“With this ring …” three little words, simple words but oh, the depths of emotion and love that holds. Probably the most poignant, intimate moment is when those words are spoken, and a band of precious metal and precious hopes is slipped on.

Shouldn’t that be as special and unique as the two people giving and receiving those rings? A Topsham couple thought so, and created fingerprint rings … rings with a fingerprint permanently engraved on them.

Brent and Jessica Williams, or, Brent & Jess, as their customers know them, are artists who attended Maine College of Art specializing in metal work. At one point Brent was making custom jewelry for a Midcoast jeweler and Jess was a stay-at-home mom. Then Brent was laid off in 2009, and Jess said they had to re-group.

“We had a room of tools and benches, and always had a side business going on, but we were, like what can we do?”

Jess said the thought once crossed Brent’s mind about how cool it would be to put a person’s fingerprints on a ring. Now that they had to do something, the idea came back up again. So Brent went to work in their garage, as Jess looked at the shipping and marketing angles. They compared notes, thinking their market couldn’t be just the Midcoast of Maine.

“So we thought if we could ship them all over the world, the market is going to be bigger,” said Jess. “So we listed the first one on Etsy. And immediately, people started buying them.”

Brent figured out a way, which is now their patented trade secret, to capture that print and engrave it on metal. Their market grew as their business model changed to mail orders, instead of customers physically coming to their Topsham location.

Brent uses a high-powered microscope for some of the intricate work, such as setting diamonds in the ring. Photo by Ron Sorg

Soon they had customers in Singapore, Australia, the United Kingdom, and all over Europe, as well as across the U.S.

Not every couple can work together like this, but they agree they’ve got this down to a system that works. “Brent does most of the making,” says Jess, “and in order to remain married, and to love each other and love being in business together, we needed to set boundaries.”

So, Brent works primarily in the shop while she manages the sales/business end.

“There are times when we overlap, but we do try to keep separate,” she adds with a smile.

Their business “Brent & Jess” also does pendants with prints/signatures on them, as well as memorial pieces, with maybe the print or signature of a parent or loved one now gone (many mortuaries have those prints on file).

But if you’re thinking wedding rings in this season of love, visit www.brentjess.com, check out the different styles, fill out the online form and email it back. Working with Jess you determine the precious metal and style.

She sends you a kit, and after following instructions you send it back. Several weeks later you’ll have something totally unique to you and your future spouse. It can contain one print, or two, with the prints on the inside or outside of the ring, maybe with a small message written inside. It’s totally up to you.

“A lot of times,” says Jess, “someone will order a ring that has both the signature and fingerprint. People love to write little handwritten notes to each other on the ring. They keep it secret, so it’s a surprise when they get their rings from each other.”

“They want to be a part of the process,” says Brent. “That’s a very unique feature, to be able to be involved in it.”

“It’s very romantic and a lot of people really connect with it,” adds Jess. “And especially since there’s a handmade element … they’re just thrilled that someone has put a lot of care into their rings.”

She considers it a tiny sculpture, something the couple both love about metal work. “We would have never known that we’d go in the direction of wedding bands, but it does definitely speak to what Brent finds really exciting.”

The outside work on this ring is done. Next is putting on words inside with a laser. Photo by Ron Sorg.

“It does speak to how we both think,” Brent chimes in. “And it kind of is full circle with how we work and think about our surroundings and incorporating our life into our work.”

Their art is worn by thousands of couples, about an average of 2,000 new rings a year over nearly 10 years. They’ve even had some of their earlier customers coming back to add the print of a child to their rings.

With three young children of their own, Brent and Jess Williams get it, and love how their work celebrates what they themselves feel for each other.
“We set ourselves apart because we stay true to who we are and what we like to make,” says Jess.

And that, as Brent said earlier, is indeed coming full circle.

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