When you meet Jeff Wiedenmann, his eyes might wander to your left ring finger. The 33-year-old isn’t looking to get hitched — well, maybe someday — but he might be the guy to help you get to the altar. Wiedenmann is a jewelry designer whose custom engagement and wedding rings can be found on fingers in Kansas City and beyond.
Once thought of as an expensive option — versus ready-to-wear rings from a case — custom rings give couples the choice of what to spend and how to spend it to create jewelry that represents their individual relationships, interests and personalities.
Wiedenmann came to the craft by accident, with a little nudging from his mother, Candy Lyle.
She had been a women’s health nurse for most of her career when she decided she wanted to use her people skills to help create personalized jewelry. She opened Visionary Jewelers in Overland Park in 2006.
Wiedenmann, a Kansas State grad, didn’t know too much about diamonds, but he liked the creativity of the trade and thought working with metal would be cool.
After shadowing a local jeweler for a day, he quit his sales job, packed a U-Haul and drove through a tornado to Carlsbad, Calif., to attend the Gemological Institute of America. While there, he learned about computer-aided design and worked with mentors to help him figure out his career change.
Before becoming a jeweler, Wiedenmann says, he had never made anything crafty in his life. In fact, he was born color-blind, and his mom still assists him on gem color choices.
Still, he says, “I always had some draw to the arts but didn’t know how to express it.”
Now, his goal is to design rings with meaning. He consults with couples one-on-one to explore the option of custom-designed jewelry and uncover what they really want.
“It’s sort of a funneling down,” explains Wiedenmann about chatting with clients. “It’s about me getting out what’s in your head and putting it on your finger.”
Wiedenmann suggests that couples bring in inspiration pictures to get started. Sometimes, it helps to bring the bride.
That was the idea for Casey Lowe of Kansas City. He wanted his proposal to be a surprise, but he also knew that his future wife, DaNelle, a technical writer, would want to be involved in the design process.
He proposed with a square cut diamond on a simple band and a “design date certificate” for Visionary Jewelers. DaNelle got her surprise, and the couple could come back to complete DaNelle’s ring together.
The trick? The wedding was just a month away.
Wiedenmann worked with DaNelle to merge her modern aesthetic with her attraction to all things antique. They even stayed within budget; toeing the bottom line is serious business to Wiedenmann, who doesn’t show clients what they can’t afford.
“DaNelle knew what she wanted,” Wiedenmann says.
“When I was designing the ring, I would listen to Marilyn’s Monroe’s song, ‘Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend,’ because I was so excited,” says DaNelle Lowe, who married Casey almost two months ago in front of a Christmas tree with friends and family.
“I catch myself sitting on the sofa and staring at my ring,” she says.
Not all of Wiedenmann’s clients are as decisive as the Lowes. Sarah and Carl Holz, a couple in their 20s from Overland Park, didn’t know where to start when it came to selecting something shiny.
“We went ring shopping at a store at the mall,” Sarah explains. “We felt like we were prey, and it was intimidating. The price range didn’t fit for us either.”
After unsuccessful shopping attempts, Sarah and Carl decided to showcase their character traits in their rings.
“I’m a bit fiery, and he’s calm,” Sarah says. “We wanted to adapt that into a ring.”
They came up with the idea of a flame pattern with waves.
They took the idea to Wiedenmann and the process took many turns, complicated by the fact that Carl served in the U.S. Navy and was stationed overseas. Wiedenmann held Skype sessions with Sarah and Carl to finalize their distinctive design. And the Holzes say he got it right.
“I get to work with people and see their excitement when we look at a future rendering of something they are going to wear for the rest of their lives,” Wiedenmann said. “I love what I’m doing.”