I have been ushered into an inner sanctum in the heart of the Diamond District of 47th St, NYC. And my life may never be the same.
I first stumbled upon Leon Mege and his custom platinum ring designs online. And even from images online, I could tell that his craft was at an entirely different level than most of the rest of the jewelry business.
To say that Leon Mege makes rings would be akin to saying that Rembrandt made paintings. He can make a ring for a ridiculous-size center diamond, or make an exceptional setting for a .75 carat if you want. If he does make something for you, no one in your circle is going to have a ring remotely in the same league. Particularly if you are looking for an Asscher cut, Cushion cut, or a Halo setting, I can truly say “nobody does it better”.
The designs themselves are exceptional: a certain savant in their proportions, just the right curve here and bend there. His colored gem pieces show an amazing dexterity of form and color combination.
Beyond the designs, the execution is what truly sets Leon’s rings apart. Each ring is fabricated by hand–no molds. The proportions are worked out, then the stones all laid out, drilled, set, beaded, and finished. It takes a cadre of the most skilled craftsmen in his studio/workshop in New York some 6 weeks to make one (one!) bespoke ring.
While I was in the studio, I got to see some exceptional one-of-a-kind pieces, including the ring below. This ruby ring belongs on someone’s finger (for some reason I think it should be in LA, but maybe I’m wrong). Each “petal” started out as a sheet of silver metal. Then it has to be molded into its undulating leaf shape, and the pattern of the stones is laid out. Each tiny hole for each stone is drilled, then the rubies are set with tiny pave beads on top, and the bottom of the leaf is azured. When he started the project, Leon did not know for sure how many stones would be used, but somehow, the number of rubies came out to exactly 500. And the number of diamonds came to exactly 50. Serendipity of symmetry and balance…
Leon arrived in New York City in 1988. Trained in jewelry fabrication in his native Russia, he was employed in the jewelry trade literally on his second day in the US (that should tell you something about his ambition and work ethic). He got his Gemology degrees from GIA, and eventually started his own shop here on 47th St. Up until about 2 years ago, he was the secret weapon for the most prestigious retailers in NYC, making rings for celebrities and some of the most influential glitterati in the city. But his designs deserve a name, so a couple of years ago he shifted the business from a trade-only custom shop to a private-appointment atelier selling directly to the end customer.
The shift to almost-retailer has been a very good one, giving Leon the name recognition he needs and customers direct communication with the man himself. A remarkable number of details can get lost in translation from customer to retail salesperson to the craftsman. This way, the customer gets EXACTLY what they want.
If you are interested in having Leon and company make a ring for you, keep in mind that this is not a traditional store. You need to follow some rules of engagement. You make an appointment. You may not see a ring at all during your visit, just images of designs. He will set your own stone, if it is appropriate for the mounting you want and can be set safely. If you need a diamond, especially a significant or unusual Cushion cut or Asscher cut, you can speak to Perry Chen, the Diamond Concierge of the business. Perry can find you the right diamond–at an extremely competitive price–and you get the synergies of working with them from sourcing the stone to the finished ring.
This is a craftsman whose name should be in the company of Faberge, and the original Cartier. Years from now, his pieces may be listed by name in auction catalogs and command those values. If you have Leon Mege make a ring for you, you can count yourself among celebrities, collectors, and connoisseurs.