The most meaningful gifts that I have received in my life are those that my close friends and relatives have made for me. There is something very special about opening a present and knowing that not only did that person spend their time searching for just the right things to go into it but they also crafted it with their very own hands! It's something like the difference between a home cooked meal and a restaurant one: subtle but undeniable.
One of the important things to keep in mind when you are designing jewelry for someone is their personal taste. I know it may sound obvious but how many times have you received a gift and thought, "Well, it's nice enough but isn't this more like something they would wear, eat, listen to, watch, etc," It's very easy to get carried away when you are designing something and think, "Oh, these delicate diamond beads look gorgeous with these elegant sapphire briolettes! I 'll use them together." However, when you are designing for someone who would prefer chunky amethyst nuggets beads and huge keishi pearls even though the piece you design with the diamond beads and sapphire briolettes might be stunning they might not appreciate it quite as much as you do. Therefore the first thing to consider when you are designing jewelry is, "What do they like?"
If you know them well you will be able to recall their favorite colors. Do they go for anything dramtic and really wild? Or are they more into subtle and delicate? Or is absolutely everything they own neutral? Or do they follow every new fashion? If they love drama and color you might think of some of the more colorful gemstones that come in larger sizes like blue chalcedony, fluorite, lapis, kunzite, turquoise or ruby zoisite. If they really love delicate and elegant then precious stones will win their hearts. Try ruby, emerald, sapphires or for the more adventurous: spinel, tsavorite garnet, tanzanite, apatite, tourmaline (one of my personal favorites!) or diamond beads if you really want to wow them. Don't be deterred by the expense of precious stones. You can always go for a few briolettes and make a nice necklace by hanging them from an open link chain or you could get a pair for earrings. If you're designing for someone who loves neutrals you can go with classic pearls or any of the many varieties of agate, mother of pearl, quartz or moonstone. Fossilized coral is also a lovely neutral with interesting patterns: perfect for pendants! If they follow the latest fashion it's really fun to get them something that few people have ever heard of like hypersthene, chiasolite, bronzite, kunzite, fuschite, or hemimorphite stone beads.
There are so many stones to choose from that the most challenging part is narrowing it down. I find that once you have chosen the stones you think they will like best the designing part takes care of itself. You've already thought about their personal style so it's easy to come up with something that will work for them. After you've picked out your beads and designed your piece the really fun part begins: giving the gift and if you've done your job right watching their eyes light up when they open it. By designing something yourself for your friend or relative you get something really special. Not only do you get to give a wonderfully personal gift to someone you love; you get the enjoyment of watching them wear it and cherish it for the rest of their lives. What could be more wonderful?