Process: Designing and Manufacturing a Collection of Cabinetry Hardware

In addition to designing jewelry, I design and manufacture cabinetry hardware. My education and practice as an Architect is the link between the two. I began making hardware out of necessity because I simply could not find what my clients wanted; so after taking a jewelry casting class at the 92 Street Y in New York City, I was able to begin producing custom cast hardware for them.
One of the advantages of working across multiple disciplines is that it sets up the possibility for designs to be adapted or translated from one discipline to another. A great example of this “cross pollination” is our Peak cabinetry hardware collection. Launched at the International Contemporary Furniture Fair (ICFF) in 2017, the collection was adapted from a jewelry line I introduced the year before in honor of the Architect, Zaha Hadid, for whom I once worked and who died of a sudden heart attack at age sixty five. Intrigued by the geometries I had developed in the jewelry, I saw the possibility of scaling these elements up and transforming them into hardware.

long shard studs (earrings) and elongated shard pulls #1 and #2 (hardware)

"Inspiration is for amateurs - the rest of us just show up and get to work."  - Chuck Close

What most people may not realize about making objects that are not only beautiful but functional, is that there are often countless steps leading up to the final piece. This is the process designers and architects term R&D (also known as research and development); and it can take months, even years to work through.

Hardware requires a level of precision, things like symmetry and dimensional tolerances, that jewelry does not. One of the key elements that facilitates the design and development of our cabinetry hardware is 3D computer modeling. It enables us to work more seamlessly such that we can tweak the shapes, print them out, and hold them in our hands all in the same day. The starting point for Peak was in the forms we had developed for jewelry. Because this was our first jewelry collection modeled in in Rhino, a 3D modeling software, the process began by scaling the parts up in size. Our Form2 3D printer has become one of our most valuable tools because it facilitates the speed of iterations by allowing us to quickly produce prototypes in order to refine the details of a design. This is of particular importance for hardware because we need to know how the piece feels in your hand. How the fingers wrap around the handle, how they feel between the stand-offs, and the weight and form within the palm, for example. All these functional elements are as carefully considered as the visual aesthetic. 

In addition to “in house” tools, we rely heavily on our network of skilled craftsmen and craftswomen to navigate this part of the process. We greatly value the mastery of their trade and all they bring to the table as well their willingness to share it! We have worked diligently to build these relationships, and feel strongly about supporting what has become a dying breed of American manufacturing that caters to small, independent designers. These are people who care about their craft, and are vested in the outcome. They are also willing to take on both modest as well as large orders without a second thought.

 All of our hardware is cast and our caster plays a critical role in assessing the viability of designs for the casting process. He will often weigh in on potential issues early on in order to help us achieve a successful workflow in production. In the initial stages of developing the designs for our Peak collection, he voiced concerns about the thickness of some of the pieces. Casting thick parts can be difficult because thicker parts take longer to cool, and the longer it takes to cool the more likely you are to get surface imperfections or what is called “porosity.” At his suggestion, we hollowed out the backs of the thicker pieces to address this. However, when we printed prototypes of these components and held them in our hands, it was clear that this was not an appealing solution since it looked substantial from the front but felt hollow in the back. This is a perfect example how we are always balancing technical challenges with those of aesthetics.

screenshot of computer model  
computer model of our elongated shard pull #1

If you build it, they will come

By far one of the biggest challenges of bringing a new product to market is getting the word out to the appropriate audience. Trade shows are the most direct route for this, but are a considerable commitment both in terms of time and money. That said, they can be an extremely effective way of reaching your target market. I chose ICFF because of its established attendees: high-end Interior Designers and Architects. I did not have the resources to hire a PR firm, so I partnered with a consultant who specializes in servicing small-scale designers who are launching products to the design trade. She coached me through all of the critical aspects including the process of writing an effective press release and the planning and implementation of my outreach to the press prior to the show.
Unless you can present it in a compelling way, it doesn’t matter how great your product is.  If you are participating in a high-end trade show, the design of your booth is almost – if not more – important than the product itself. These are the things that they DO NOT teach you in school! Because our new hardware line was translated from a jewelry collection, it felt natural to tell that story within our presentation. Comprised of nearly 600 3D-printed parts, our display illustrated the transition in scale from the realm of jewelry to hardware, and ultimately to furniture with a sculptural, wall-mounted console modeled after our Peak Elongated Shard Pull.
 Our booth at ICFF featuring a custom-fabricated, cypress console 

The resources and attention to details paid off when our Peak collection was featured in Interior Design Magazine as a “Best of the Year” finalist for 2016. This led to future partnerships with prominent designers as well as offers of representation from established showrooms.

