Photos courtesy of Paul Pape and Paul Michael Design/Etsy
Geeks are quite creative when it comes to memorable events in their lives—especially weddings and proposals. For the most hardcore fans, ring boxes and even the engagement rings themselves get specialized with a geeky theme. It’s a big moment when you decide to spend your life with someone who is probably just as, if not more, passionate about a fandom as you are. What better way to make them remember that moment forever than by having the items in your proposal be geeky too?
Over the years we’ve shown you a number of amazing custom made rings and ring boxes with themes from Batman to World of Warcraft. But how are these works of geeky art created? If you’re interested in making a special custom engagement ring or ring box but don’t know where to start, we have you covered.
We spoke with two of the best in the business, Paul Michael Design and Paul Pape Designs about how you can have your own custom engagement ring or ring box made. Take a look inside the process with our guide and find some inspiring photos after the break.
Photo via Paul Michael Design/Etsy
It may seem like obvious advice, but to begin the process of creating your own custom engagement ring you should have an idea of what you want.
“The most important part about having something custom made is forming an idea of what it is you want exactly. The nice thing about that initial idea is that it can change and morph into almost anything,” Paul Bierker, founder of Paul Michael Design, told Fashionably Geek.
Bierker advises potential custom ring buyers to have a solid idea for the theme and scale of the ring. You might want something large and obvious because that’s your fiancée’s style or you might want a more subtle, symbolic geeky theme for the ring. Decide if a very literal look or a subtle look is what you want.
Once you have this idea, it’s time to look for someone to make your dream ring a reality. See if anyone has any recommendations for a maker they’ve had a good experience with. Bierker said to always take a look at a maker’s reviews, history, and reputation during your search. All of this is easy information to find nowadays online.
If you’re nervous about hiring a maker directly even with this information, Bierker suggested going through Etsy or CustomMade instead. They have an additional layer of support from their sites and act as another venue to reach out to if you need extra help.
“You also want visualization and communication in the design process [from your maker]. CAD [computer-aided design software] can create a photorealistic rendering and can provide a finished product comparable to the work. Some CAD techs do beautiful pictures but the end result is not congruent,” Bierker said.
Caption: A final “Game of Thrones” design is realized and approved. Photo courtesy of Paul Bierker
It’s important to trust your maker and keep communication open. During Bierker’s process, he asks his clients a number of questions to figure out exactly what they want. Once they have a solid idea they email back and forth with some concepts. When they have a direction, they hold a web meeting where Bierker shares his computer screen with the client and so they can see him build the ring right in front of them.
The client’s budget is examined throughout the design process as they discuss how extreme they want to go and what materials they’d like to use. Then they can offer an estimate to the customer.
“Once we agree on a price then we build a prototype and it’s pretty quick from there. Literally what we do is the minute we have a concept approved we create a 3D model suitable for manufacturing,” he explained.
Caption: A 3D rendering. Photo courtesy of Paul Bierker
Paul Michael Design will then start manufacturing the ring, casting the metal, using a wax-cutting machine, gathering stones, and doing everything needed to assemble the ring. Customers are updated with pictures throughout the process, which is very interactive. This way you don’t have to worry about your ring turning into something you don’t want it to be. That’s why it’s important to find a maker who communicates well.
“I really think a design is a living, breathing sort of process If we’re building something out and the client doesn’t like the direction it’s heading in, we always revise to do what the customer wants. Ultimately it’s their piece and we want them to be stoked with everything we do!” Bierker said.
Once that process is complete and the customer is happy with the ring, they manage the payment and delivery. Paul Michael Design ships worldwide and a whole custom job takes about 4 to 6 weeks. It’s important to check these last details as well when deciding on a maker.
Caption: Final finishing. Photo courtesy of Paul Bierker
As for how much a custom geeky engagement ring will cost you in the end, it depends on the details and materials. Bierker said for Paul Michael Design a custom ring can start around $300 but go up to $12,000 depending on the materials wanted for the job.
Photo courtesy of Paul Pape
As much passion as goes into crafting the perfect geeky ring should go into creating the perfect custom geeky engagement ring box. Similar to the ring process, Paul Pape of Paul Pape Designs told Fashionably Geek it all starts with an idea.
“I don’t like to hinder the creative process. They can have something as simple as a list of things he/she likes, or information as detailed as a specific color on a specific object. As long as they have an idea we are good,” Pape said.
Pape has handmade over a hundred different custom engagement ring boxes, working with clients so each one meets their specifications. Once the client contacts him, the process moves along smoothly. His first question is when they want the piece in-hand. With boxes and rings, keep in mind whether or not you have a specific date for your proposal so you can have your custom product in time. Custom makers like Pape are often in demand, so don’t be surprised if there’s a wait time. Pape said on average he can make a piece in 2 to 4 weeks but during busy seasons like the spring and holidays a wait can be up to 2 to 4 months. Know when you need your box and plan ahead for contacting makers so there’s enough time. Rush pieces do happen, but since booking takes place in advance be prepared if there’s a wait.
With this “need by” date, he then works backwards to find an ideal ship date and then starts talking ideas.
“Some clients have something very specific in mind. Others have an idea or a theme. I work with them to create a piece that speaks to their likes and make it truly unique to their experiences,” he explained.
Pape’s biggest tip to anyone interested in having a custom engagement ring box made is to have an idea of what you want but keep an open mind during the creative process.
Photo courtesy of Paul Pape
“I’m blessed with a weird sixth sense to what makes a wonderful ring box, and I trust my gut a lot with the process. If you come with something that I think can be tweaked from great to fantastic, be open to it,” he said.
Once an idea is solidified, payment in full is required to lock in the ship date. Like a custom geeky engagement ring, a custom box won’t be cheap. Pape’s boxes typically range between $300 and $500, though they can cost as much as $800.
Then the design process starts.
“If a client wants sketches, that would be the next step, but I don’t do them for every job because I am either recreating an object so the sketch would just be of that object, or because my sketches aren’t the same as the three dimension finished piece. I’m happy to oblige the request though,” Pape said.
Photo courtesy of Paul Pape
To create the boxes, he can work in clay, wood, metal, paper or with a 3D printer depending on the piece. Once he starts work he takes photos to send to the client if they want updates before it’s done. Communication is also important to Pape as it is with Bierker, so Pape has an open email policy for clients to contact him at any time if they want to see how things are going. Final photos are taken of the completed box along with a video walk through and then it is overnighted to the client. Each of Pape’s boxes come with a lifetime warranty, so if anything happens to it, the client can ship it back to be repaired or replaced free of charge.
“That’s how much I believe in the work I do. You aren’t just buying a ring box, but a permanent work of art that is customized to you, that you can treasure forever,” Pape said.
If you’re still interested in customizing your own geeky engagement ring or ring box now that you have a little insight into the process, Paul Michael Design or Paul Pape Designs would be great places to start your search for a maker. However there are other options you can consider as well. Here are a few more of our makers you can choose from:
Photo via TheModelMaker.net
Photo via Earthartgems.com
Photo via BitsWithByte/Etsy
Photo via Takayas Custom Jewelry/Facebook
Photo via VaLaJewellery/Etsy
Photo via Brittany Foster/CustomMade