When it comes to choosing an engagement ring there can be a roller coaster of emotions a person goes through while shopping for one—from cost to choosing the right stone and style to hoping your special someone will love it.
Since shopping for any piece of special jewellery often comes with confusion, stress, and excitement, jewellery customers are finding that there’s no better way to find that perfect piece than with a custom creation. This is Dana McLaven Fine Jewellery’s specialty.
In a time where online sales are booming, there still seems to be a high demand for bespoke creations. Dana McLaven Fine Jewellery specializes in not only helping people create custom-made jewellery, but she also ensures they are designed with high-quality materials and tailored to elements that hold sentimental value for whom the piece is for. This is what her clients are looking for.
Creating your own design allows customers to have a deeper connection with what they’re buying. McLaven takes pride in this idea, making sure every customer is happy and educated throughout the design process. Whether it’s a man purchasing an engagement ring or someone requesting a redesign of a sentimental heirloom piece, McLaven makes the experience unforgettable from start to finish.
For the designer, starting her own jewellery business was built on the premise of dealing with clients one-on-one. Having worked in the sporting goods industry for many years, she made the switch to jewellery about 12 years ago after a close friend, and current colleague who has over 30 years of experience in the business (with whom McLaven still closely works with), introduced her to the world of wholesale diamonds. The idea of creating custom-designed pieces for individuals appealed to her because it meant being a part of something unique.
“I never wanted to do a retail store. I wanted to be hands-on,” McLaven says. “When I was in sporting goods, I would present to big companies. But with this business, the intimate interaction with the client is what I like. It’s all about the one-on-one. Guys will come in on their own for engagement rings. I do tons of custom bridal rings, which is about 60 percent of my business. The one-on-one with clients is what I enjoyed the most and dealing with people and their special moments.”
McLaven says that most of her clientele who come in for engagement rings are mostly male who find her through glowing referrals from previous other clients, which is how her business has grown.
When it comes to the design process, she educates her clients on the types and shape of the diamond they want and works within their set budget to source one from her trusted suppliers. “If they don’t know what type of diamond their partner wants, I’ll send them out to retail stores to look at the different shapes and get a feel for it. Or, I tell them to look on Pinterest or Google, so they can get a visual. I then present them with three stones: two in their price range and one more that’s slightly above their budget, just so they can decide where they want to play.”
Once she narrows down the design including stone shape, setting style, and how many additional stones a client wants to add, McLaven works with her Diamond Setter, who has over 40 years of experience, to begin fine-tuning the design with the client. It’s a process that takes about three weeks on average.
In terms of stone size and colour, McLaven finds that most of her customers go for the classic look and says coloured stones for engagement rings are not popular. “Mostly I do 1ct to 1.5 ct stones. I also do smaller and larger, but that is the sweet spot,” she says. “Each piece is different because I work within the client’s monetary budget. Most of them are the classic cut being the round brilliant. But, of course, there’s a lot of interest in the oval shape lately and even cushion cut coming in third. However, fancy shapes are always in the mix.”
When it comes to current trends in bridal, McLaven says that while the halo design has been huge, she’s starting to notice a resurgence in the solitaire.
But Dana McLaven Fine Jewellery isn’t just about bridal, heirloom jewellery has become a big trend in what her customers want. McLaven says redesigning old pieces of jewellery, as well as updating older wedding sets, is the other popular requested part of her business, which accounts for roughly 30 percent. ”I do a lot redesign from the old to the new, taking heirloom pieces and making something special that someone can wear currently and have it as an everyday piece rather than having an old piece just sit in a jewellery box.”
The creative aspect of the old into the new often starts with McLaven receiving a picture of the old piece and coming up with ideas with the client. Do they want a pendant? Are they looking for earrings or a ring?
She gets her clients to do a bit of homework and has them send inspirational pictures of jewellery to get an idea of the style they want for the redesigned piece. “The styles in many heirloom pieces are so outdated and people want to wear them. My concept is to keep the stones in the pieces that have the sentiment and create an everyday item from that cherished piece that you got from your grandmother or whomever it is that left it to you,” she says. “We try to create something that you can wear every day and look at it and think of your loved one. That’s what’s so important, and people are so drawn to that. Often clients will cry when I present them with their redesigned piece because it’s so special. I always tell clients, ‘If you have those special pieces in your jewellery box don’t let them sit there!’”
She and her highly-experienced team also create and design all types of pieces from seasonal designs to anniversary and holiday gifts to stackable rings, which accounts for about 10% of her business. She notes that stackable rings are becoming popular as add-ons to engagement rings. “Customers will have a wedding band and an engagement ring but then they’ll add another band in there like a push present or to mark a special occasion,” McLaven says. “You can add pink sapphires for a girl or blue sapphires for a boy. Creating a stackable collection is really fun. You can also wear one of these bands for when you don’t want to wear your engagement ring.”
When it comes to the business side of promotion, although McLaven runs mainly on referrals, she says she turns to social media to showcase her work. “I use Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, and LinkedIn to post my custom pieces as well as fun pieces that make great gifts, for anniversaries, or holidays,” McLaven says. “Whether it be a dainty, layering necklace or stackable rings to add to their existing set to mark life’s biggest moments, or fun bracelets and necklaces to make a statement. Each piece is unique and fun for the person receiving it.”
Although Dana McLaven Fine Jewellery consists of a small team of players, the level of experience between everyone is astounding. “My Diamond Setter jeweller is an amazing talent and he’s super knowledgeable. Like me, he goes above and beyond for our customers. His skill level and attention to fine detail are tremendous,” McLaven says. This small and mighty team also includes an in-house jewellery Appraiser, who assesses each diamond ring before it leaves the door for client insurance purposes.
For Dana McLaven Fine Jewellery’s team, making the client happy is the top priority for all involved and nothing gives her more pleasure than seeing a happy client. “Everyone hugs me, and I hug them. I’ve been told, ‘You have the most hugging clientele I’ve ever seen!’ I have a great relationship with my clients,” she says. “I also give my clients amazing service. I tell them to ‘please bring your ring in. Let’s inspect it and polish it on the house,’ every year. We stand behind everything and are there for our clients to make them happy. That’s why our business has grown immensely on just referrals alone.”
As for the future, McLaven is in the process of dreaming up her own line of jewellery. “It’s something I’m thinking about for the future, creating my own signature style of bridal jewellery.” But for now, it’s all about the one-on-one.