Photos by Abby Ballin
CAD images courtesy of Mystique Jewelers

Classic, timeless, heirloom. These are the words that come to mind for Elizabeth Mandros, jewelry designer and owner of Mystique Jewelers when she’s working on a custom piece.

“The art of a custom designed jewelry piece is just that, an art. I have a vision in mind after clients and I meet and putting that vision into a custom piece is the favorite part of my job,” said Mandros. “It’s a passion and what I love to do.”

A marriage is celebration, a ceremony and a commitment to honor the vision two people have for their future. Mandros recently designed a unique ring for a Middleburg equestrian couple who were married in December.

“Due to the complexity of the design involved with the ring, I chose to go with CAD (computer assisted design) instead of a traditional goldsmith,” she said. “It was a privilege to design their rings. He knew what he wanted, an equestrian style and one of a kind.” The ring was designed to be both practical and beautiful to suit her lifestyle; playing polo one day and modeling in a fashion shoot the next.

“We collaborated on different ideas, incorporating horses, bits, stirrups until we came up with the final design. The stirrups were chosen as a symbol of interlocking love, around a selected stunning 2.0
carat diamond.”

When asked about her design process, she said people are often surprised with the many different questions that she asks before making sketches. One element that must come to play in designing is utility. That is not something many necessarily think of when creating their own piece.

“As a designer, it’s the first thought for me,” the Mystique Jewelers owner said. She wants to know how often it will be worn, where it will be worn, and most importantly, how do they see themselves with this piece. In the consultation, the designer hopes to learn their personal style. Do they live in jeans and a t-shirt or a more formal style? What setting will the jewelry be worn in? Would it be worn mostly during outdoor activities, out to an embassy dinner or all of the above.

“Once I know how the client envisions wearing their art, the wheels start to move forward, and I begin thinking and drawing,” she said. While the production time varies just like each piece, it generally takes about six to eight weeks from start to finish.

“I am a perfectionist and will send back a rendering for the smallest detail.” Using the client’s information on how the piece will be worn as a guide, the designer begins the final picture. Her unique set of skills combined with her knowledge of the gems, process flow. “A piece that’s well designed with all the elements together, stands the test of time and becomes a piece that you will hand down from generation to generation.”

“We usually begin the process with a focus meeting where we will make hand-sketches and establish our goals and budget. Next, we make CAD drawings and illustrations for review and approval,” said Mandros.

“These illustrations allow us to show you a remarkably lifelike rendering of what the piece will ultimately look like. The beauty of this technology is that what you see is exactly what you get!” Once the images have been approved, a “wax” model is made for the client to see the design in 3D. The wax model is an exact replica of the finished product, and in fact will ultimately be the final piece by way of the lost wax casting process.

“After the project is in metal, we will do a fitting, confirm final approval before the stones are set, and engraving is added. Then the ring is completed.”

Vintage Style 2.0

“How fortunate, we would be if our parents or grandparents gave us a piece of jewelry, that we could pass down for an engagement in the family,” said Mandros.

However, what if that heirloom piece isn’t your style or your significant other’s style? What do you do? Put it back in the safe and say no thank you?
According to this local designer, you can utilize the stones without ruining the design, keep part of the ring intact and remake something that would be for a new style today, or completely redesign it using the stone.

“You would be completely amazed, if we took the stones out and made something that worked for today’s look or was something she was thinking of,” said Mandros. “It is brand new ring but you have the stones from the piece that has meant so much to the the family, your heart and you have saved a bunch of money.”

“We can transform this one particular ring into a brand new look for today. I use a style based on what you are like and what your lifestyle is like and what you have dreamed of and I give you prototypes,” she added. “I can help you through the steps and give you lots of design options.” Your girl is unique, and the ring you propose to her with should be, too.

This article first appeared in the February issue of Middleburg Life.