Forget solitaires, boring bands; custom-made is all the rage

Internet sites abound, but even chain stores are now offering custom options.
When they got married last June, Tammy Zywotko and Ben Nye wanted rings to remember.
Nye, 29, now sports a custom-made wedding band of green gold inspired by his love of Green Lantern comic books. On Zywotko's finger is a curvy custom swoosh of a rose-gold ring encrusted with pink diamonds.
"Ben's my superhero," said Zywotko, 27, explaining her DC Comics muse.
As for the pink band? "No one else is going to have one."
Forget single diamond solitaires and boring gold bands. One of the hottest trends in wedding jewelry is to have rings custom made since couples across the nation are looking to put their own twist on these time-honored tokens of love.
In Grand Marais, jeweler Stephan Hoglund has more requests for engagement rings featuring greenstone --a metamorphic rock found in northeast Minnesota -- than diamonds.
The Jewelry Information Council, a New York trade group, doesn't track how many custom wedding rings are made each year. But spokeswoman Tiffany Metti said reports indicate that customizing is increasingly popular.
Here to stay
"It's definitely a growing market," said Metti, adding that experts expect this trend to have staying power.
The increased demand can be seen in burgeoning business reported by small designers and higher-end jewelers such as Wixon Jewelers in Bloomington, Minn., where five onsite goldsmiths are overwhelmed with requests to make intricate filigree bands or mold platinum into a setting worthy of a monster rock.
Internet sites touting customizing services abound, offering gemstones of all colors and metals that range from the usual to the, well, bizarre. One site offers wedding bands of zirconium, whose corrosion-resistant properties make it a popular choice for fuel-rod protection in nuclear reactors.
Even chain stores offer customizing options, such as picking out loose stones for different settings.
At Wixon's, saleswoman Linda Mantalas marvels at the change in ring buying she's seen over her career. Mantalas has been in the business for a quarter century.
Back then, the "guy came in and picked it out and you took it even if you didn't like it," Mantalas said.
Shared decision
Today, couples are more comfortable in sharing the decision, she said. And they want something unique to symbolize their love, especially women.
"This ring is about me," said Mantalas, echoing the comments of many women customers. "If I'm going to wear it for the rest of my life, it should reflect who I am."
Back in the goldsmith's work area, the craftsmen often see women take the lead when they sit down with clients to sketch out a design and then go over the wax casting used to mold the metal. The whole process typically takes about a month, though it can be done much more quickly if needed.
"The guy just goes like this," said goldsmith Ken Singleton, nodding his head up and down.

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