Last week I had the opportunity to sit down with Constance from Zachary's Jewelers, a local boutique jewelry store in Downtown Annapolis. Zachary's has been in business for 25 years now and has made a name for itself as one of the last family owned upscale jewelry stores left downtown. Living on the corner of Main and Market, the location is one you cannot miss! I got all of the inside secrets when it comes to custom engagement rings and can't wait to share them with you!
Read on to get all of the details that will surely help those that are ready to pop the question with a one-of-a-kind ring!
Q: I want to talk today about engagement rings, since we are Wedding Savvy. Are custom engagement rings more popular now then just going into a jewelry store and finding a ring that future fiancé would like?
A: For us absolutely, but you know custom can mean a lot of things. So, custom isn’t always you know somebody comes in and says something crazy like I want the Millennium Falcon. A lot of times custom is you know, “I kind of want to add a secret sapphire because that’s her birthstone”, or “I want to engrave something special on the inside”, or “can we make these 6 prongs instead of 4?”. So, there’s a lot to that and we really are proud to be able to offer that service to our customers. So, I think pretty much anybody that comes to us has a little idea of making some modifications and adjustments.
Q: Does customization of an engagement ring add more or less value to a ring or to the price of it?
A: So, there’s a lot to that. Overall no it doesn’t add anymore price or anymore value for what you’re getting. It can though add more value if maybe you’re changing the diamonds out and you’re adding in a higher quality of diamonds than what the original manufacturer would have made them in or maybe you are upping the carat value of the gold, that’s gonna add price and also value, that’s gonna go hand in hand together. There’s a misconception thought that custom always costs more. And there’s good reason for that. When you go into a store in the mall for example, that’s used to selling the same set of ten to twenty rings and you ask them to make a modification, well that modification is going to cost you probably double what the original will cost you and that has to do with the chain of manufacturing. We manufacture everything in Annapolis. So, for us to make a change its not a big deal. We are making every single ring individually anyhow and most of the vendors that we work with are doing the same thing. Maybe they’re manufacturing in New York or California but they’re making each one like a piece of art as supposed to stamping it out of a cookie cutter. The reason you go into a mall jeweler or a jeweler that’s used to selling a high volume of a same item and its more expensive is because they have to make a whole new cookie mold because that’s how they know how to make jewelry. So, it really comes down to who you’re dealing with and that can certainly be more expensive, like I said if you’re going to somebody who’s not used to making customizations.
Q: So, is anything off limits when it comes to requests or customizations? I mean have you gotten any crazy requests that just aren’t within your limits?
A: The most common obstacle that we have is that we don’t like to send anything out our doors that we don’t think is going to last. For example, we just had a request for a wood wedding band. Well were not set up to produce the wood and we don’t know enough about wood to guarantee that that wood isn’t going to crack. So, then I reached out to several of my friends in the industry or similar industries and said, “hey do you want to take this on, do you have any pointers?”. And they said you know that’s really not us, we don’t know either. So that’s something where you really want to go to somebody who knows. And even then, from the information that I gathered it wasn’t really a guarantee that somebody could wear a wooden wedding band every day for the rest of their lives and not have any issues with it. Or you know sometimes people will ask us to put pearls in their engagement rings. Well we know that pearls are beautiful and really really valuable but the knacker on a pearl can wear and overtime that tarnishes the beauty of it so on your hand for a daily wearing piece it’s just not advisable. We don’t like to do that kind of work. Now if were working with a customer that understands that that we feel comfortable that he or she knows that this is a piece that they shouldn’t wear every single day then we’ll certainly make it for them but that’s usually our biggest hesitation on anything, other than that were pretty good about getting it done.
Q: Let’s say someone walks in and just wants to start from scratch, and wants to design a custom engagement ring for their future fiancé. Can you walk me through the process of what that would look like?
A: So, most of our customers that want something completely custom have somewhat of an idea, they come in and they say I want this shape and we sit with them and we go through that. I think there’s also a misconception that a design has to be fully illustrated like a fashion illustration we see coming out of Oscar De Larenta, it’s not necessarily like that. The base that we have to be able to accomplish is we have to be able to know and understand what the customer wants and be able to communicate that to our jewelers who are doing the final work. So, we sit down with them, we draw some things out, we talk about diamonds or gemstones they want to use or incorporate and then from there we move into the next step of getting a nicer sketch or a CAD rendering and depending on how intricate it is then we might stop at any one of those points along the way. Then we move into a wax model which you can hold and move around. Often times customers will opt to skip that because it’s kind of confusing, it’s a little blockier than then the final product will be and its time consuming also. Then once that’s approved we move into putting everything into metal and setting the diamonds and then there’s still some more modifications we can make at that point. In every step along the way we can certainly stop and let the customer take a look at it. So that’s going to change the time frame from 3 weeks to maybe 6 or 8 or however long it takes for the customer to really feel comfortable with moving forward.
Q: Now custom or not, do you work with all budgets? I mean can someone come from the 1-5,000 range or below 1,000 or someone has a 35,000 budget? Can any type of customer come in?
A: We do. That’s another you know misconception. I think we have such a great space that people sometimes assume that “oh they’re never gonna be willing to do this, I only have 1500 dollars” and that’s not the case. Were happy to make anything within reason. You know there are times when we make custom pieces in silver for customers, if it’s just like a silver locket or pendant, and that’s gonna be well under $1,000. It’s really just more than being concerned about the budget, were generally concerned with just making sure that the budget matches the expectations. But we can certainly work within any budget.
Q: So, I know custom is big right now, do you prefer or do you recommend to your customers one over the other? Getting custom or just shopping within your store?
A: So, I personally am a fan of custom because I think every love story is unique. And there’s something romantic, taking that extra time and effort and putting that towards towards your future, it’s the first step in sharing the rest of your life with somebody. So, to me to put in the extra effort and to take the time to really think about it and make something custom says a lot. It means a lot to a lot of the brides that I speak with. My husband was really funny with my ring, he had a ton of ideas that he took to my team and my team was like …”OK”, but there was a reason for everything that he did. That makes me smile and I have something that no one else will ever have, so I see a value in that. But again, like I said, custom doesn’t mean crazy colors and things, sometimes it’s just “can we set this diamond lower or closer” or “can I engrave the lyrics to our favorite song on the inside”. There are a lot of ways to do that.
Q: Lastly, to future men and women going out shopping whether it’s in your store Zachary’s or any other jewelry store, what is something that you want them to think about when they are going to purchase the engagement ring for their future fiancé?
A: So, what I tell my brothers, I have several brothers and all of their friends are kind of like my extension brothers. I always tell them, we can add more diamonds to the setting or you know we can adjust the setting around your stone. The important part to me is that center stone. Whether it’s a diamond or sapphire, making sure that’s the stone that you want to keep. As time goes you might get tired of the style of ring that you have but you’re probably going to want to keep that diamond and do something with it. Even if you upgrade from a one carat to a two carat, you’ll probably still want to keep your one carat and do something with it. So, I always recommend paying a little bit of extra time and attention to that center stone, whatever it is because styles change but diamonds are forever.