The program begins with three initiatives.

(Press Release) MJSA, a trade association dedicated to jewelry making and design, has introduced the MJSA Council of Custom Jewelers as part of a wide-ranging program to advance the art and consumer appreciation of custom jewelry design.

Chaired by Lee Krombholz, the owner of Krombholz Jewelers and Just Like You Designs in Cincinnati, the council is made up of some of the leading jewelers in custom design.

They include:

Gary Dawson, Gary Dawson Designs, Eugene, OR.

David Dorian, Dorian Jewelers, Watertown, MA.

Christopher Duquet, Christopher Duquet Fine Jewelry Design, Evanston, IL.

David Holloway, Holloway Designs, Farmington, AR.

Lisa Krikawa, Krikawa Jewelry Designs, Tucson, AZ.

Klaus Kutter, A Jour Jewelry, Bristol, RI.

Tom McLaughlin, TEM Designs, Liverpool, NY.

Dawn Muscio, D. Muscio Designs, Atlanta, GA.

Travis Serio, Stuller/Gemvision, Lafayette, LA.

Greg Stopka, JewelSmiths, Pleasant Hill, CA.

Jim Tuttle, Green Lake Jewelry Works, Seattle. WA.

Together, they will help to guide MJSA as it undertakes initiatives to educate consumers about custom design options and ensure that jewelers have the training needed to achieve the highest levels of craftsmanship. Three initiatives have been targeted to begin the program:

  • Develop and promote a new way of defining custom jewelry by tiered levels. As many Council members note, the popularity of personalized jewelry design has spawned numerous businesses offering what they call "custom" jewelry, with varying results. "Almost every jewelry store in my city claims to do custom jewelry now, but the experience and outcome can vary widely," Krombholz says. "Many simply take orders, while others who try to develop a design don't have the expertise to create well-crafted jewelry." The result: a bad experience for consumers, who become confused and even fearful about the whole custom concept. In addition to establishing a basic definition of custom jewelry, MJSA and the council will promote a three-tiered system in which custom design projects can be grouped according to the level of design involved. Spearheaded by Jim Tuttle, the triad ranges from "Full Custom" designs made from scratch to "Made to Order" pieces in which existing designs are modified only by the customer's choice of metal and/or gemstones. "By creating and publicizing standardized levels, custom jewelers can better stand apart from 'order takers' and create a better understanding of true custom design among consumers," Krombholz says.
  • Promote education and craftsmanship through MJSA Mentor Jewelers. MJSA and the council have created a new designation, the MJSA Mentor Jeweler, which is open to any MJSA member who has shown a long-term commitment to sharing their custom-design expertise — whether through articles, seminars, webinars, classroom teaching, or individual instruction — and pledges to continue those efforts. "By formalizing the process and recognizing those who are contributing their knowledge to help advance the profession, we hope to spur more jewelers into passing along their wisdom and knowledge," Krombholz says. Mentor Jewelers will also be able to contact MJSA for assistance with such tasks as sourcing images or obtaining research materials for presentations, articles, and classes.
  • Create and launch a consumer-facing website with a Guide to MJSA Custom Jewelers. This site, scheduled to launch by the end of 2017, will serve as a primary resource for consumers interested in learning more about custom design and finding the right jeweler for their needs. In addition to explaining the levels of custom (with illustrations), it will include a searchable database of MJSA members who offer custom design services, which will be identified by level. "

MJSA has long been a place where serious custom jewelers have found a home," says Krombholz, who, in addition to chairing the council, serves as a vice chair of the MJSA board of directors. "These initiatives, along with the development of the council, are just a continuation of MJSA's efforts to advance custom jewelry and benefit us jewelers — no organization has our best interests more at heart."

To learn more, go to MJSA.org or call 1-800-444-MJSA (6572).

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