In the end, it all comes down to execution 

To create bespoke, handcrafted, functional art is to simultaneously embrace artistic and technical challenges. To conceive and execute designs, from initial concept to finished product, has taken years of experience of learning how to transform failures into successes. Most importantly, this work involves collaborating with the artisans who bring these ideas to life and is also the most rewarding part of the process. I believe that collaboration is the key to evolving, whether it is in what we make or who we become because each relationship holds the potential for something far greater than its origins. Perhaps then, this is only the beginning of the next spark.

Custom Make Wedding Rings: Personalizing Your Ring

A beautiful gold wedding ring from Marion Cage, who can custom make wedding rings that are personalized for you and your spouse.

So you’ve decided to enter a new chapter of life with someone you love. Congratulations! Getting married is one of the most important milestones in life, and your wedding rings are likely the most important jewelry purchase you will ever make. You’ll wear them daily, and they will forever be deeply personal symbols of your love and your union.

One of the ways to make getting married even more meaningful is to have your rings custom designed, just for you. There’s no better way to be sure your rings are perfectly suited for you and your spouse than to custom make wedding rings.

There are different ways to approach personalizing your wedding rings. You can start by customizing an existing design, or you can have something designed from the ground up. You might have a special stone you want to use in the design, perhaps one that came from a family heirloom.

There are several things to consider when selecting or creating your bridal jewelry. We’ll go into detail about why you should consider custom rings and the process of customizing your rings with a designer.

6 Reasons to Custom Make Wedding Rings

1. Custom make wedding rings that are one of a kind.

This one-of-a-kind Champagne Diamond Shield Ring from Marion Cage features a pave diamond halo, the kind of unique detail you can request when you custom make wedding rings.One-of-a-kind Champagne Diamond Shield Ring with pave diamond halo

There is something very special about owning and wearing a design that you know isn’t going to be seen anywhere else, on anyone else’s hands. Just like your chosen partner, you want your ring to also be special and uniquely suited for you. If your rings are custom made, you’ll work with a designer to create something just for you.

One-of-a-kind jewelry also carries more monetary value than designs made to be reproduced, because rarity carries a premium. While jewelry purchases are usually emotional as opposed to practical, they do also have the benefit of becoming a small asset, and jewelry can be a sound investment when quality materials, great craftsmanship, and unique design coexist.

2. Create a matching set of wedding rings.

A matching engagement ring and wedding band set, which can be made to match if you custom make your rings with a designer like Marion Cage.

If you prefer to have the traditional engagement ring and wedding band set, it is advantageous to create a customized set so the two will perfectly match. When shopping the ready-made market, you may find an engagement ring that you like, but the options for the matching band may not suit you—or vice versa. If you build a custom set from the ground up, this will never be an issue, because you can tailor each piece of the set to suit your taste and match back to the other.

Similarly, your partner may have surprised you with an engagement ring, which you did not personally select. It may be a family heirloom, or perhaps they picked it out from a store alone without consulting you first. Customizing your band to coordinate with the engagement ring gives you the opportunity to make your own choices, while still honoring the gift that your loved one selected for you.

Not only are you able to create a matching set of your own when you choose to custom make wedding rings, but you also have the opportunity to coordinate your ring or set with your partner’s.

3. Get the exact wedding rings you want.

A set of matching gold wedding bands from Marion Cage.A set of matching gold wedding bands

You know what you like, and you have a pretty good idea what you would like your wedding rings to look like. You could spend hours searching the web and going from store to store, shopping for the design that you’ve dreamed of. Or you could choose a designer whose work you admire, tell them exactly what you have in mind, and have them custom make wedding rings for you.

This alternative saves you the time and headache of hunting. Plus, you get what you want, and you’ll have a personalized experience along the way. As an added bonus, you’ll know that you’ve supported an artisan, possibly even in your local community.

4. Add personalized details to your wedding rings.

Adding special details to your wedding rings that are unique to you can go well beyond the simple tradition of engraving when you custom make wedding rings.

Perhaps there is a flower that is special to you or a symbol that is meaningful to you and your partner. There might be a particular stone or combination of stones that have a special meaning for you. Maybe you like stacking your rings in a certain way.

