Bespoke and custom-made are terms often used interchangeably to talk about a personalized creation. Bespoke is a very old and somewhat obscure word that sounds cool but few people actually know its true meaning. While they sound like synonyms, bespoke and custom-made actually entail very distinct processes.
The word Bespoke
Bespoke is often used as an adjective but it is originally the past tense for the verb bespeak which means to speak for / reserve in advance. It was first used in England in the 18th century among the dress and shoe makers to refer to a tailor-made piece of apparel exclusively designed for the customer. The design discussed in advance would take into account the taste, needs, requirements and specific measurements of the customer.
Applied to the jewelry world, the bespoke adjective carries out the same exclusivity flavor it had in the 18th century English tailors industry. Just like commissioning a tailored dress, a bespoke creation is highly personal and fitted to every preference and size indicated by the client.
Every aspect of the design is entirely up to the customer’s choices: the selection of gemstones, the way they are set, the metal used, the size of the piece and any engraving or final touches applied to the final piece of jewelry. It is a one-of-a-kind approach leading to the creation of a unique piece that will not be reproduced, making the customer the only person in the world owning such creation.
Just like its original literal signification, a bespoke jewelry should speak for you about your personal history, lifestyle and preferences. The jeweler is only a facilitator helping to create a tangible piece of jewelry that will tell your story in your unique voice. Bespoke jewelry is the utmost self expression and definition of one’s identity in a world of mass produced.
Bespoke jewelry is also a wonderful gift for a life partner, a family member or a dear friend because it tells how much you know and care for the person by infusing their personal details into a piece they will cherish forever.
An example of bespoke jewelry is the firefly necklace I made commissioned by Jason for his wife Chelsea to celebrate the 20th anniversary of their first date and infusing details about their life with their son.
What is Custom-made
Custom-made simply means selecting options for an existing design. Think of the color of a car, the size of a dress or the type of protein in a salad bar. All the options are pre-existing and limited in number. You can personalize but you do not create from scratch.
While being obviously less unique than a bespoke approach, there is nothing wrong with custom-made designs. To give examples from my own business, I can custom-made an existing ring from my collection to fit the needs of a customer. The design remains the same but the ring can be of a different size, with another gemstone or enamel color, in a different metal or with a special engraving added to it.
Designing jewelry is my passion so I love to come up with new ideas and handcraft them into tangible jewelry pieces. Carrying all the variations in color and sizes in stock for all my different designs would be a very costly inventory to carry in my little one-woman-shop so when I get an online order on my eshop I actually make the piece from scratch following the customer’s choices for size and color. Custom-made is really the baseline of my work.
Examples of custom made jewelry I did for brides include these custom enamel colors butterfly earrings I did for Jacque’s bridesmaids and the custom enamel colors chrysalis necklace I did for Annette that you can see below:
Which one is right for you?
If you feel creative, if you are excited about being involved in a step by step collaboration with a jeweler then bespoke jewelry is the way to go. The process spans over 4-6 weeks from initial concept to final realization, you can check the details here.
If you found an existing piece in a catalog that you already love and just need a few tweaks to make it a better fit for you then custom-made is sufficient. Customizing an existing piece is usually much faster than creating a new one from scratch so if you are in a time constraint it is probably your best option. Contact me here to customize an existing piece.