A background in costume design, jewelry and millinery (hat making) with the Milwaukee Repertory Theater coached Paloma Wilder in bling. But “throwaway,” knock-off jewelry for the cast to wear on stage didn’t allow her to go deep with the designs.
Between shows, she shadowed a local silversmith and apprenticed with two goldsmiths (Victoria Rau and Suzy Gormican) to learn casting, repairing and setting fine jewelry before going out on her own. “Once I sat down on a [jeweler’s] bench, I was hooked,” says Wilder. Paying it forward, she now has her own apprentice, MaryArden Senty.
What sets Wilder apart is offering an unfiltered view into the jewelry-making process – which includes the couple’s custom designs – at her studio in the Riverworks district’s Toy Factory building. “I set up a little brunch and we have coffee and mimosas while they’re digging the freshly cast rings out of the plaster. They get to throw the gold in the furnace and watch me do the pour,” she says. “It adds to the experience of working with a small, independent jeweler.”
“Ring wearing is a part of our culture that we take for granted. How we do weddings, and ring wearing, is totally specific to our [American] culture,” Wilder says. That said, there’s room for your own twist. Recently a couple on their second marriage requested rings also be made to give their children at the ceremony. “That’s making a new tradition,” she says. “It just really tugged at my heart.”
ADVICE: “Budget for your ring. That’s the thing that stays with you,” says Wilder. “The wedding night comes and goes.” But a ring? “You wear it on your finger and carry it with you.”