You may not be able to find a ring on the market bearing these special details. Yet all of these unique elements can easily be incorporated into your wedding ring design when you communicate your heart’s desires to a designer who will custom make your rings.

5. Combine aspects of different wedding ring designs into one.

Four gold wedding rings with diamonds made by designers Rebecca Overmann and Ruth Tomlinson—all of which can be customized to your liking.Rings by designers Rebecca Overmann and Ruth Tomlinson—all of which can be customized

What if you’ve seen rings that have certain elements you really like, but others that don’t suit you? Maybe you love the setting from one ring and the band of another, wishing the two could be put together. The good news is that they can!

Having rings custom made for you means that you get to pick and choose which elements go into your design. Starting with an existing design or two that you want to alter or combine is a great way to get to a single design you love—one that feels uniquely yours.

6. Repurpose a family heirloom into a wedding ring that suits you perfectly.

One of the most common requests we have for custom wedding rings is to reimagine a piece of jewelry that has been handed down in someone’s family.

Oftentimes the bride (or groom) will have a piece of jewelry that is close to their heart because of the loved one who previously owned it, but the aesthetic may not suit their personal style. In this case, a great solution is to take the stones from the existing heirloom and incorporate them in a new, more personalized design.

Repurposing a family heirloom gives you the opportunity to show off your own style and your loved one’s treasured jewelry simultaneously.

The Process of Customizing Your Wedding Rings

A gold ring featuring diamonds, made by Marion Cage and customizable to your liking.

After considering many of the benefits of customizing your wedding rings, you probably want to know what to expect from start to finish. While every designer and artisan has their own unique process, the basic steps tend to be similar enough from one designer to the next.

Below we’ll explain the steps to custom make wedding rings at Marion Cage and share details and photos from one of our custom projects.

Step 1: Initial Consultation on Customizing Your Wedding Rings

Jewelry designer Marion Cage speaking with a customer. Consultations like this are the first step to custom making wedding rings.

The first step of customizing your rings is to have a conversation with our team. This is your opportunity to outline all of your desires and requirements.

You might bring in photos of designs that have elements you like. If you have an existing piece or stone you want to utilize, you could show it to us. You might also browse our store inventory for inspiration, telling us what you like about certain pieces that grab your attention.

We ask questions that help us to better understand what you have in mind. If you have a budget, let us know up front. The more information you give us, the better we can serve you.

During this meeting, we measure your finger for ring size and verbalize some initial ideas. At this point, we also advise if there are any design fees for us to move forward.

Recently, a customer came in with a somewhat bulky and very traditional family heirloom ring with a five-carat diamond. His fiancée wanted something less traditional and showy, with a contemporary design to match her personal style.

A bulky, traditional family heirloom wedding ring with a five-carat diamond, which was brought to us to be repurposed as a custom made wedding ring.

Step 2: Sketches of Your Custom Wedding Ring Designs

Our design process usually starts with a series of hand sketches. From there, we continue to refine the design, making alterations as necessary until we arrive at a final concept drawing that is approved.

Below are some of the initial sketches that we did for our customer, Bryson, and his fianceé, Desi. Drawing on the feel of several of the pieces that he had purchased for Desi in the past, notably our talon pendant and talon studs, Marion incorporated a similar aesthetic to create a design to showcase the stone and reflect Desi’s style.

Because of the size of the diamond, Desi asked about the possibility of two rings—one incorporating the larger stone and another smaller ring for everyday. Marion proposed a set of “jackets”—smaller bands that could be worn both on their own or with the larger ring.

Initial sketches of a custom made wedding ring design.

Initial sketches of a custom made wedding ring design.

Step 3: 3-D Modeling and Pre-Production of Your Custom Rings

Once we have your approval on a final hand sketch, we determine the best way of making the design. Depending upon the design, we may be able to begin fabricating the piece directly from the hand sketch.

More often, as was the case for Bryson, we see fit to model the design digitally using 3-D software. This allows us, and the customer, to see what it would look like from every possible angle. We can even print a plastic model for the customer to try on! We are able to make edits and print it again until we are satisfied with the design.

There were several compelling reasons for using 3-D software to complete the design of Desi’s rings:

  • Using 3-D scanning, we obtained an accurate scan of the diamond, which enabled us to literally sculpt the setting around the stone.
  • 3-D modeling software lends itself well to creating highly sculptural and organic forms, such as those we used in the design of Desi’s ring.
  • 3-D modeling enabled us to make a very precise and snug fit between the ring and the jackets.

