in the original design, when the band was the height of the letters the whole way around. 


                Images sent to customer showing progress of gold ring with initials

                Once you have agreed the finer points of the design and the associated price, the jewellery maker will send you a contract. This will confirm your details, a description of the piece together with final sketches or images on the agreed design, a definitive list of the materials to be used, and date agreed for delivery. 

                  At this point, they are also likely to ask for a deposit to cover the cost of materials and ensure you are serious about the purchase. Often this will be up to 50% of the final price and, of course, counts towards your final payment for the finished piece.

                  TOP TIP: You may wish to check the jewellers refund/returns policy, before committing to the purchase. With commissions it is often the case that refunds, returns and part exchanges are not offered unless a piece is faulty. This is because it has been made bespoke, especially for you and involved significant cost outlays and time commitment from the jewellery designer from the outset (compared to a piece they  have made for general sale, which would have been produced regardless).   


                  STEP 5 - Final payment and delivery of your special piece of bespoke jewellery

                  Many handmade jewellers make a point of sharing photos and videos with you, so you can see the magic happening as your unique piece of special jewellery comes together. This keeps you updated through the significant stages, and it is worth responding in a timely manner if you have any concerns or queries at any point. 
                  TOP TIP: Most people love seeing their jewellery commission develop, but if you would prefer not to receive updates, or only wish to hear from the designer at certain times (e.g. where a piece of jewellery is being made secretly for a loved one), you would be best stating this from the outset.  

                  Finally, after a final buff and polish, they will probably send you a photo of the finished piece. Just packaging and posting to go! 

                  At this point, you will make the final payment. Once final payment is received, your handmade piece of beautiful commissioned jewellery, will be carefully swaddled and packaged, before being posted or delivered to you. 

                    Whether it is for you, or for someone special in your life, to wear and love, nothing beats having something made exclusively for you, in your own hands! 

                    Progress of a rosary style necklace, commissioned as a special, unique gift for a loved one

                    STEP 6 (entirely optional!) - Submit a review, send a photo and help your handmade jewellery designer get their next commission! 

                    If you're delighted with the bespoke ring, necklace, bracelet or set of earrings that has been made for you, there is literally no better way to support the jeweller who has hand made them for you, than submitting a review. 

                    It doesn't matter how you do it - Instagram, Facebook, TikTokGoogle reviews or via their website - they will be super grateful. Talk about the finished product, what you liked about the process, how well you were communicated with - whatever! It's all worth it's weight in gold (massively appropriate pun intended!) 

                    Oh and next time someone asks you where you got that stunning and unusual piece of jewellery from, be sure to point them in the direction of your new fave jewellery designer! 

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                    • Friday 19 July, 6pm-9pm at Ware Priory Artisan Craft Fair with Folk & Bespoke (free entry) as part of a curated showcase of 30 artists, crafters and makers
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