Jul 29, 2023
Milwaukee man made own class ring, now sells custom jewelry designs
After borrowing a Dremel tool from Cudahy High School (with permission), Banner Ream began crafting his first custom ring. Now, Ream, 20, has been running his own business for a year and a half called
After borrowing a Dremel tool from Cudahy High School (with permission), Banner Ream began crafting his first custom ring.
Now, Ream, 20, has been running his own business for a year and a half called Chromestar Designs.
His first customer was a friend who wanted a promise ring for their girlfriend. It was this friend who coined the name Chromestar Designs — because it sounded cool.
However, it was Ream’s realization that class rings can get expensive that initially got him interested in building his custom bands. He wanted to create something Cudahy-themed as a less expensive option for himself and others. What he created was a "Packer Pride" ring made of tungsten carbide with a purple and gold glow stone inlay including white pearl, deep space pearl and azure blue opal.
While one of his first goals was to embody the memories of four years of high school in one ring, Ream is finding new ways for people to keep fond memories close to them, including those of beloved pets. He has already crafted a ring that contains his recently deceased cat’s ashes so he always has a piece of his feline friend with him.
He calls them “pet memorial rings” and plans to start offering the service in mid-November on his website, www.chromestardesigns.com. Ream is finalizing a kit that can be mailed to customers and back to him with the ashes. He has also been in talks with a few area veterinary hospitals and said they are interested in promoting the product.
Ream expects these rings to cost around $225. His standard line ranges from $60 resin rings into the mid-$ 150s for most bands with a few standout options, such as a deer antler with rose gold liner, costing $225. Size does not affect pricing.
Ream also offers earrings on his site for $32 a pair, a venture he called "a side project."
Ream creates his rings in a corner of his basement. He typically uses lab-grown opal, color pigments and strontium aluminate glow powder. The pigments are mixed with the glow powder and inlaid into a channel in the ring with synthetic opal. The mixture is impregnated with cyanoacrylate to turn the inlay into a composite, and the rings are finished with hand sanding and polishing.
Each ring takes about 2½ hours to complete.
Some rings also make use of carbon fiber, antler, stones, and white and black ceramic among other materials. Ream sources most of his materials off the internet — primarily a supplier in Canada. All rings are made to order and every listing on his website started as a custom order.
Ream said his goal is to make each ring something “great, unique, durable and handcrafted” and not “grossly overpriced,” saying some competing businesses charge upward of $400 per piece.
Ream grew up in Cudahy and graduated from Cudahy High School. Now he lives in Milwaukee, close to the South Shore, and attends UW–Milwaukee. He’s still deciding on his major.
“At heart, I’m a Cudahy resident,” Ream said. “I would do anything to give back to that high school.”
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Ream said his experience in metal shop class and engineering courses helped give him the skills and knowledge needed to craft his handmade jewelry.
“I wondered what I could do at home and quarantine gave me enough time to pursue it,” Ream said.
After making a few rings with the Dremel, Ream purchased a drill press. He said it wasn’t needed, but it makes ring-making much easier.
“With a little creativity, you can make most any machine work,” he said with a laugh.
Most of his sales have been word-of-mouth and via social media like Instagram and Tik Tok. His customers are primarily from Wisconsin and Michigan, but he also sold multiple rings to a woman in Utah and has a customer in California.
To those considering turning a hobby into a side hustle, Ream suggested to “just believe in what you do” and “find friends that support you.”
“Put your faith behind it and others will follow,” he said.
Ream has always loved making things. As a Boy Scout, Ream said he won every Pine Wood Derby he participated in. He also tried forging knives for a time but found it wasn't his forte.
“I have an idea in my head so let’s make it happen," he said. "I kind of mostly just like a challenge.”
One of those ideas is to eventually open a storefront.
Anyone interested in ordering a custom ring can reach Banner Ream at 414-759-8142 or [email protected].
Contact Erik S. Hanley at (262) 875-9467 or [email protected]. Like his Facebook page and follow him on Twitter at @ES_Hanley.More:More:More: