The one ring
15 Jul 2011
The one ring
For better for worse, for richer for poorer, from the moment that ring is on your finger, it serves as a symbol of your love for one another… forever – so you’d better like it! SOPHIE STAINTHORPE spoke to the goldsmiths at Tilletts about finding a ring that will last a lifetime.
Maybe you’ve got granny’s old ring hidden away somewhere and would like it spruced up a bit for that special proposal. Maybe it’s time those family jewels that have been passed down the generations got a re-vamp and were worn and enjoyed for a change. Or perhaps you just have a very clear idea of what you want but can’t find it anywhere.
The goldsmiths at Tilletts the Jewellers are presented with all sorts of requests from couples looking to create the perfect ring to symbolise their marriage or proposal, but they all have one thing in common – they all want something that’s unique to them.
That’s the beauty of having a piece of jewellery custom-made, but there are times when customers have to be given a bit of a reality check.
“Wedding rings especially are supposed to last forever, and sometimes the designs that people want just aren’t possible, or are possible but won’t last very long,” explained Gary Gillies, shop manager at Tilletts. “The hardest part is getting what the customer wants out of their head and into a workable design.
“I often have a pretty good idea if what they want is possible, but I’ll go and speak to our goldsmiths to see what they think. If it’s not going to work, we’ll try and provide the customer with an alternative.”
All designs are hand-drawn to ensure that what is created matches the customer’s expectations. From there it’s a matter of figuring out the cost of the materials and, more importantly, how long it will take goldsmiths Kevin Simmonds and Stephen Cooling to do the work.
The price that the customer is given before work starts is always honoured, even if it takes much longer than expected.
“The time it takes really depends on the design,” said Stephen. “I’ve spent two days on one ring before. It can take a day just to set the stones if there are lots of them, while a plain wedding band only takes about two hours.”
It’s intricate work that requires the skilled hand of an experienced goldsmith. Between them, Stephen and Kevin have more than 60 years’ experience, and the partnership works because they each have their own strengths.
“You learn and build up your skills from people you meet in the industry,” said Kevin. “The only way to learn is to be around people who are doing the work.”
But that’s not to say they ever stop learning; both the goldsmiths say that there are still designs that make them sit back and think. “Each piece has its problems and that’s what makes them individual,” said Stephen. “Between us, we can usually come up with a solution, and if we can’t it generally means that there isn’t one.”
There is often a sentimental element to the work, either melting down the gold from a family ring to cast a new one, or using stones from an existing piece of jewellery. They also get a lot of re-building work, where a customer has a very old ring that they want to keep as it is, but over the years the metal has worn down and the detailing become less defined.
Sometimes it can take longer to re-build something than it would to make it from scratch, but if it’s got sentimental value then it’s worth it.
One of the most unusual things Stephen has ever been asked to make was a pair of wedding bands that, when taken off, could twist into one another to create one ring. “It was a tricky job to get right,” said Stephen. “They had to fit together perfectly, and it only worked because the bride and groom had similar sized fingers.”
Creating something that’s individual is the ultimate appeal of having a ring custom-made. It may cost more than a mass-produced ring, but if it means you can have exactly what you want then many people believe it’s money well-spent.
For more information visit www.tilletts.co.uk or call 01603 625922.