Synonymous with luxury and wealth, signifying power, and commemorating special occasions – gemstones, and the subsequent jewelry created with them, have long captivated humankind with their iridescent appearance and a rainbow plethora of colors.
We spoke to Leon Mege, RubyLUX Dealer, and award winning jeweler about his time in the trade, and why he believes jewelry holds such fascination for so many.
How did you become a jeweler?
It was an accident. My family was looking to immigrate, but I was just about to be drafted into the army, which would effectively put an end to my hopes to escape from USSR. In order to delay the draft, I had to enroll to a trade school instead of going to a college. Almost by chance, I’ve chosen the jewelry trade, since I liked to draw when I was a child. Many years later when I finally arrived in the U.S. making jewelry was my only way of earning a living. Luckily I am good at it.
What do you love about jewelry?
Jewelry makes women and some men feel good about themselves without using drugs or going to a shrink. This is not a joke. There is no other object in the world that is capable of affecting people in long term in such a way.
What was one of your favorite jewelry designs to create?
My absolutely favorite design is the LaPetite collection that won A’Design Award in Italy a few years ago. It’s basically a set of miniature diamond/gemstone set charms that are exact replicas of real size rings we make.
Can you tell us a bit about your business and how it started?
I started as a jeweler for the trade. It was not satisfying for me. The problem is that there was a middleman between me and a person who is going to wear the piece. That middleman (a retailer, diamond or gem merchant, a broker, etc) had only one concern – get the piece done quickly, so he could collect a payment as soon as possible. Aesthetics, quality, pride were mostly meaningless for those people. So I cut the middle man (I still do some work for the trade, just a few very exclusive customers with the same mindset as mine) and opened my doors to retail consumers.
When I started, the goal was to be able to make a customer happy. Since the workload multiplied beyond the means of my abilities to produce with my two hands I started to hire jewelers. Later I realized that teaching people from the ground up makes better jewelers. So I trained people, the production increased, leading to even more commissions. At that point, my choice was either to start mass production or limit the business to a small segment of clientele, to those who appreciate the finest craftsmanship and is willing to wait for several weeks or even months to have their piece finished.
So now my specialty is hand made jewelry – not casting, no cad-cam, no molds. Just straightforward hand forged metal transformation.
What is your design process – for coming up with new Jewelry designs and for commissions?
When we take a commission it’s usually a traditional bridal piece such as engagement ring or a wedding band. There is no design involved. My work in that instance is similar to a florist making a flower arrangement. Yes, everyone is calling it design (including me) but in reality, it’s just a reinterpretation of something that was made already before. When it comes to engagement rings the craftsmanship and implementation style is what makes the difference. It’s like the difference between a bespoke tailored suit and the one you buy at a dusty department store. The overall “design” is the same, same sleeves, buttons, lapels, etc, but they are dramatically different. The key is in the “fit” and craftsmanship.
When it comes to fashion jewelry – everything BUT bridal there is a huge element of design. Those pieces are usually not commissioned, I create them when I see a stone (all my jewelry is stone centered, I don’t make plain metal pieces) that is worth highlighting. The thought is – what will make the stone look best, how can we emphasize whatever is best about it and de-emphasize whatever flaws it has? It’s like chess – the best players are those capable to turn a weakness into the strength.
What are you inspired by?
I am inspired by the thought of old civilizations leaving behind pottery shards and jewelry. The thought that there is a tiny chance one of my pieces surviving through the time to be looked at, makes me excited. It’s like I am creating tiny to capsules to communicate with future generations.
Do you have any tips for getting a custom piece made with a jeweler?
Best advice – “Don’t listen to online chatter. One cannot create art by committee, you have to trust whoever you’ve chosen to make your piece. Do not second guess, do not listen to strangers online, they might have agenda of their own. Take your time to choose your jeweler, but once you decided on a person give him/her 100% of your trust and support.” – Leon Mege
To discover more of Leon Mege’s beautiful work visit his shop on RubyLUX.com