By By Shasimana Uugulu and Toffy Dube
March 2011
IT is becoming a popular trend among middle income bracket women to have their wedding rings designed by a goldsmith as opposed to buying from mainstream jewellery shops.

A wedding ring is one of the jewellery items most women value highly as it says a lot about the type of man they are about to marry and is considered a symbol of their fiancés love.

According to Attila Giersch, a top Windhoek goldsmith, most women would not want to wear a wedding ring everyone else in the street is wearing and this has led to an increased demand for goldsmith or designer rings.

Goldsmith-made rings are unique products done for a specific individual and are mostly done with the input from the client whereas mainstream jewellery shops normally sell mass produced wedding rings usually meant for the general market and clients have no influence on how they are designed apart from selecting the ring they find best on the shelf.

The result is that five women can end up wearing the same type of wedding ring in a society where not only variety but uniqueness is the real thing.

A young woman who recently got married in December and wants to be identified only as Naomi says a wedding ring to her is a token of making/accepting commitment to marry to the other half.

She says in her Damara/Nama culture, the circle and wholeness of the ring is a symbol of eternity and ‘everlasting love’ that has no end and as such each woman needs to wear a unique wedding ring .

“Every woman deserves to feel like she is the only one with this ring on her finger. That feeling is just the best feeling ever. Weddings are unique, and each couple i a unique entity hence my husband made sure I wore a unique designer ring,” she explains.

Women would not want to be told by their friends that they are wearing a wedding ring similar to someone’s they know.

“We (women) are very sensitive to it as it would imply that your fiancé is either poor or doesn’t love you more,” says Cathy Shikongo (not her real name).

For her, if her fiancé could afford it, she would go for a designer 18 carat diamond wedding ring.

“I want to be able to go around showing off to my friends and everyone would say ‘wow Cathy you have a nice ring’, I want to meet your man,” she says.

Another young woman, Natasha Nicole, says the idea of wearing a wedding ring similar to a person one knows is quite ridiculous.

“It is the same as seeing someone wearing a similar dress as the one you have on at an event. In most cases we tend to even not want to look at that other person as if we are enemies. How would you expect a woman to feel then when told by her friends that her wedding ring looks like the one worn elsewhere? She will be devastated,” Nicole explains.

Interestingly, when a man sees another wearing the same suit as his, they easily befriend each other.

The same principle applies when it comes to buying wedding rings, with most men buying expensive rings for their fiancées while buying cheaper rings for themselves.

Giersch who has been in the jewellery industry for more than 10 years says his line of work is there to suit the needs of women who like uniqueness and want to be valued with a distinct sense of identity on their fingers.

But being a goldsmith requires excellent patience, good listening and top notch communication skills.

“Couples sometimes come with a vague picture of how they want their rings to look alike. All they will tell you is they want a unique ring and it is then upon the goldsmith to sketch the picture of what the couple wants and give them the quotation of the materials he will use as well as of the finished product,” he says.

One of the main benefits clients enjoy as opposed to buying from jewellery shops is the ability to influence the design of their rings, says Giersch adding: “If the client is not satisfied with the design, they can always demand changes to the rings until the products are exactly what the clients want while the jewellery shops clients cannot demand such changes as those rings comes as finished products.”

His working principle is that a client is never wrong and unless they are completely satisfied, they will continue demanding changes to a product until it is perfect.

Towards festive seasons when there are more engagement and wedding ceremonies, Giersch’s earnings can sometimes triple in a week, more than he makes in any ordinary month.

“Everyone wants their products to be ready on time when the event’s dates are closer and you wouldn’t want to be the cause of the delays so you have to work harder otherwise you lose customers,” he adds.

Although jewellery making is a very lucrative industry, building a clientele base could be challenging and Giersch warns aspirant goldsmiths not to be motivated by the desire of making more money but rather creativity and commitment to produce quality products for the market.

“I have seen many people who thought being a goldsmith would be an easy sail to richness but ended up quitting the industry after realising that there is more to this profession than what meets the eye.”

Behind the scenes, goldsmiths go as far as dealing with temperatures of over 1000 degree Celsius when heating metals like gold and silver. They also work with different chemical substances such as acids.

On top of that, there is always the risk of being cut by sharp pointed objects like knives and scissors when handling important tools.

The best part about being a goldsmith, Giersch says, is the ability to create something out of nothing, the space that one gets to express their own creativity and interact with different clients.

Giersch imports most of the raw materials he uses to make wedding rings and necklaces such as diamonds, gold, silver, platinum and palladium from South Africa which come as refined products, yet apart from the imported metals and diamonds the industry uses a lot of Namibian precious stones like tourmaline, garnets, topaz and aquamarine.

When it comes to pricing goldsmith or designer rings do not have a fixed price as the price will depend on the materials that the client is asking.

In a day, Giersch can produce three or more rings depending on clients’ specifications.

“The price of a uniquely designed jewellery piece depends on the material value, and manufacturing cost depending on the design. But in general the unique pieces would cost 25- 30% more than the factory mass produced pieces, though the benefits are after sale service and uniqueness,” he says.

A normal ring without any stones can be made in one hour, a ring with more than one stone and some detail might take up eight hours to construct and a very complicated and sophisticated ring with many small diamonds and detail might take a whole week to construct to the client’s satisfaction. PF