Make It Your Own, Make It Yourself
By Natasha Anderson
Whether you want to hand-pick the stones for your wedding jewelry, incorporate an heirloom or memento, feature nontraditional materials, design your own rings or even make them yourself, there are jewelers in WNC who can make it happen.
Emma Mankin-Morris, of Mountain Metalworks in Asheville, offers individual instruction for couples who want to create their own wedding bands. A one-day workshop, for simpler designs, involves forging the rings from a piece of gold or silver. Participants file, saw, shape, hammer, form and solder the rings. Then, after more filing and polishing, they leave the studio with their completed wedding bands. More complex designs are done in a two-day casting workshop that starts with shaping, carving and spruing a wax model, investing it in plaster and placing it in a kiln where the wax is burned out, leaving a cavity in the shape of the ring. Participants then heat their silver or gold and put it into the cavity using a centrifugal force casting machine. Once filed and polished, the rings are complete.
“I am inspired every time I offer one of these workshops at how absolute beginners at jewelry making can, with a little help, create a magical one-of-a-kind wedding band for their spouse,” says Mankin-Morris. “The experience is inevitably as valuable as the ring.”
According to Mankin-Morris, working one-on-one with couples in this way enables them to achieve almost any design, including those that are incredibly complex. Examples include the incorporation of wood, bone or stone inlay, and engraving and carving.
Molly Sharp, of Molly Sharp Jewelry, in Zirconia, also offers workshops to guide couples in the design and creation of their wedding rings. She begins by asking them to send photos of rings they like. Next, Sharp helps them establish which metals they prefer to use. Options include sterling silver and white, yellow and rose gold. Once these details are decided, either in person or through emails as a free consultation, a price is given and a date is set to make the rings. Sharp charges $300 per couple for the day, plus materials. It usually takes no more than one day to complete the process.
“My great-niece, Maya, and her fiancé, Thomas, asked to create their wedding bands with me using Maya’s late father’s sterling silver wedding band,” says Sharp. “It made for a very touching and sentimental story that brought tears to the guests’ eyes at their wedding.”
Sharp also designs and makes earrings, necklaces and bracelets as bridesmaids’ gifts. All of her jewelry is hand fabricated, built using metal sheet and wire and often set with faceted or cabochon stones.
Couples who would rather leave the fabrication of their pieces up to a jeweler can still participate as much as they want in the design process. Sophie Lotstein, owner of Sun Sparrow Metalsmithing, in Asheville, often starts with a unique center stone and builds out from there. This could be anything from a salt and pepper diamond hand-selected by the bride or a precious heirloom sapphire passed down for generations.
“There is a real sense of history, love and unique personality when working with heirloom gems,” says Lotstein. “Those tend to be the most special and rewarding pieces to make.”
Lotstein often incorporates stones that evoke a sense of place, such as tourmalines the color of the ocean, a forest green emerald or an opal that glows like a sunset. Sometimes it is the source of the stone that is significant, or the contrast between stones or their settings.
“I like to design simple, elegant and timeless pieces that will hopefully be passed down to future generations,” says Lotstein.
At Hendersonville’s Sweet Magnolia Gallery, home of Melinda Lawton Jewelry and Studio, couples can share their vision with Lawton, who will work with them to create a one-of-a-kind design. Popular requests for materials include alternative stones such as sapphires, rubies, emeralds and colored diamonds. Moissanite and lab-created diamonds are also popular due to their conflict-free origins.
“I love it when couples come in and talk with me about their desire to create the perfect ring,” says Lawton. “I find they often want to forge their own path rather than follow what everyone else is doing.”
Lawton sources gemstones from around the world, working only with those that are ethically mined. She uses gemstones of every color and can create jewelry to match the colors couples have chosen for their wedding and wedding party.