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Technology is a double-edged sword

As a teen growing up in the 80s, if someone told me I’d be working in a career that involved lasers, computer-aided design and 3D printing, I probably wouldn’t have believed them. But while the rapid acceleration of technology should make our lives as jewellers easier, it often adds pressure and heeds hefty expectations from today’s consumers.

Technology is a double-edged sword; it helps jewellers use their time more efficiently, but on the flip side, your consumers know this, and they aren’t stupid.

Your customers know that technology assists you and, in turn, they expect their jewellery to be produced at a much faster rate. The idea of waiting six weeks for a special make is not well accepted anymore. We now live in an age of instant gratification.

For an old-world industry not accustomed to technology like CAD/CAM, this can present a number of issues. While consumers expect us to turnaround jewellery at a faster rate, we as jewellers struggle to keep up with ever-shortening deadlines. Corners can be cut and mounting pressure results in increased potential to make mistakes. Mistakes reduce our profit and at the end of the day, waste our time.

The pressure to maximise both our time and profit definitely adds an extra layer of stress to manufacturing jewellers, many of whom have had to incorporate technology into their work merely to keep their heads above water. I’ve seen jewellers in the past who wouldn’t have even considered looking at CAD/CAM technology if they hadn’t been forced to shorten their turnaround time.

"Technology is a double-edged sword; it helps jewellers use their time more efficiently, but on the flip side, your consumers know this, and they aren’t stupid"

CAD/CAM does benefit jewellers in that it vastly cuts down time, and attitudes towards technology have also changed among jewellers who may have been weary to change at first. Initially, when CAD/CAM came onto the scene, a lot of people looked at it as a bit of a fad, something with an interesting quirk, but certainly nothing you could make money with.

Over the years, we’ve seen a lot of those jewellers who have become clients of ours and purchased the software and the hardware tooling to take advantage of its efficiency. While there is still a stigma around technology, particularly among traditional bench jewellers, most businesses are starting to embrace the software after witnessing its benefits.

By harnessing CAD/CAM technology, jewellers can create a prototype and make alterations quicker than ever before. It is so easy for us to now say to our customers, “I can make something thinner or thicker, or make these changes to your specifications”.

In being able to show our customers a prototype, we are also enabling clearer communication, which ultimately speeds up production, as there is less room for error and miscommunication. Not only are these jewellers attempting to save some time, but they are also saving money by not wasting metals as a result of simple mistakes. They’ve already won.

There are aspects of jewellery manufacturing that technology cannot replace though: our connection with our customers, and the niche skills that contribute to producing beautiful jewellery.

The best jewellers are dexterous across both technology and their bench skills; neither will ever completely eradicate the other. You can design something in CAD that looks engraved, but it’s never going to have that sharp line that you’ll get from an engraver.

If you don’t know how to do something, then seek advice. One of the benefits of modern technology is social media. We jewellers once used to keep our skills to ourselves, and now we have an opportunity to share our knowledge and seek advice.

There are plenty of workshops around nowadays, whether it be online or in person. We need to keep those niches alive so that our customers can get exactly what they desire.

At the end of the day, there are always going to be those people who don’t necessarily like the idea of technology and moving forward in that manner, but it doesn’t mean that the jeweller who does utilise it is any less of a jeweller.

It’s a classic conundrum, and regardless of the changes to technology in the industry, one thing has not changed: having artistic integrity is one thing, but it doesn’t pay the mortgage.

Name: Anthony Nowlan
Business: Evotech Pacific
Position: Director
Location: Petrie, Queensland
Years in the industry: 26 years

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