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Columbia's custom jewelry designers

Local jewelers offer personalized creations

July 12, 2012 | 12:00 a.m. CST

Buchroeder’s custom designed jewelry starts with a sketch. Photograph by ROBERT SWAINA finished ring sits next to the original design KT Diamond Jewelers owner Kyle Batisch crafted. He creates custom jewelry using Matrix jewelry design software. Photograph by TATIANA FERNANDEZMichael Oetting rarely sketches his designs ahead of time. Instead, he makes a wax mold to help the customer better envision the design. Photograph by TATIANA FERNANDEZMichael Oetting works on the fine details of one of his custom rings. Photograph by TATIANA FERNANDEZMichael Oetting, jewelry designer at Tucker’s Fine Jewelry, reconstructs a ring for a client. Photograph by TATIANA FERNANDEZKyle Batisch uses a variety of tools to finesse his creations. Photograph by TATIANA FERNANDEZ

Several jewelers in Columbia work with customers to craft jewelry that complements their personal styles. Whether the inspiration comes from family heirlooms or the customers’ preferences, these designers create pieces no one else will be wearing. Take a stroll down the aisles of three businesses to learn about Columbia’s custom jewelry craftspeople.

KT Diamond: Designing for a lifetime

For local jewelry designer Kyle Batisch, everything begins with the world around him. “What inspires me is beauty,” he says. “I’ve never been in love with money. I am inspired by the customer and a beautiful diamond. What motivates me is what the earth can create.”

The cases at Kyle’s store, KT Diamond Jewelers, are lined with Kyle’s own creations that he says have a special sparkle, regardless of their age.

A common request is designs with antique qualities, Kyle says. Patrons often bring in bags of yellow gold necklaces, bracelets and earrings that belonged to loved ones, and they hope to transform the jewelry into something new and meaningful for the customer.

Kyle says, “In this economy, people might not be able to afford what they’ve always been able to afford, but they can use what they already have.”

A particular favorite of KT patrons is Kyle’s cathedral setting designs, which are constructed of a channel of small diamonds leading up to one large diamond. This was a common style of the 1900s that’s seen a recent surge in popularity, Kyle says. Paired with the popular trend of white gold, this look creates a ring that emulates the vintage style of the past.

As a jeweler, Kyle says he understands his creations aren’t a necessity but believes they are keepsakes for a lifetime.

Buchroeder’s: Raised in the business

Jewelry has always been a part of Mills Menser’s life. His father, Mike, bought Buchroeder’s in 1972, and after growing up around jewelry, Mills bought the store from Mike in 2007. Mills credits his father as one of the keys to his success in the jewelry business and in jewelry design.

“My father taught me how to work with our clients,” he says. “He taught me the importance of customer service in this business.”

Through the years, Mills has learned to communicate with his customers to create one-of-a-kind pieces.

One of Mills’ favorite designs is a 6.44 carat pear-shaped diamond set in 14k white gold with diamonds on either side. “You can’t buy a ring like that anywhere else around here,” he says.

Throughout the store, there are bridal pieces that have halos of diamonds surrounding larger diamonds. Mills says this look is common in engagement rings.

Mills’ designs reflect the latest trends, but the customers’ preferences are even more important.

He says: “I see something in my head and design it. It comes from a woman’s style, her lifestyle habits and work environment. You have to design to the customer’s needs.”

Tucker’s Fine Jewelry: A creative license

Jewelry designer Michael Oetting says he is delighted when Tucker’s Fine Jewelry customers let him tap into his own creativity.

“I’ve been known to sit down with a piece of wax and just start cutting,” he says, referring to the blocks he carves as part of the mold-making process. “I love when a customer comes in with stones and says, ‘Make me something.’ That’s a very key part of this business: having people’s trust.”

With that trust, Oetting creates jewelry with qualities that stand apart from other pieces in the store.

Oetting frequently draws from the Edwardian period of the early 1900s. One ring in this style sits aglow with diamond filigree surrounding a bright emerald stone in the middle of a case.

Owner Justin Addison says this delicate style is a common customer request. “We get a lot of requests for white gold with micro pavé or small stones and engraving,” he says.

Although Oetting has his own ideas in mind, he says customers are his main source of encouragement. “Something that inspires me more than anything is to see the expressions on people’s faces when they see the finished jewelry.”

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