Local Wedding Bands and Wing Designers
| 2016 Q2 | story by JULIE DUNLAP | photos by Steven Hertzog
Before a couple can say, “I do,” one of the two must first ask, “Will you?”
As the 14th-oldest jewelry store in the country, Marks Jewelers, at 817 Massachusetts St., has facilitated that question and the “I do” to follow ever since opening in 1880.
Owner Brad Parsons, a 43-year jewelry veteran with Marks, steadfastly carries on founder Sol Marks’s tradition of honesty and kindness 146 years later, assisting couples daily—both in person and remotely—with the selection and design of engagement and wedding rings.
“We take their ideas and grow them with mechanical integrity,” he says of the store’s mission, “and find a way to get them what they want.”
The jewelry industry has changed both in trend and technology during the many decades. Most new to the process is the use of computer-aided design (CAD), with 3-D photo renderings and printings available.
Couples typically enter the store with photos of designs they like, sometimes with a family gemstone they would like to incorporate into the new ring. Parsons and his staff of jewelry designers work with the couple, blending the couple’s ideas with the mechanics needed to make the ring last a lifetime. This includes designing the ring to the correct specifications either by hand-carving a wax model or using CAD technology to create a lifelike photo rendering and/or 3-D-printed model.
Once approved, a wax model is created and placed into a soup can-sized cylinder filled with plaster, sealed and heated high enough to burn out the wax completely, leaving a fossil-like mold for the actual ring to be cast. The precious metal of choice is then poured into the mold and filled via vacuum force to produce the setting. From here, the experienced jewelers buff, polish and set the ring with the stones.
Parsons says roughly 98% of the rings they produce are made from start to finish in-house, “so the customer is always talking with the person who is actually making it.”
Over the decades, Parsons has watched the life cycle of several trends blossom and fade, noting that fewer brides and grooms are choosing the three-piece set of matching engagement and double wedding bands. And, while diamonds are still a girl’s best friend, alternative stones are being used, as well.
“There is no right or wrong way to do it anymore,” he wisely explains.
Just down the block at 833 Massachusetts St., Kizer Cummings owner Ernie Cummings and his team note a shift to custom design, as well.
Kizer Cummings has been in business since 1982 and has seen a significant rise in requests for custom engagement and wedding rings, slipping custom-designed engagement rings on well more than 150 ring fingers last year alone.
“Today’s brides-to-be are almost always looking for a custom ring, whether it be tweaks in a current in-stock ring or a ring designed from scratch,” says Erica Greve, Kizer Cummings GIA diamond specialist, citing the current trends for couples to forgo the traditional wedding band and incorporate various colored sapphires into the engagement ring for a more unique look as well as cost savings.
In-house jeweler/designer Blaine Allmond, a degreed metal smith and jewelry designer with nine years design experience, including four years with CAD, personally meets with couples looking for a custom-designed ring. The couples give Allmond their specifications and requests, ranging from shape and size of the gems to arrangement.
Allmond may spend as much as six hours designing a ring, even with the use of CAD technology, as every design is created from the ground up. Other than the metal casting, which is often sent to an oxygen-free facility off-site, the entire process from conceptualizing to the polishing of the finished product takes place in-house, with Allmond’s expertise leading the way.
While under the right circumstances a custom ring can be completed in as little as three weeks, finding the right stones and creating the right design usually requires six to eight weeks from initial consultation to final product, especially one built from concept or rough drawing.
Allmond’s most creative request?
“I worked with one couple to design a ring with the stone being held by two swans wrapped around it,” Allmond recalls. “It was one of the more challenging jobs and took a few tries, but the couple loved it when it was finished.”
This kind of happily-ever-after tale is just one of thousands from Lawrence’s downtown jewelers over nearly a century and a half, with thousands more to come.