Check out the 360-degree view 3-D rendering video below!

Step 4: Final Production of Your Custom Wedding Rings

Once finalized, the 3-D model is sent to our casting partners, who print the model in a castable wax. The wax is then used to cast the designs in metal by the lost wax process.

Next, the raw castings go to our expert jewelers, where the stones are set before finally being polished to perfection.

Here are photos of Desi’s final fabulous rings!

Finalized custom made wedding rings from Marion Cage.

Contact Us to Custom Make Your Wedding Rings

Having wedding rings custom made is an exciting, personalized experience that helps ensure you say, “I do,” with the perfect rings for you and your partner.

To custom make wedding rings with Marion Cage, contact us at the studio today to set up your consultation.

How to Match Jewelry with Your Outfit

It’s that time of year again! Holiday parties and get-togethers are a fun opportunity to dress up and show off your flair for fashion. That said, choosing the right jewelry to coordinate best with the clothes that you wear takes thought and doesn’t come easily to everyone. It’s important that your jewelry reflects your personality and compliments your outfit. When the time comes to accessorize, do you sometimes imagine Joan Rivers giving you a harsh critique? To help eliminate some of the guesswork, we’ve put together a few guidelines on how to match jewelry with your outfit. The next time you find yourself in doubt about your accessory options, refer to these simple suggestions and you’ll keep the fashion police away.

Dress for the Occasion: Matching Jewelry

The first rule of fashion is to wear an appropriate outfit. Being overdressed or underdressed can make you feel out of place, and you don’t want to be the center of attention for the wrong reasons. Below are some general guidelines on what type of jewelry works for different types of occasions.

1. What type of jewelry to wear to work:

This depends on where you work of course, but generally, this is a time to be understated. Do you work in an office, school, hospital, or otherwise serious environment? Choose simple, classic pieces such as small hoops, stud earrings, small pendants, chain bracelets or simple single bangles. Diamonds or gemstones are appropriate but stick to solitaire rings and studs or small amounts of pave.

 Large Disc Pendant and Offset Circle Stud Jewelry for Work

Large Disc Pennant in 14k yellow gold on 14k yellow gold chain with brown diamonds (left)
Offset Circle Studs in 14k Yellow Gold/White Diamonds (right)

If your job is in a more casual environment you can show a little more personality with your pieces – larger hoops and small dangle earrings, layered bangles, large pendants or layered necklaces – but stay away from statement pieces or too much sparkle. Simple jewelry, especially pieces made of alternative materials such as wood and leather, are also great for laid-back looks.

O ID Bracelet and Oval Wood Totem Pendant from Marion Cage

"O" ID Bracelet in Sterling Silver with Brown Leather (left)
Wood Point Scatter Necklace in Bloodwood/Bronze (right)

2. What type of jewelry to wear to dinner, drinks, or a night out with friends:

Typically this is a smart-casual or dressy-casual occasion. It’s also a time to really let your personality shine! Almost anything goes but don’t come to the table (or bar) dripping in jewels meant for a special occasion. This is a great time to break out those long dangle earrings you’ve wanted to wear, stack on several rings, some fat bangles or wear a tiered necklace. It’s okay to draw a little attention. You’re out to have a good time!

Spicula Dangle Earrings and a Small Point Three Tier Necklace

Spicula Dangle Earrings in 14K Yellow Gold (left)
Small Point Three Tier Necklace in 14K Yellow Gold Points on a Sterling Silver Oxidized Chain (right)

3. What type of jewelry to wear to a cocktail party, black-tie event, formal celebration, or special occasion:

Now is really your time to shine! For dressy occasions, your jewelry should be elegant. Is your dress a showstopper? Then keep your jewelry simple and sumptuous. Try large diamonds or gemstones to make your look pop. If your dress is a solid color with a streamlined cut, use your jewelry to up the ante. Chandelier earrings or a statement necklace composed of multiple stones and tiers will do the trick – but pick one or the other! If your earrings are the focal point of your ensemble, you may want to skip the necklace. On the other hand, if your necklace is the centerpiece, pair it with simpler stud earrings. For a high-drama look, pile on sparkly bracelets and chic stacking rings.

Mirror Trace Necklace and Portail Dangle Earrings

Mirror Trace Necklace in 14k yellow gold/brown ombre pave diamonds (left)
Portail Dangle Earrings in 18K White Gold Plated in Black Rhodium with White Diamonds (right)

Consider Your Neckline!

