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Ohio Jeweler Creates Custom Design for an Exclusive Raffle

He had just six weeks to express his vision.




JIM PRIDGEN, owner of Pridgen Jewelers in Centerville, OH, has a passion for rare gemstones and a reputation for custom design. “It’s our forte,” he says. “I’m just a nut about it. I like to make jewelry.” He has a longstanding relationship with Jewel-Craft, a company that uses CAD/CAM to bring Pridgen’s ideas to life.


Supporting a High-Priced Raffle

“One of my customers, for whom I’ve made two or three pieces over the past five years, is a board member at the Dayton Art Institute,” Pridgen says. She asked Pridgen to consider designing a piece of jewelry to be the top raffle item at the Dayton Art Institute’s June 2011 Art Ball, a $225-per ticket, black-tie event that raises money to grow the museum’s permanent collections as well as support special exhibitions and operating expenses.

The theme for the event was inspired by one of the museum’s works of art: Jean-Léon Gérome’s painting Dance of the Almeh. A highlight of the dinner event is a raffle for a high-end piece of jewelry donated by a Dayton-area jeweler.

Pridgen says the customer explained that a rotating pool of two or three local jewelers donated jewelry for the event, but, in the board’s opinion, the pieces weren’t drawing the level of raffle ticket sales they’d hoped for. “So she said, ‘If we were to ask you to be our jeweler for the Art Ball this year, what would you do?’ as she pulled out a copy of the invitation with the event logo at the top,” he recalls.

The oval-shaped logo, inspired by the Dance of the Almeh painting, featured a cranberry field of color surrounded by a delicate gold filigree pattern. “I turned the invitation around, stood it up on its end and said, ‘That might make a pretty cool pair of earrings,’ Pridgen recalls, and she said, ‘Oh! It would! How would you do that?’”

Pridgen explained his vision, rotating the logo by 90-degrees and converting it into a pair of dangling earrings, each with a cranberry rhodolite garnet in the center surrounded by high-color diamonds bezel-set into 14K white gold filigree.

The Dayton Art Institute board unanimously voted to invite Pridgen Jewelers to be the official jewelry sponsor of the 2011 Art Ball.


Expert Help

To realize his vision, Pridgen turned to Jewel-Craft, Inc., in Erlanger, KY. Among other services, Jewel-Craft offers CAD/CAM design to retail jewelry stores. Pridgen sends nearly 90 percent of his custom work to Jewel-Craft, with which he has a 15-year relationship, working with Gary Wesdorp, president and CFO, and Lisa Clark, customer service representative.

The company’s design team translated the idea for the earrings into a full-color, 3-D rendering of the piece. The entire design collaboration took just over two weeks, with the finished earrings delivered to Pridgen about a week later.

All who posed were also given a souvenir photo of themselves and a gift certificate, which they could use beginning in February.

“Once I found out I was to be the Art Ball’s jeweler, we only had about six weeks to produce the piece,” he says. “I had the finished earrings in hand about 10 days before the event,” Pridgen says. “Jewel-Craft understood the situation and they came through.”


900 Guests and Great Feedback

THE 2011 event drew nearly 900 guests, and 200 tickets were sold for the jewelry raffle. Valued at $6,000 retail, the earrings raised $4,000 for the museum.

Pridgen is pleased with the recognition his work has received. “I got great feedback, I got a lot of exposure in their brochure, from their advertising, and from being online.” He’s also been able to showcase the earrings on the custom design section of his website.

Pridgen says the key to donating a piece of jewelry that will bring value to a charity or community organization is to make a genuine effort and consider spending some money. “When some organization comes to you and they want you to donate something, you might be tempted to give them the worst thing in your store because you’re sick of looking at it,” he says. “If you can bite the bullet and pay for something new and different, you’re going to get a lot better response.”

Do It Yourself: Working With CAD/CAM Designers

Jewel-Craft’s Wesdorp offers this advice to retail jewelers working with CAD/CAM designers:

  • Gather and write down as much information from the customer as possible, and send as much as you can. Color, carat, size of the stones, ring size, and if possible, send the stones. The type of setting, whether it’s to be channel-set, prong-set, pavé-set or bead-set.
  • Find pictures. If a customer likes the shank of one ring, the top of another ring and a squiggly design on a third, they can be combined into one piece.
  • Do the math. If the customer has four stones they want in the ring and they are 4 mm each, the ring will have to be at least 16 mm wide.
  • Don’t be afraid to make a crude sketch. “It still gives us a general idea,” Wesdorp says.



When the Kids Have Their Own Careers, Wilkerson Can Help You to Retire

Alex and Gladys Rysman are the third generation to run Romm Jewelers in Brockton, Mass. And after many decades of service to the industry and their community, it was time to close the store and take advantage of some downtime. With three grown children who each had their own careers outside of the industry, they decided to call Wilkerson. Then, the Rysmans did what every jeweler should do: They called other retailers and asked about their own Wilkerson experience. “They all told us what a great experience it was and that’s what made us go with Wilkerson.” says Gladys Rysman. The results? Alex Rysman says he was impressed. “We exceeded whatever I expected to do by a large margin.”

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