How To Design A Bespoke Piece Of Jewelry With NET-A-PORTER

Fine jewelry can be a precious platform to express individuality and mark special life milestones – and our talented designers delight in crafting custom pieces. Here, CHARLIE BOYD talks to the NET-A-PORTER buying team to discover how unique creations can be crafted into reality

From illustrative stages to finished design: a custom ring by Brent Neale

Much like luxury fashion, fine jewelry is the result of a designer’s vision, skillset, and signature style; it is an expression of their own persona and brand values. However, if you’re looking for a piece that puts you in the driving seat, then a bespoke creation is the ultimate in personalized luxury – the jewelry equivalent of haute couture.

Determine the design

The journey to create a unique jewel looks different for every customer, but the NET-A-PORTER buying and personal shopping teams are expert custodians of the process. “The beauty of this journey is that we can tailor it entirely to the individual, depending on how far along they are in their creative process,” explains Edwina Hilton, fine-jewelry and watches buyer at NET-A-PORTER. “If a customer simply desires a style by one of our designers that they have seen elsewhere, we can liaise with the brand to obtain that piece, and the personal shopping team will ensure that the sale and delivery are managed with our usual level of care and attention,” she explains.

If, however, you’re seeking to adapt a collection jewel to better suit your personal taste, the NET-A-PORTER buying team will mediate between the customer and the brand to deliver a tailored design. “If a client admires a style that we stock but envisages it in a different colorway, precious metal, stone or size, we can facilitate this conversation with the maison,” says Hilton. “Engraving and monogramming is another way of adding a hint of yourself to the design, perhaps with a symbolic motif or cherished lettering,” she adds.

Dream big

For those feeling truly audacious, collaborating with a designer on an entirely new piece of jewelry can allow design dreams to become a reality. “It’s incredibly exciting when a customer is seeking a particular piece but isn’t quite sure which brand should bring it to life,” says Hilton. With an indication of budget and design inspiration, our teams of personal shoppers and buyers will collaborate to suggest the perfect artisans, such as Brent Neale Winston, founder of Brent Neale, who is passionate about creating bespoke and custom jewels. Neale Winston believes each treasure must be born from close collaboration. “It starts with a conversation about what the client wants – sometimes clients are very specific, other times not,” she explains.

The New York-based designer doesn’t use CAD (computer-aided design) to draft her creations, preferring to draw and paint every design by hand, enabling the client to approve the plan from a series of exquisite sketches. “Once approved, we put the piece into work in the jewelry district here in New York, where every single piece is made and manufactured,” she explains. “I have a small team of highly skilled lapidaries and bench jewelers who understand my vision, and won’t compromise on style or quality.”

Give heirloom jewels a new lease of life

Kirsty Stone, founder of Retrouvaí, similarly tailors each journey to each client, and says the process varies greatly depending on the complexity of the bespoke design and incorporated technology. “Depending on the piece, we provide CAD renderings, or photos of a 3D wax model,” explains Stone. “We invite our clients to be deeply involved in the process and there is a constant dialogue prior to us beginning the piece in metal,” she adds.

Occasionally, customers may even have existing jewels that they wish to incorporate into new designs, using family stones to add great meaning to a modern masterpiece. “It feels good to re-purpose materials that are sentimental but not seeing the light of day,” says Stone. “The possibilities depend on the materials, but a chipped or broken gemstone is not waste – we will re-cut to salvage,” she says. The key, it seems, is trusting in the process, whichever route you choose – and knowing that the result will be truly rarefied.