When you’re shopping for a new ring or bracelet, you can always go to the mall and browse the cases at the chain jewelry stores. Sometimes, though, the occasion calls for something a little different, something unique to you and your style. That’s when the savvy shopper turns to a custom jeweler, someone who can turn your personal tastes into a piece of wearable art.
And custom connoisseurs who live on the North Shore are in luck: The region is home to an array of jewelry makers who bring decades of experience to their craft. Whether you want to pop the question with a distinctive ring, transform your grandmother’s diamond into a modern heirloom, or concoct the perfect necklace for a black-tie affair, these jewelers will turn your imaginings into reality.
Stan Paul Jewelry
7 Essex Green Drive, #52, Peabody
Stan Paul Jewelry does not look like a typical jewelry store. Instead of entering a glittering showroom, customers visit a small office building in Peabody. Instead of leaning over glass display cases, shoppers sit at a desk.
Once clients arrive, the experience is as much about education as it is about shopping. Paul and his associates make sure customers learn about the metals, designs, and stones they are working with so they can make the best possible choices. He even hands over his loupe to show clients how to inspect a stone.
After Paul and his client collaborate on a design, in-house goldsmiths create the custom piece using state-of-the-art equipment, Paul says. A high-power microscope even lets them create popular micropavé and beadwork details.
And if all this sounds like it might break the bank, fear not.
“We always try to make a piece of jewelry within somebody’s budget,” Paul says.
20 Lothrop Street, Beverly
Nestled in a shingled oceanside cottage in Beverly, Tien 2 is the endeavor of jewelry maker Sandra McIntyre Lowe and her dressmaker daughter. Lowe studied her craft at Boston’s famed North Bennet Street School and worked for other jewelers for years before setting out on her own.
When working with a custom client, Lowe likes to start with a simple conversation.
“You have to get a sense of what they like and what they don’t like: where they shop, what they eat, what books they read, what they do for a living,” she says.
She then moves on to sketching possible designs; once the client has settled on a design, Lowe crafts a model in brass, allowing the aspiring accessorizer to see her future piece in three dimensions. Proudly old-school, she does not use computer design tools.
Lowe’s favorite designs are ones that incorporate multiple metals, stones with old-fashioned cuts, and quirky settings.
“I am probably more eclectic than most jewelry designers that are out there,” she says.
149 S. Main Street, Middleton
At Tesoro Boston in Middleton, owner David Hill prides himself on the depth of his knowledge. With more than two decades of experience in the diamond industry before opening his own shop, Hill is confident he can find the right stone and the right design to satisfy any customer.
“We’d rather make you exactly what you want instead of selling you something we already bought,” he says.
Customers sit at the store’s “diamond bar” to look at designs and stones, and to talk through what elements they want in their final piece. Hill enjoys adding personalized touches; for one client, he embedded some of her mother’s and grandmothers’ diamonds into the inside of the band so the family heirlooms would make direct contact with the vein that connects to the heart.
Hill emphasizes that jewelry newbies are welcome at Tesoro.
“It is sometimes daunting,” he says. “So we try to make it loose and fun here.”
MK Benatti Jewelers
1 State Street, Newburyport
Jewelry design is in Matt Khatib’s blood. A fifth-generation jeweler, he started hanging around his grandfather’s shop at 14 and made his first piece at 17. Later, he studied computer-assisted design, blending his Old World training with modern technology. Today, he relishes using these skills to put together the perfect design for clients.
Khatib works with clients to dissect their needs, using pictures and pieces from the in-store inventory to choose components for the custom piece.
“Some people come in with a clear idea; sometimes the customer needs some inspiration,” he says.
All of MK Benatti’s custom jewelry is made 100 percent in-house, from casting to setting to polishing, an approach that Khatib says is very unusual. His personal touch extends to a desire to add something special to his pieces to continuously delight his customers.
“I love doing detailed work,” he says. “I like having the customer see something new every time they look at the ring.”
The Jewelry Vault
4 Lowell Road, North Reading
The Jewelry Vault in North Reading keeps as many as 400 different settings in stock. Still, says owner Lisa Ferraguto, there is always a way to make a design even better.
“Most young ladies now want something that’s different and unique,” Ferraguto says.
She spends time with each client to learn their lifestyle and tastes before drafting a design. A wax model lets customers see what the piece will look like before committing.
Ferraguto also encourages clients to think beyond the latest images on Pinterest or in bridal magazines. A ring that is trendy right now might not really be a good fit for everyone, she says. She finds it rewarding to see her customers stretching out and finding a style that suits them.
“We’re seeing a lot more people get out of their comfort zone and do something different,” Ferraguto says. “And it’s beautiful.”
95 Main Street, Reading
At Elysé Jewelers in Reading, every custom client is taken through the same detailed, methodical process, regardless of their budget. Owner Richard Berberian works with each customer himself, considering both their needs and their physical appearance in order to create a design that is both practical and flattering. He often begins sketching his ideas while sitting with the client.
An in-house staff of computer designers, metal casters, stone setters, and polishers turns the initial concept into a finished piece.
Berberian considers the jewelry he makes to be pieces of art. He takes pride in his long family history in the craft—he is the seventh generation to work in the business.
“For me, to be able to carry on the reestablishment of the family’s work and history in America is part of what drives me,” he says. “I’m really proud of that, and the historical significance of the work I do.”