If you're having a one-of-a-kind wedding, why wear jewelry that's made for the masses? Die-hard DIY brides have already considered the idea of crafting a special wedding piece or two by the time they're done hearing the proposal. But with all the planning that goes into a wedding, many brides simply don’t have the time to create the kind of high-quality adornments they want to wear. That's when it starts making a lot of sense to commission an artist to help create the perfect wedding jewelry.
Three years ago, Lia Vincenza was working at a job where she put together spreadsheets all day. She enjoyed making jewelry as a hobby, but started to run out of "real estate" on her body and lamented that she could only wear so many pieces at once. Her lucky break came when a friend noticed a ring she was wearing and asked if she would consider selling it. She did, made another for herself, and sold that ring to a stranger who noticed it and stopped her on the street. Then, she sat next to a person on an airplane who bought the earrings right off her ears. Vincenza started to think, "I might have something here."
She now makes special occasion jewelry as a full-time career. "Most people never give themselves permission to wear a crown–except when they're getting married," Vincenza notes. While she makes understated jewelry for brides who want a more subtle look, she holds a real love for intricate, larger-than-life tiaras and headdresses. "Every once in a while I get a bride who wants to wear something really spectacular; something people are going to talk about. That's my target audience."
Choosing Your Jewelry
Whether you prefer small, delicate jewelry or talk-of-the-town extravagance, if you're commissioning custom jewelry there are several things to keep in mind. First, consider your wedding hairstyle. If your hairdo will require a lot of structural stability, a solid, substantial piece of jewelry that goes all the way around your head is the best bet. "The tiara actually does a lot to anchor things," Vincenza observes. "It redistributes the weight of all the flowers and piled-up hair."
If you're going for a loose, tousled hairstyle, a tiara will help keep your hair in place. Many brides who want a bohemian, flowing hairstyle end up struggling to keep the loose hair controlled. Many hours will pass from the time vows are recited, through pre-reception photo sessions, to the end of dinner and dancing, and a tiara will keep a loose hairdo looking the way the bride intended.
If you will be sporting a shorter hairdo, you'll have more freedom with the types of jewelry you can wear. Brides with short hair often look best with elaborate hair ornaments like one-sided fascinators or bright explosions of color and texture. With short hair comes a necessity for lighter jewelry, however, since helpers like bobby pins won't be able to grab as easily onto short hair to hold heavy jewelry in place.
Don't forget to consider your skin tone. Even within a single metal, there is a range of colors. There are antique golds, reddish golds, and paler golds, just to start. "A lot of people say that gold isn't their thing," Vincenza observes, "but when you actually hold up a shade next to their skin, they love it."
As you plan your wedding jewelry, take into account your activity level. Brides who will be moving around or dancing vigorously will need hair jewelry that can be anchored well. You may also want to consider your height and body type when making the final decision. Larger women can pull off larger jewelry pieces without getting overshadowed, but you'll also need to factor in your personality–your height won't matter as long as you have a big personality to carry off a flamboyant piece of jewelry.
"It can't be a one-size-fits-all solution," Vincenza explains. She usually meets with clients in person before designing jewelry so she can be sure the commissioned piece will meet their needs. If the clients aren't local, remote consultations can be done online via video chat. The important part is making sure that the jewelry takes every aesthetic aspect of the wearer and the wedding into account.
Choosing Your Jewelry Designer
As you look for a jewelry designer, make sure it's someone you feel comfortable collaborating with. After all, you will be wearing the work of art that this person creates. "Some people come with a vision that isn't something I can do, in which case I do my best to get them in touch with an artist who's better suited for the job," Vincenza says. "Ultimately, it's their wedding and they need to get something they will adore. If it means I'm not the right choice, that's fine." To avoid approaching the wrong artist, it helps to fully familiarize yourself with potential designers' portfolios before scheduling a meeting.