It’s crucial to think about what accessories will work with the cut of your neckline. If your necklace and your neckline are in conflict, your entire ensemble becomes unbalanced. Always make sure that the length of your necklace is significantly shorter or longer than your neckline, so that it doesn’t get lost in the mix.

Here’s a list of what jewelry common neckline styles, and what type of jewelry compliments them best.

1. What jewelry to wear with a V-neck dress:

A V-neck may be the most versatile neckline when it comes to necklace options. You can either mirror the V-shape with your necklace, or compliment it with a curve. For a short V-neck, a choker or short chain is the way to go. As the V-neck gets deeper, the options multiply! Chokers, chains, and short to medium pendant necklaces are all great for medium V-necks. Deep V-necks are great with a lariat or sautoir necklace, and also lend well to layers of necklaces. Above all, be sure to never choose a necklace that sits below the V.

Jewelry to Wear with a V-Neck Shirt or Dress

Tiered Totem Pendant in Sterling Silver/18K Yellow Gold (left)
Mirror Points Necklace in 18K Yellow Gold with Oxidized Silver Chain (layed with Long Mirrored Points Necklace in 18K Yellow Gold/Oxidized Silver Chain (right)

2. What jewelry to wear with a turtleneck:

Turtlenecks are best with long necklaces or no necklace at all. Long earrings can be tricky with turtlenecks, so it’s safest to stick to studs, hoops, or very short drops if you’re in doubt. If you’re skipping the necklace, add a bracelet or two (or three) to spice things up.

Jewelry to Wear with a Crew Neck Shirt or Dress

Ankole Tassle Sautoir  in Sterling Silver Plated in Black Rhodium/14K Yellow Gold (left)
Totem Amulet in Sterling Silver with 18K Rose Gold (right)

3. What jewelry to wear with a crew neck:

When the neckline goes high, the necklace goes low. Wear medium to extra-long chains and pendants with crew or boat neck tops. Make sure that they sit at least 2 inches below the collar and go as long as you like. Strands of beads as well as tiered and layered necklaces are also great options.

4. What jewelry to wear with a halter or one-shoulder top:

If your top or dress is a halter or one-shoulder style, don’t compete with your neckline. Skip the necklace! This is your opportunity to wear statement earrings like long dangles or chunky cuffs. Jazz things up with bangles or stacks of bracelets.

How to Decide Which Gemstones to Wear: Color-coordinating Jewelry and Wardrobe

Follow the basic rules of color theory when coordinating your wardrobe and jewelry. The color wheel is a great tool to help you determine which colors fit together best. If you've ever been curious what kind of jewelry goes with a red/blue/green, or any color dress, the answers are here.

Gem Color Wheel

Start with the color of your outfit or jewelry and look directly across the color wheel to find its complementary color. Complementary colors create the most vibrant look, because they are in high contrast with one another. For example, if you are wondering what jewelry to wear with a navy blue dress, find blue on the color wheel and look across. Orange is its direct complement, so gold-toned jewelry would be a great choice. If you are dressing up for the holidays, you might be curious as to what jewelry matches a green dress. Look no further than rubies or spinels. For a red dress, emeralds are perfect!

Spinel Cascade Necklace and Egg Drop Earrings

Spinel Cascade Necklace (left)
Egg Drop Earrings in Sterling Silver Plated win Black Rhodium with Rubies (right)

Another way to utilize the color wheel is to choose analogous colors. These are the colors that are right next to each other on the wheel. Analogous colors create a harmonious look without being too monotonous since the colors are similar yet different. For example, if you want to choose jewelry to wear with a royal blue dress, go with green or violet gems. A purple gemstone, such as our geo tanzanite necklace.

geo tanzanite necklace

Not sure what jewelry to wear with that little black dress? Black goes with any color! Black on black, looks super chic, too. Our top choice when it comes to black jewelry is black rhodium jewelry with black diamonds.

Arabesque Dangle Earrings and Vertical Shard Necklace

Arabesque Dangle Earrings in Sterling Silver Plated in Black Rhodium with Black Pave Diamonds (left)
Pave Shard Necklace in 18K White Gold Plated in Black Rhodium with Black Diamonds (right)

At Marion Cage, we are always happy to help you make exquisite jewelry selections based on what fits your style.

Whether you’re searching for the perfect piece for a special event or looking for a treasure to wear every day, we are always here for you, online and in-store on Magazine Street!
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