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Articles from CAD / CAM SERVICES (60 Articles)

Image souce: Van Cleef & Arpels
Image souce: Van Cleef & Arpels

Jewellers enjoy the best of both worlds

It’s hard to not get caught up in doom and gloom, especially in an era of rapid change and business disruption, however, COLEBY NICHOLSON believes the jewellery industry should rejoice the past.

I have been 'out on the road' recently visiting retailers, bench jewellers, suppliers and manufacturers. I don’t get out as much as I’d like throughout the year but, unlike the jewellery industry, publishing slows down in December so it gives me a chance to catch up with people before Christmas.

Interestingly, many of my beliefs about the industry were reconfirmed when I caught up with various people, namely that jewellery retailers and manufacturing jewellers are in an enviable position compared to almost all other retail categories.

Of course the industry has undergone enormous change in the past 10-20 years but the seismic shifts that have impacted most other categories – branding and consumer choice; manufacturing and the supply chain; the internet and online shopping – have had little bearing on jewellery.

Yes there are some retail categories that have never changed, such as hairdressers and barbers, but they offer a service not a product. Even then, many service businesses have been impacted – would you open a video store tomorrow?

Or consider independent hardware stores, sports stores or chemists. Are there any left? Yes a few but most are chain stores and/or franchises. I could list other retail categories that don’t resemble anything of the past and yet, jewellery retailing is largely the same business model as it once was and always has been.

When it comes to jewellery there’s no doubt that the consumer has changed, the product mix has changed, consumer choice is out of control and rents have skyrocketed but the basic premise of jewellery shopping hasn’t altered – the customer still prefers to adorn themselves in a unique way.

They seek something that reflects their personality and style and are not looking for an item that is exactly the same as the next person’s. An iPhone is an iPhone, running shoes are running shoes and the latest computer tablet is the latest computer tablet – all items are the same as everyone else’s. How they’re used might be different from one person to the next but the item itself is the same ... and that’s the way people like it.

Jewellery is different. People don’t want exactly the same item as their friend and this was the point that struck home on my recent visits – we, as an industry, still make stuff. And it’s beautiful and creative.

For example, imagine a woman going into a fashion store these days and saying, "I like that dress but not in that colour. How long will it take you to make me one in royal blue?" Yes, there are still tailors in business today, but how many?

Our industry still makes stuff at a local level. Where jewellery is concerned, the customer can still buy a highly-individualised product and service, which is increasingly important in this digital, non-personal age.

Even better, people still get their jewellery repaired and remodelled. Who repairs shoes these days or gets an electric appliance fixed? It’s often cheaper to just buy new items.

I have believed for some time we are experiencing a shift back to the old days of jewellery where people want something unique and individual. The important thing is that the business model still accommodates it. Unlike the average fashion store or shoe shop, jewellery retailers can still control the manufacturing process if they choose. Maybe they no longer employ their own 'benchie' in-store (for a number of reasons) but there is certainly one nearby.

I am positive some of the older readers might remember a time when they had two, three or more tradesmen in the shops but that’s not really the point. The fact is that the industry has evolved but we still operate in the same business model of the 'old days'.

Forest for the trees
This brings me back to my recent visits to various jewellery businesses. To some extent I believe many people can’t see the forest for the trees – they think the industry has only changed for the worse when really it is still pretty much the same, which is incredible. Most other industries – like mining, publishing – have been smashed by the internet and don’t even resemble anything from 10 years ago, let alone 20.

I remember the first time I saw a square drawn on a computer screen. The computer software program was called McDraw; it was easy-to-use, intuitive and provided extraordinary and yet simple efficiencies. While drawing a square on a computer screen would be considered ho-hum today, this was in the cut-and-paste days when print media relied upon traditional methods.

It was a time of typesetting, bromides, scissors, metal rules, scalpel knives and glue, and the people who practiced those tasks were called compositors. Back then, one had to use a special ink pen called a Rotring to draw a square around a photograph for publication – if you pressed too hard or allowed the ink to run, you would have to start over again.

The finished artwork then went to the next tradesman, the lithographer, to prepare the film to 'burn' the printing plates. The day I first witnessed an Apple Macintosh draw a perfect square to surround a picture, I realised that my industry was about to undergo a radical change from which there was no return.

Strangely enough, a printer’s art room looked very similar to a jeweller’s bench area but they don’t exist anymore. Over the next decade, the rise of desktop publishing, or computer-aided design, slowly transformed every aspect of print media to the extent that compositing work was no longer needed. Typesetting houses disappeared, colour separators closed down and eventually even the film guys lost their jobs when direct-to-plate technology was invented. Now we have digital printing 'presses'.

None of this happened overnight; it took 10-15 years for computer-aided design and manufacturing (CAD/CAM) to change the publishing industry to the extent that it no longer resembles the past.

Traditional versus new
Since then almost every industry has been impacted by, and undergone, radical change from top to bottom as a result of computer technology. Yet it’s only been in recent years that CAD/CAM has really started to gain wide acceptance in the jewellery industry.

OK so this isn’t necessarily true of large-scale manufacture but when it comes to local jewellery retailing and manufacture, much of the work is still done the old fashion way. I’m not inferring that’s a bad thing. In fact, I think it’s a great thing – it’s the very reason why I believe jewellers will not disappear like many other tradespeople.

Jewellers should promote that; their mantra should be: made by me.

Now it seems CAD/CAM is finally starting to gain a significant foothold in jewellery. In fact, it struck me that jewellers are in an enviable position. For example, one high-street store I visited contained no branded jewellery – the store is renowned for designing and making its own right there on the premises. The jeweller is his own brand. Can you imagine running a sports, electronics or white goods store without someone else’s high profile brands? Forget it.

Unlike almost all other industries and retail categories where there is no choice between using a traditional or a new way, jewellers today have the best of both worlds – they can choose to maintain traditional handmade craftsmanship or adopt new CAD/CAM technology. Best of all, they can use both.

When it comes to jewellery, consumers often prefer unique pieces and digital technology can only benefit jewellers to deliver this, unlocking new design ideas and facilitating the use of manufacturing techniques that were once too expensive and complex for general use. Importantly, new product offerings will do much to keep demand buoyant, especially among a new generation of consumers.

CAD/CAM can reintroduce consumers to bespoke and personalised design services and manufacture specifically for one customer.

How many other industries can still do that?

What’s more is that all the people I recently visited are not only proud of their profession but take pleasure in knowing that it still exists today in pretty much the same form as it always has.

Jewellers need to promote that to consumers, they should shout loudly, “Made by me!”

Rejoice in and celebrate the old world while accepting the new (digital) world because if you can’t see the forest for the trees, you most certainly will not see the gold lying on the ground.

Coleby Nicholson • Managing Editor

Managing Editor • Jeweller Magazine

Coleby Nicholson is publisher and managing editor of Jeweller magazine. He has covered the jewellery industry for more than a decade and specialises in business-to-business aspects of the industry.

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Wednesday, 16 October, 2019 04:50pm
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