It’s best to wait until after you've picked out your wedding gown and bridesmaid dresses to schedule a consultation, since the colors you choose will impact which gems and metals are the best choices. The more aesthetic decisions you've already made about your wedding, the easier it will be for you and your designer to make jewelry to match. Keep an open mind, though; sometimes an unexpected color or design is just the right thing.
Some brides want a pretty, conservative look. Other brides are looking to make a bold, artistic statement. Meeting with your jewelry designer will help you decide where you fall on the spectrum. From a simple, woven gold band with scattered pearls to an utterly show-stopping piece, your jewelry is your decision. "A very simple, strapless wedding dress in cream can look stunning with a coral and pearl tiara that glows like passionate flames," Vincenza suggests. "Pair it with a white dahlia or two in your hair and you will look like old-world royalty."
Look for designers who offer free consultations and estimates. Since you'll be investing in a custom piece of art, you want to be sure you're entering into a good partnership. Ask to see preliminary sketches of the piece you're requesting, as well as photographs of your piece in progress, so you can verify that it's coming along as you envisioned.
It's best to come to your first meeting with a realistic budget in mind, so the designer can recommend affordable materials. One common misconception that can skyrocket a budget is assuming that the entire piece of jewelry needs to be made out of an expensive material. Instead, focus on the parts that people will actually see.
Some materials look like the real thing, but come at a much lower price. Pearls, for example, can be made the old-fashioned way beginning with a grain of sand, or they can be started with a larger glass bead that the oyster then coats with a thin pearlescent layer. The latter type of pearl is not as durable and will eventually rub to dullness if worn often. Vincenza recommends avoiding shortcuts like these if you're commissioning a work of art. "It takes the same amount of time whether I'm working with cheap or expensive materials. If it takes me a very long time to make something, it's going to cost money." After paying artisan prices for labor, you don’t want to end up with something that's just made of plastic and rhinestones.
Keep in mind that one-of-a-kind, handmade pieces from an artist will always be more expensive than ordering items from a bulk manufacturer. With an artist, however, you will get something completely unique. "My pieces can become family heirlooms," Vincenza says, "which is why I try so hard to do a good job."
Do you really need custom jewelry? "Sometimes, what a client wants is so simple, she could make it with a trip to a craft store and a hot glue gun. In that case, I give her instructions. I am all for DIY, if you can get the look you're going for." Vincenza insists that DIY shouldn’t feel daunting. By choosing inexpensive materials like white peacock feathers or some Swarovski crystals, DIY brides can keep the stakes comfortably low while they learn. "If they can't do it after a few tries, they're more than welcome to come to me again."
Not Just Tiaras
Wedding jewelry can take all forms. Look for custom-designed adornments as perfect, meaningful bridesmaid presents. Matching bracelets, earrings, or necklaces can be worn by bridesmaids for years to come (and that's probably more than they can say for the bridesmaid dresses). Gemstones come in a wide range of hues to match any wedding colors. You can even give your bridesmaids gemstone anklets to commemorate a beach or summer wedding.
The only jewelry you'll need to show a bit of caution in commissioning is your wedding rings. For example, Vincenza works with woven wire in an extra-fine gauge. "It's pretty sturdy," she explains, "but wedding rings need to last over a lifetime of everyday use." Unlike earrings and necklaces, which aren't weight-bearing and don’t come into contact with much besides your body, rings absorb a battering against a variety of objects, from sink faucets to door knobs, every day. Before you commission a wedding ring from an artist, be sure that the physical materials are guaranteed to last.
Custom jewelry can make a wonderful gift for the men in your wedding party, as well as for the groom himself. Consider artisan-crafted cufflinks, tie tacks, and woven-metal cuff bracelets as the perfect way to thank the men who made the wedding possible.
Ultimately, the best way to design a custom jewelry piece is to have fun with the collaborating process. You get to make an art piece along with an artist. Better yet–you then get to wear it! Let your creative juices flow and don’t be afraid to make a bold statement.
Lia Vincenza Designs serves the Beverly Hills area with tiaras, crowns, and other artisan-designed wedding jewelry.