There’s more to designing a piece of exquisite custom jewelry than meets the adoring eye.

“An engagement ring and wedding band, for example, may have to withstand a lot of wear and tear for many years; they may be handed down from one generation to another,” says Amy Overman, expert custom jewelry designer at James Free Jewelers. “Many times, our clients come in with an idea they saw online, or they may bring in heirloom jewelry consisting of five or six different stones, and they want them made into a cohesive, sentimental, beautiful piece of jewelry.

“At James Free, from sketch to reality, we’re committed to putting something together that is unique, one-of-a-kind.”

And clients are treated like family, from start to finish.

“We want you to feel at home with us,” notes Jeanette Keith, Cincinnati store manager. A warm greeting, a hot cup of coffee or a cool beverage … James Free Jewelers is renowned for consistently combining the best qualities of an international jeweler with the sincere warmth, care and excellent customer service of a family-owned business.

For Overman, designing a one-of-a-kind piece of jewelry encompasses several integral elements, including a sense of family, connection and personal touch. A talented hand sculptor by trade, Overman worked in the toy industry for many years (Kenner, Hasbro, Mattel), working mostly in the boys’ toys division. So, when James Free staff members say your custom jewelry dreams are in good hands, they mean it. Literally.

“I can do handmade signet rings, cuff links, one-of-a-kind charms for charm bracelets … I sculpted a toucan set in white gold for one customer as a memory of their honeymoon — I don’t know of another jeweler in this city who is doing what I can do,” Overman says.

One client was going off to college, and his parents wanted to give him a signet ring showing memories from their summer vacation in Wyoming — a grizzly bear with the Grand Tetons in the background. “So, I hand-sculpted just that!” Overman says.

For another client, Overman recreated a 30-years-of-service lapel pin into a signet ring.

“I once saw someone trying to accomplish in CAD (computer-aided design) what I could do freehand,” Overman recalls. “There is more heart, more warmth in what I do. And I can do it faster. I love sculpting, and I saw a need for that more personal connection in jewelry.”

Sometimes a customer arrives at James Free looking for an engagement ring, but they can’t find what they’re looking for in the jewelry case. Overman will sit down with the customer and provide a free consultation, using their conversation as the basis for her first sketch. 

“I want to get an idea of what they want, their style, their lifestyle. You don’t want a ring with a lot of prongs, for example, if you fire pottery or rides horses every day,” Overman notes. She likens buying an engagement ring to buying a car. “You want something that fits your lifestyle.”

The same process goes for customers looking for a custom necklace or any other piece of custom jewelry. Once Overman finishes her initial sketch, the customer returns to the store to view it. Any modifications the customer might request are noted, and a final CAD drawing, including those modifications, is created.

“I can usually turn around a quote in a day or so,” Overman

says. “When we are putting together something that is one-of-a-kind and searching for the right stones, it can take a little longer. Every custom is its own unique process, and it’s something I really enjoy.”

Holidays are often a popular time of the year for engagements or special gifts of custom jewelry. According to Overman, October is a great time for customers to come in and finish up those final sketches so she can submit them before the first week in November.

“Everyone here, including our clientele, feels like family, ”Overman says. “Former clients often stop in just to say hi. We have a lot of fun.”

She attributes her passion for the custom jewelry design process to knowing she is helping create something that will last a lifetime. Granted, there’s a lot of responsibility that goes along with her approach, but Overman wouldn’t have it any other way.

“I look at jewelry through different eyes,” Overman says. “I consider each piece a little work of art.”


James Free Jewelers has two locations at 9555 Main St., Montgomery, Ohio and 3100 Far Hills Ave., Dayton, Ohio 45429. For more information, visit jamesfree.com or call 1-800-465-6193.