By Ninita Sporseen
Lorraine Tunca's wedding band looks like an array of sparkling stars. Different-sized diamonds are set into the yellow gold in a seemingly random pattern. Fifth-generation jeweler Naim Tunca designed the stunning ring with beauty and practicality in mind: she wanted something eye-catching but smooth to the touch.
"My husband is very gifted when it comes to jewelry," Lorraine Tunca said.
The Tuncas opened a jewelry store in Spokane's Garland District after relocating from Santa Monica, Calif. When you step into Lorraine Fine Jewelry, you won't find trendy or generic designs. Instead, you will see highly personal pieces, crafted by an artisan for an individual. Naim Tunca both designs and creates jewelry on site.
"We do a lot of custom order and it is a strong part of our business," Lorraine Tunca said. "We can be detail oriented because we have the time."
Custom-designed jewelry is particularly important for today's young-adult generation, said Mallory Schuyler, an employee at Tinman Gallery. Young people are used to being able to display individuality through their possessions, including iPods and computers. "Unique is definitely good," Schuyler said.
At Lorraine Fine Jewelry, winged insects are one example of Naim Tunca's exclusive designs. Small, round diamonds delicately encrust one insect's wings and tail. Another has an oval emerald body, round ruby eyes, and an abdomen made with a silky, deeply colored Tahitian pearl.
Pieces without wings also catch the eye. Many hold center stones surrounded by petal-shaped gold and small diamonds or colored gems. Each set of petals is different in shape and arrangement. Naim Tunca made a set of earrings with full, round petals that entirely surround oval rubies. Another pair makes quite an impression with elongated, tear-shaped petals placed above and to the sides of deep-blue-sapphire center stones. A broach displays two small flowers with oval ruby petals and round diamond center stones.
Creating one-of-a-kind pieces is important to the Tuncas, but individuality is only one part of the equation. The couple is concerned both with the quality of their products and the relationships they cultivate with their customers, Lorraine Tunca said. The small-store atmosphere allows customers at Lorraine Fine Jewelry the opportunity to interact directly with the store owners and jewelry designers.
"There is no pressure when you come here," Lorraine Tunca said.
The pressure-free environment fosters trust, a vital step when purchasing fine jewelry as opposed to making less-costly or less-permanent purchases, Lorraine Tunca said. The customer cares how the piece is crafted, and she believes customers come back again because of trust.
The Tuncas try to ensure that each piece will be suitable for the customer's purpose before it is crafted. Some colored stones are too soft to use in a setting that will be worn every day. For instance, emeralds work best in pieces that will be worn for special occasions, or pieces that are not likely to experience significant wear and tear. Lorraine Tunca said she and her husband strive to be upfront about these concerns with customers, and in turn the customers take their suggestions seriously because of their vast knowledge and experience.
Lorraine Tunca said she believes they can anticipate potential design challenges because of their long history in the jewelry business. Quality is not something they are willing to sacrifice in their work.
"As an individual store, you stand up for whatever you sell," Lorraine Tunca said.
Variety may be the best way to summarize what is sold at Lorraine Fine Jewelry. The designs available vary from modern, classic or vintage pieces to bejeweled geckos and insects. If none of the pre-made designs are fitting, the customer can have something made that is distinctively their own, like Lorraine's band.