Personalize a gift to make it special

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Your photo here: Among some of the items Thomas' Photographic Services in Homewood can personalize with photos are iPhone covers, mouse pads and ornaments. | Supplied photo

As you look for unique gifts to give this holiday season, consider getting personal.

Adding personal touches, such as a photo, birthstone or special engraving, can turn a nice gift into a special, one-of-a-kind memento.

And it doesn’t have to break your budget, even if you’re buying jewelry.

At LD Jewelers, at 8073 W. 95th St. in Hickory Hills, it doesn’t cost any more money to engrave a special message on a ring, watch or locket, according to Michael DeGrado, son of owner Len DeGrado.

Or, you can go a step further and have a photo or drawing made into a piece of jewelry. Michael DeGrado explained that the jewelers will make a mold of the photo or drawing and make a piece of jewelry — whether a charm, pendant or something else — from that mold.

“The cost depends on how much the item will weigh after removing the mold and wax. It could be as little as $100, depending on how much gold is used, too,” DeGrado said.

He said the process only takes a couple days to complete.

Bracelets featuring a variety of beads that reflect a person’s personality, including shopping bags, purses, and collegiate beads, are the rage right now. LD Jewelers carries bracelets by Reflection, which DeGrado said are a fraction of Pandora’s cost.

LD Jewelers can even solve the problem of who gets great-grandma’s heirloom ring. DeGrado said they can make an exact replica, even if they only have a photo for reference.

Photographic memories

Speaking of photos, they too can be turned into personal holiday gifts, according to Angela Thomas. Thomas operates Thomas’ Photographic Services, a gallery and portrait studio at 18705 Dixie Highway in Homewood, with her husband, Colin Thomas.

“Because we’re photography-based, we can do a lot of different things with the photos we take, such as use them for iPhone covers, mouse pads, ornaments and more,” she said.

Thomas said she and her husband usually use photos they take in their studio or elsewhere for the gift items, but will also use photos that customers take themselves.

“We’ve even done group photos on Thanksgiving. We’re not afraid to work holidays,” Thomas said. “It’s part of the service we provide.”

And, while the photos for gift items are usually of the family, Thomas said that can include the family pet, whether it’s a dog, cat, snake, hamster or other furry friend.

With ornaments, she said customers choose two photos, one for the front and one for the back of the ornament. She said the photos are printed directly onto the surface of the ornament, which is made of scratch- and fade-resistant material.

Kids can have their photos taken with Santa at the Homewood studio from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on the four Saturdays before Christmas – Dec. 1, 8, 15 and 22 — and, with the exception of Dec. 22, parents can have these photos added to ornaments in time to be placed on this year’s tree.

Thomas said the ornaments cost $23 and are ready in about a week.

Thomas Photographic also can create photo calendars and holiday cards and restore old photos. The business includes an art gallery as well, featuring photography by the Thomases.

More information about LD Jewelers is at or at (708) 599-0001.

More information about Thomas’ Photographic Services is at or at (708) 960-4265.