“Ooh, can I see your ring?” “Wait, what? He made it?” “Hold on, let me get my (friend, sister, mom) over here; you need to tell her about this.” When I run into friends and acquaintances since getting engaged, those are usually the questions and comments I receive about my engagement ring.
Rings are a symbol of eternity. The circle represents a commitment between partners with no beginning and no end. Shopping for something that symbolizes an eternity and encapsulates your relationship can be a daunting task.
My (now) husband, Matt, said he discovered James Hunt Designs and his ancient jewelry-making technique by chance, while searching for engagement ring designers in Minnesota. Not exactly sure what ring he was looking for, he knew he wanted it to be unique and feel like me. And after one sit-down with Jim, Matt was confident he found the right match to create my engagement ring.
James Hunt, or Jim, is a goldsmith in the scenic river town of Stillwater, MN. I refer to him as a tiny-sculpture artist. Or an art instructor (more on that later). He creates one of a kind rings through lost wax casting. See Jim’s site for a simple explanation on this ancient art.
I met with Jim in-person a few times while creating my husband’s ring. His radio voice and warm smile will draw you in, and his artistic skill and incredible knowledge base will keep you there. Jim’s studio is packed with books, goldsmith’s tools and photos revealing his well-carved life. When he and I weren’t talking about our appreciation of nature and our impact on it, I was busy looking around his studio, asking him questions about his craft and snapping pictures.
Jim’s always been interested in metal arts. I call him a tiny-sculpture artist because of his artisanship. He is a skilled carver and said he could carve someone’s face into a ring and be so precise that you could tell exactly who it was with the naked eye. My husband didn’t buy me an engagement ring with his face on it (and thank goodness – although I love that face), but he was drawn to another idea Jim mentioned for personalizing the ring.
I would have adored any circle that Matt put on my finger, though I must admit to being partial to the one he created for me. The title to the post referred to a DIY designer ring, because Matt sculpted the ring out of beeswax with his fingers. Yes, those ridges and bumps and etchings are made by my husband’s hands. Once the beeswax is formed into the desired shape, Jim takes over and puts the beeswax into a mold, heats it (so the beeswax melts out), pours the metal into the exact negative of the ring, and then removes the ring from the mold once the metal cools.
Jim said it’s an interesting paradox for an artist, like himself, to give up control to his customers. His favorite DIY jewelry designers are the little artists (kids), and he’s always charmed when witnessing their imaginations come to life. Big children aren’t excluded either; Jim encourages adults to let their inner-child come out when they form the wax between their fingers. The final result is rare and can not be replicated, which makes his method ideal for gifting a ring to a loved one. I formed Matt’s wedding band with Jim as well.
We had my engagement ring appraised at a high end jewelry store, and the experience there couldn’t have been further from our experience with Jim. With Jim, there’s authentic smiles, hugs and pride in craftsmanship. We were treated with excellent service by the gemologist who appraised our ring, and by all of his staff, but we felt at home in Jim’s downtown Stillwater studio.
Even the gemologist seemed captivated by my ring. “Who made this,” he inquisitively asked, as he stared at the ring in mystery. “He did”, I lovingly exclaimed as I pointed to Matt (of course, then crediting our fantastic designer, Jim). Staring through the microscopic lens in silence for an extended time period, the gemologist finally peered up at us and said, “this is just one of those perfectly imperfect rings, isn’t it”. Sounds perfectly like us.