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It’s a world of metal madness

At 47, I don’t class myself as old. Certainly I’m old to my 12 and 13-year old boys because I’m not up-to-date with current YouTube celebrity videos or memes. Theirs is a different world but I am happy in the world of jewellery manufacture and still feeling pretty current.

What does make me question my age is my jewellery language. In the old days I could order “18-carat stock gauge and it wouldn’t crack and split upon the first roll”.

Once upon a time, I wouldn’t find “gas bubbles in a new 18-carat white gold bar” and when I was a younger jeweller, I never saw “new platinum come with massive folds that needed peeling apart before I could start”.

Today I struggle to find consistency in materials that were predictable up until 15 years ago. Am I simply too fussy for my own good or is there something wrong with the materials we are now being supplied? My guess is the latter.

A good job needs good materials; foundations of anything are important.

I have watched the CAD world take off in a big way but will shout for a few years longer that current-blended cast material is too brittle for lasting quality.

I choose to proceed in a classical way and work with stock gauge so I can guarantee the durability and quality of my work.

When calculations are done to quote a job, it is with very fine tolerances of waste. Let’s be realistic – precious metals are expensive, right?! My experience has taught me that I do not need 50 grams of stock gauge to produce a simple four-gram ring and I am proud of this skill.

"A good job needs good materials; foundations of anything are important."

Clean, newly-refined material has always been a joy to work with; it’s contaminated metals that are a pain. The deal now is that newly-purchased stock metal does not react in a joyous predictable way but more like the contaminated mystery blends that come from customers presenting old rings to be melted down. In order to work with contaminated, rogue-behaving materials, a greater quantity is needed to allow for all the inherent cracking and failure.

The second issue with the currently-available spate of designed metals is that trimmings and lemel are not capable of taking to re-melting like a decade ago. The new generation of gold refiners are kept mighty busy processing third-rate product that artificially generates work from products via inbuilt design failure.

All too often, material that would once respond to my gentle, skilled caress is now demanding a warrior to whip the beast into submission. I have become a proverbial animal trainer and it’s not good enough to be told, “Stop complaining. You will get your money back on the material you have left over when you refine.”

There are not 100 gold stock suppliers out there so the industry seems a little sewn up from my point of view. After the financial crisis of recent times, strong and sturdy metal-supply businesses have been forced into amalgamating, selling up and/or cutting corners. Suppliers are fast becoming run by accountants trying to make a dollar on the stock market, not metallurgical experts selling a true product for steady income.

My complaints to suppliers seem to fall on deaf ears – I recently expressed my grievances to one salesperson and they replied, “Oh, it has always been that way and we rarely ever get complaints.”

I was then handed a complaint form from a nearby drawer piled high with completed, neatly-aligned complaint forms that I imagine to be a never-ending line of jewellers venting dissatisfaction.

What indeed can be done? Well, it would be magic to again find a sympathetic, respectful, trade-minded metal refiner with skilled and detailed product knowledge and a view for creating lasting relationships. I am ready and waiting for you, whoever you are.

To the rest of you metal suppliers, you are not doing yourselves any favours by doing what you do – it opens up the market to someone who can fill the space you have just created.

As I sit here gazing into my beer after a long, busy day, perhaps that mystery person with the passion for quality and longevity of their trade is indeed closer to home than at first glance. In fact, it might be someone reading this right now... or it might just be me.


NameJames Tyler
BusinessJames Tyler Jewellery
Position: Director
Location: Brisbane, QLD
Years in the industry: 30



















Sunday, 21 April, 2019 04:13am
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