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Tradition, technology and horse manure

Change is never easy, especially for businesses that firmly believe in ‘tried and true’ traditions in the face of disruptions. Floeting Diamond inventor IAN DOUGLAS explains why adaptability is vital to succeed in modern times.

In 1898, an international urban planning conference in New York debated the major problem of horse manure pollution in major cities around the world. London was predicted to be buried under nine feet of manure in 50 years’ time.

The world was in crisis. The solution was apparent, but not acknowledged. By 1912, the problem had been solved, automobiles had replaced horses.

The auto industry has progressed enormously since then. Science and engineering gave us vehicles that are highly advanced, safer, and sophisticated. Electric vehicles (EV’s) have become the latest development and autonomous ones are just around the corner.

Some scorned the new technology, others embraced them. Some still prefer Model T’s, while others go about building the next Tesla. There’s nothing wrong with either approach…

It’s an exciting and rapidly evolving industry!

Has the jewellery industry evolved as much? Not really.

I like to joke that we’re still driving around in Ford Model T’s but we’re providing a choice of colour. Whilst there have been wonderful developments in technology, much of the industry has been slow to take these up.

In manufacturing, we now have CAD, laser welding and engraving, 3D scanning and printing (a joy for setters profiling unusual cuts of gems), pneumatic-powered tools, ultra-sonic burnishers, and many others.

Some scorned the new technology, others embraced them. Some still prefer Model T’s, while others go about building the next Tesla. There’s nothing wrong with either approach as both have their merits and consumers will decide which they prefer most.

In jewellery manufacturing, I believe a combination of traditional crafting skills and modern technologies are the ideal way forward.

It’s imperative that teaching traditional jewellery techniques should exist, such as the ability to hand forge, pierce, hand carve a wax, file and emery correctly, how to solder properly - are all crucial skills.

All of the modern technologies available are simply additional tools in the craftmen’s toolbox.

By embracing them and thinking of new designs, incorporating new methods and ways of connecting and framing gems means a jeweller can create more options and styles for clients.
These technologies enable us to undertake the most amazing repairs and restorations of antique, old and worn jewellery.

Laser welding enables seamless repair in areas that were never thought possible. Who doesn’t wince at seeing old repairs where lead solder or glue has been used? I shudder at the memory of repairs I’ve seen over the years and the subsequent desecration to the item’s value.

By adding these new technologies into your workshop you can increase your skills, satisfy more clients, and grow your customer base accordingly

There is now a vast array of technologies to help run businesses. We now have fantastic software systems that enable us to record our client’s information and preferences, record stock levels and movements, re-order and replace stock efficiently and communicate directly with clients. Would any of us go back to a manual ledger?

As an example, we recently received an online enquiry from a customer for a pendant as an exact copy of his online avatar.

We now have the ability to design and craft jewellery, photograph it, post it online and tell the story of its creation. We can reach an unlimited audience at the touch of a button.

There is now a vast array of technologies to help run businesses. We now have fantastic software systems that enable us to record our client’s information and preferences, record stock levels and movements, re-order and replace stock efficiently and communicate directly with clients. Would any of us go back to a manual ledger?

As an example, we recently received an online enquiry from a customer for a pendant as an exact copy of his online avatar.

We replicated the image in CAD, worked out how to inlay the different colour baguette gems into the 3D glasses and also figured out the different enamels to make it work. 

The piece was cast in sections and required setting the gems separately before connecting to the enamel face. Laser welding completed that task.

Yes, it was possible to completely create the piece by hand, but it takes considerably more time and risk than with the technologies available.

The result was a piece precisely finished to the customer’s requirements and budget - an outcome that he was extremely pleased with.

He posted it online, which got a huge response internationally and provided great exposure for our company, all because of old-fashioned customer service, along with talented craftspeople and modern technologies.

We now have the ability to design and craft jewellery, photograph it, post it online and tell the story of its creation. We can reach an unlimited audience at the touch of a button.

Those employing social media in their marketing and all that with good old fashioned, individual client communication have seen their businesses grow accordingly.

Our client base extends worldwide, but it’s easy to connect with them in the US or Europe as it is in an adjacent city. Emailing hand-drawn designs, evolving them in CAD, chatting on Zoom, delivering exactly what they see - on time and on budget - are all possible with the tools on hand.

The future is exciting. VR, AR, AI, NFT, the Metaverse, crypto currency are all here now and ready to improve the crafting and delivery of our jewellery to a rapidly changing market.

Will we embrace it, or will we be buried under a whole lot more manure?

Name: Ian Douglas
Business: The Village Goldsmith
Position: Director
Location: Wellington, NZ
Years in the industry: 48

 

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