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Sparkling designs
By Kathleen Ostrander

There is an art to jewelry design. The placement of a stone, the complicated filigree work and a delicate design turn stones and precious metal into an heirloom.

There is also a science to jewelry design. Will the placement of a stone be supported by the setting? Will the design fit on the surface area in a pleasing manner? Will the idea translate correctly when it's explained to a jeweler and a designer?

Matthew Dearing at Denney Jewelers combines art and science to produce jewelry to the exact specifications of a customer, who gets to be part of the process from beginning to end.

Dearing sits down with whoever wants a specific piece of jewelry, and the process starts at the computer. "The computer software is pretty industry standard," he said, "but the next step, milling the jewelry in wax, is not."

"We get as much input from the customer as possible and enter it into the computer," Dearing said. The software will let variations be entered, different stones, different metals, standard styles and then some artistic tweaking.

Dearing knows from experience what might look better or what might not quite work out the way a customer wants it.

A design can be modified on the computer screen, and the design can be manipulated, but nothing, Dearing said, beats seeing exactly what the design will look like when its translated into wax.

Visitors to the store sometimes get to watch the machine humming away as it carves a jewelry design fed to it by the computer out of wax.

"It may seem like a time-consuming process since the customer leaves and comes back to see the wax image and then comes back again, but the investment of the time pays off in something that will make them very happy and is exactly what they wanted," Dearing said.

The finished wax jewelry rendering gives the customer the exact piece of jewelry they designed with Dearing at the computer screen. "Say it's a ring," Dearing explained. "They can put it on, see how it feels on, see where all parts of the design come together and if need be - or if they want - it can be modified again."

The wax rendering also will give them an exact idea of the cost. "We can weigh the wax, and that will help us calculate the specific price of a piece," he said.

Dearing said customers have been thrilled with a design, and then they put it on and change their mind. "They put it on and walk around the store and may find out that it's too heavy, or they can't bend their finger the way they wanted or it just doesn't sit right. Well, if it was a finished piece, there's not a lot we can do. With the wax, we can go back and change something or even start over," he said.

"The mill makes an exact replica even down to the fine detail," he said. "But we still rely on the manufacturer of the jewelry - in most cases Shane Denney - to tell us if something is going to work. It may get all the way through to wax, and Mr. Denney, because of his experience with jewelry work, might tell us - no, that's not going to work like they want. There isn't going to be enough metal in the band to support the design. Then we go back and talk to the customer and work it out.

"There's a lot less waste and disappointment with this process."

The process can be used with earrings, pendants, charms, cuff links and, most commonly, rings.

"It is really useful for wedding bands - we can show what the rings for the bride and the groom are going to look like, and we can show what the bride's rings will look like when the engagement and the wedding bands are put together, Dearing said.

"We can move stones around, make them different sizes, different band widths, different combinations. It's something you are going to wear every day for the rest of your life, and we want it to be perfect for you," he said.

Most people, Dearing said, appreciate the process.

"If you are creating something that you know is going to get passed down to someone else, you are making something that will be around for generations to come. That heirloom is special to you and is going to be even more special to the person who gets it when it is passed on," he said. 



Want more info?

Denney Jewelers

2901 Wabash Ave.




Story published Friday, January 8, 2010 ( Volume 5, Number 1 )

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