Call us today to order your engagement rings!
Custom Jewelry

How to Design Stunning Custom-Made Jewelry

Lisa Marie Kotchey Design, the leading custom jewelry consultant in Pittsburgh, tells you everything you need to know about bringing your vision to life

Lisa Marie Kotchey Jewelry
April 3, 2019

Nikki Reed, a successful actress and jewelry designer, once told a journalist that “I like for jewelry to tell a story and to be able to talk about what I’m wearing. That’s more important to me than a name, brand, or label.” Such a sentiment is shared by a growing number of consumers.

It’s no wonder that custom jewelry holds so much value in the eyes of its owners. Trends may come and go, but jewelry with personal meaning and story behind it lasts forever.

Making the decision to build your own piece, whether it be a necklace or an engagement ring, can seem daunting at first. Should you buy gold or silver? What diamond cut is most appropriate? What do jewelers even mean when they refer to a diamond’s cut?

To help make the process of designing your piece easier, Lisa Kotchey, the leading custom jewelry consultant in Pittsburgh, created a comprehensive list of jewelry terms to know as well as advice on picking out the perfect gems and metals for your custom piece. We will specifically cover:

  • The basics: cut, karats, purity levels, etc.
  • Birthstones and metals
  • Design tips

Back to the Basics

Planning jewlery design

For the first lesson, we will examine the terminology that will inevitably be used when designing an engagement ring—a popular piece that couples often like to customize themselves.

The Anatomy of an Engagement Ring

When designing a ring, couples often focus on the cut and shape of the stone first.

Cut: the stone’s facet arrangement, which affects its ability to reflect light

Facet: flat surface cut on a gemstone

Shape: the stone’s silhouette

Shape of Engagement Ring

Carat: the unit used to measure the weight of a diamond

Channel: mounting upon which a gemstone is placed

Clarity: internal or external impurities found on a diamond

Color: the natural amount of light able to pass through a diamond, which affects the amount of color visible inside it

Karat: the measure of purity in gold; pure gold has 24 karats

Bracelets, Pendants, and Earrings

If you are thinking about designing any of the above pieces of jewelry, it will probably be helpful to familiarize yourself with these terms when examining different options for gem cuts.

Briolette: pear-shaped gemstone cut in triangular facets that is often used as a bead

Cabochon: a stone that has been polished, but not cut into facets

Pave: setting in which small gemstones are attached to a piece of jewelry in a way that makes it appear that the piece’s surface is literally paved with stones

Gemstones and Metals

unconnected ring diamonds

Birthstones are a popular gem to purchase. Here is a comprehensive list of all of the gemstones and their corresponding months.







July —Ruby



October—Pink Tourmaline



The following are metals that are usually used in jewelry.

Gold: the most popular metal choice, it usually comes in yellow, white, and rose gold and has varying karat sizes; people interested in engagement rings usually try to find 14Kt or 18Kt for their durability

Platinum: a naturally white metal that is heavy, dense, and long-wearing; more expensive than gold due to its rarity and higher density

Palladium: a metal that remains tarnish-free, is more precious than silver, and is lighter than platinum; is beginning to grow in popularity due to the rising prices of gold and platinum

Silver-Sterling: a metal that is softer and less expensive than gold, titanium, and platinum and is the most popular metal for jewelry such as earrings, bracelets, and necklaces; because it is prone to oxidation, it may turn black over time

Titanium: it is 100% hypo-allergenic, more resistant to bending and scratching, than gold, silver, or platinum, and offers a wider color selection than them; unfortunately, they cannot be resized if needed

Tips for Creating Your Masterpiece

pearl and diamond ring in a box

Now that you have the basics down, it’s time to consider what choices, gold vs. silver, or, emerald vs. topaz, will match both your style and the occasion for which you are designing it.

If your style is elegant and classic…

Pearls or diamonds are your go-to gemstones if you are looking to add a simple, understated touch to your jewelry, whether it is a necklace or pair of earrings. To maintain a sense of elegance, consider using gold or palladium metal.

If your style is fun and playful…

Don’t be afraid to add bold gemstones such as amethyst or sapphire to your piece. Aim for a titanium metal to ensure durability.

If your style is flashy and glamorous...

Large cuts of gemstones are sure to turn heads. Go for an eye-catching gem like ruby paired with a sturdy titanium band.

For more information and advice on designing your dream jewelry, contact Lisa Marie Kotchey Design.