In a world where technology is always evolving, people have become accustomed to hyper-personalization in their everyday life. Sure, consumers might think it’s weird when they start getting ads for the exact yard project they were just talking about with their spouse, or when Amazon suggests that it’s time to order more dog food just as they’re running low.
Then again, they expect and love the kind of personalization provided in the form of Netflix suggestions and clothes in the perfect size and style showing up at their door monthly. More recently, the expectations created by hyper-personalization have bled into the jewelry industry and started a craze: custom jewelry.
For independent jewelry designer-makers and gallery owners, custom jewelry is a well-known and well-used term. Unfortunately, large jewelry manufacturers have hijacked it and custom doesn’t necessarily mean custom anymore. Big box jewelry stores like Kay and Shane Co. are now allowing customers to use online custom jewelry studios to design their ideal pieces. The personalization factors are usually precious metal type, stone color and size, engraved names or phrases, duplicating or resizing computer made bits and pieces that can be easily mass manufactured.
But when the program parameters dictate what you can create and your vision is owned by a corporate manufacturer as soon as you click submit, can you truly create something special?
In the eyes of fine jewelry designer, Geralyn Sheridan, the answer is no. For her, custom jewelry means working directly with a customer to create a one-of-a-kind piece by combining their vision with her artistic style, gemology knowledge, and jewelry-making expertise. That is what the word custom has meant to her -and other fine jewelry designer-makers like her- up until this craze came about.
Will the custom craze persist? We think not.
Big box jewelry companies thrive on what appeals to the masses. Customization will continue to be a piece of that, but their sweet spot will always be low cost mass-production of jewelry to sell in their widely marketed chain stores. Most individuals who want something manufactured will continue to shop in those stores, rather than designing pieces on their own and having to wait on production.
Jewelry galleries and other small retail locations are successful because of their ability to recognize beauty in the unique styles of independent designers. They feature collections of a variety of artisan styles that will appeal to a more discerning clientele.
One-of-a-kind jewelry has always intrigued consumers and it will continue to. Designing one piece from start to finish is a unique skill and takes the care of an experienced designer to carefully consider how a vision can be realized. Online design apps from manufacturers simply cannot replace that process.
To put it plainly, people who seek out and buy from galleries and unique designers are not a dying breed, but crazes and fads inherently are.