I don't mean did it come from California or England or China. I mean was it mass produced by someone making $1,50 per hour? Was it made along with 500 other rings that look exactly the same? Was it designed by the person who made it? Was it partially made from purchased pre-fabricated components or was it machined from raw materials? Was it made specifically for you or was it made for everyone who happens to share your preferences?
Perhaps it doesn't matter to you. Perhaps it would if you knew what your options were. I'm writing this to offer my perspective as a ring maker. In some cases you might actually want a cheap ring or a ring that's good enough. Those are a dime a dozen on Amazon. What prompted this blog post was looking at the market landscape for men's jewelry over the last week or so. I've written a few things about the market in my latest Ebook (HIS RING) but I feel like I left out a few things so I'll write them here.
I think there are many men's ring companies that do an amazing job at marketing some ordinary rings under the banner of being special and giving the perception that an artisan has spent a lot of time and effort to produce the ring in the picture. My eyes see something different. I see tungsten carbide, titanium, or ceramic blanks that were likely purchased in bulk at a relatively low price from an overseas source. In some cases the entire ring is put together before shipping. In other cases the blank might be shipped here where a high production ring company installs a custom inlay. Installing the inlay may be the only manual part of building the ring.
The inlay material will be given an exciting name, "matched" to your personality, and considered a custom ring. The company that sold you the ring may not have done anything in house other than select the materials to be used, handle the marketing, and move product around. In some cases there is an option for something truly custom but the imported blanks likely make up a huge percentage of their business. This option IS right for some guys. For some guys that's good enough. However, I think an important distinction needs to be made and I don't think a lot of men are making it. Some of these companies are out-spending many of the smaller makers on marketing which forces small makers way down the internet search listings. A case in point is my own URL www.carbonfiberjewelry.com If you search for carbon fiber jewelry on the most popular search engine I'm not even sure where we pop up, page 10 or 20. Why? Because we don't pay for ads. Even though we made carbon fiber jewelry a thing before everyone else we don't play the game so we're not listed anywhere near the top.
If you could see the marketing cost as a percentage of each ring sale I think you would be surprised. You'll also notice the pricing at some of these ring companies is in a relatively narrow range. I would guess that's the sweet spot based on perceived value. I need to maximize profits to survive as well but I do that mainly based on the hours spent to build a given ring. raw material costs, operating overhead, after sale care etc. I don't charge based on how much I think I can get.
The main thrust of my message is consumer beware. Ask questions and know what you are buying. A custom made product in my mind is something you build completely in house from raw materials or as close to raw material as you can reasonably get. A custom ring design is based on something I build from my own imagination or on the specifications given to me by a customer. A custom ring design is special and it certainly isn't for everyone. A custom ring design is available in any width, not just one or two. A custom ring comes from an artist. A production ring is typically made as efficiently as possible. If you find a ring for $40 that looks amazing in the picture, that is a production ring.
Tungsten carbide is not something you typically see in custom rings due to the equipment needed to manufacture it so that is another clue you are buying a production or semi production ring. In some cases blanks are purchased and the center is filled with stones or glow powder. Just ask the company if they are making everything in house. Any company worth dealing with will be honest about it. Again, a production ring is right for some but I'd like to ensure those rings are not confused with what I do. In my book I've listed several other sources for custom rings. Could that cost me some money by advertising other makers? Perhaps, but going to a maker who specializes in what you want is better than a quick internet search.
Just so we're clear I'm the perfect maker for some rings but I'm not an expert when it comes to every material. This post is not about picking me over everyone else in all cases. I think information is the great market leveler. My goal is to offer the information and let the chips fall where they may. I'd love to build you a ring but only if I'm the right fit for you. I love what I do but I'm more than a jewelry salesman. Just think it through and do what's right for you.
Adam R. Weeks