What means more to you; a birthday cake from Walmart or your favorite cake handmade by your grandmother? A wedding dress passed down to all the women in your family or one that you picked up from David's Bridal a few weeks ago? Or how about something even simpler, breakfast in bed or a quick meal from McDonald's? The point is, you cherish things that someone took the time to make, things that were designed and made specifically for you with individuality and quality. So why wouldn't you apply the same concept when you are looking to invest in something a meaningful and symbolic as a wedding ring? People on the hunt for jewelry for a special occasion go to places like Kay Jewelers or Jared or even Tara & Co. because they are overwhelmed by the prospect of having to choosing an expensive and meaningful gift, and they don't know there are other options. That's where companies like JPratt Designs come in.
JPratt is a small jewelry company out of Dallas, Texas that has specialized in "Old World Design" for almost 30 years. The designer, Jennifer, creates and intimate atmosphere with her clients, getting to know their tastes, their story, their personality so she can then design a piece of jewelry that is more perfect for them than they could ever imagine. Then her husband and the companies' jeweler, Jeff, sits at his work bench and carves each piece by hand. This is what makes JPratt pieces stand out. Their tagline, "old world craftsmanship" harkens back to the artisans of old that had no choice but to carve every piece of jewelry by hand, but that, in turn, made them masters of their craft.
In an interview earlier this year, Jeff recalled how he got started in the business and how it has flourished since then. "I kind of got into this by accident. I guess it was the summer of my junior year in high school, my father owned a retail jewelry store. I just started messing around in the back with the guys that worked there, then goofing around the shop, tearing things up and decided I really loved that line of work, so I stuck with it after that. Maybe two years or so after we got married, Jennifer was in transition between job at the time, so she started helping me out where I was working, just managing the books, paying bills and stuff like that. She gradually just transitioned into what I was pursuing, and it has just grown and blossomed form there," said Jeff.
"When we decided to start our own company, we really didn't have a clue what we were doing. We didn't even really have a big picture goal in mind at all. In the late 80's and early 90's, what we did wasn't special or different, everyone carved jewelry by hand. But I did it really well, and after we had gained a pretty good clientele, when other companies started using machines to produce their jewelry, our clients kept coming back. From there, we just gained a really good reputation in various circles all throughout Dallas, and kind of throughout the world. Because of our intimate relationships with our clients, we have multiple generations of families that will all come to us and they tell all of their friends about our business. The fact that we do make everything by hand is now a really unique niche that we have, but I definitely credit our success as a company to our incredible clients and friends, and always to the providence of the Lord. It's been an immense blessing to be able to provide such an intimate and friendly environment for our clients, but also to be able to work beside my wife for almost 28 years and raise our kids here," said Jeff.
"Old World Craftsmanship...we chose that tagline because it implies that we make everything by hand, like has been done since diamonds have been mined.
The process for each piece to get from Jennifer's sketchpad to the ring bearer's pocket is a work of art in itself. First, Jennifer will sit down with the client and sketch as many ideas as it takes for the client to be thrilled with the design. Then, she gives the design to Jeff, who proceeds to carve the piece out of beeswax. He carves the ring or pendant to it's exact dimensions, the way it would look if you were wearing it. He even puts all the stones in the was temporarily. The client then comes in for what is called the "wax preview", basically, they try on the piece to make sure it fits, that its as tall of short as they want (if it's a ring) and to make sure there isn't anything they want to change. From there, there are two options;if the client is unhappy with the piece, they'll sit down with Jennifer and redesign until they are happy, or, if they are pleased with the wax preview, Jeff then sends the wax to a caster. What the caster does is he takes the wax carving and then makes a mold of it. When the mold is dry, he pours the preferred metal, i.e. gold, rose gold, or platinum, into the mold and waits for it to harden. When he pulls the mold apart, he is left with an unpolished version of the ring without the stones. From there the caster sends the piece back to Jeff and Jennifer to look at. If all looks according to the design, Jeff will then polish the piece to perfection and either send it to an engraver if the client wants a message scrawled on the piece, or if no engraving is required, Jeff will set the stones into the metal. After a final polish and cleaning, the piece is finished and ready to be worn!
Each piece that Jennifer and Jeff create is unique; they do not do any reproductions or mass market sales. How often do you find authentic, handmade pieces in any area, much less jewelry? But even more than their incredible designs, JPratt has flourished because of the fundamental relationships they have built over the years. They have earned a great reputation among both their peer in the business and their high-end clientele.
"We develop rich relationships with our clients...it's a much more personally involved way of doing business than a big box store. I don't think there's any comparison.
JPratt draws the inspiration for their style of design from antique metalworking motifs that have been around for centuries. If you look at Art Deco pieces, renaissance jewelry, and even some Western belt buckles, traces of each can be found in the pieces. As the engraver, Roy Deloza says, hand-made jewelry is "a lost art." What truly sets apart hand-crafted jewelry from mass-market pieces is the meticulous attention to detail, which differs with each different piece.
"This is like a lost art. Old people used to do it all by hand,but machines replaced the hand engraving. Machines can make perfect lines..but when you compare one hand engraving to another, it's different. Nobody does the same."
One way that JPratt truly marries the old with the new is through their refining process. Lots of people inherit jewelry, diamonds, and precious gems from relatives when they pass. However, these pieces can seem old and out of fashion. So one service that Jennifer offers to her clients is taking the old jewelry, and using it to pay for the new piece. Jennifer collects the old metal and stones, send the metal to a refiner, who then melts it down and send the money back to Jennifer. The client can then put the money they got from the refiner towards whatever new piece they wish to design. Not only does this allow clients to keep the sentimental stones while still getting a new piece, but it also significantly cuts down on the cost of the new creation.