Saturday, April 16, 2016

The Luxury Manifesto

About a week ago, an industry magazine published yet another doomsday-style article regarding the meager prospects to be found in the Millennial consumer pool for diamond jewelry. They had produced market research to substantiate this; painting Millennials as broke, undiscerning hipsters fried by technology, more concerned by their electronics and ''experiencing life'' than in the luxury that is jewelry.

While I have heard some people from this generation (and the one before for that matter) take this stance and discourse on the matter, I hardly find that this interpretation of valuable market data constructive by my fellow industry authors. Let's look at it this way:
"Millennials graduated into tough economic times. Compared to our parent’s generation, we have more debt, less job prospects, and are less likely to own a home than the previous two generations”.
Market research was not needed for that nugget of wisdom. We have all felt how our wage-earning does not match the expanding cost of living. That said, it would not be the first generation to feel this kind of austerity. If we consider for a moment the generation that grew up in and worked through the Great Depression, these were people who knew disastrously dire circumstances which involved no job prospects, and home-owning was no where in sight for most; that's not even counting the looming threat of WW2. However, as the world emerged  out of this time, people did not lose the desire to own luxurious things. In fact the prosperity that would come post-WW2 gave birth to the jewelry trend that we know as Retro.
Big, bold and beautiful: Typically Retro jewelry. Photo courtesy of
If the industry could survive these austere times, it is because like everything else, it has learnt to evolve. Like our previous counterparts, we will have to evolve to accommodate our changing market. If your consumer market is undiscerning, perhaps it's worth developing programs and campaigns designed to show people the value of owning jewelry; that costume jewelry is just that, for costumes.
Costume jewelry. Photo courtesy of
If your consumer market finds diamonds too formal, perhaps it's time to consider opening up to colored stones, and not just the ''big three''. Perhaps rather than focusing on jewelry as the gift you receive in the context of an anniversary for instance (remember, the relationship spectrum has greatly changed over the years), you can develop campaigns that are about making someone feel special just because, or even doing something nice for yourself.

Just because.... Photo courtesy of
If you say that the consumer market is increasingly craving authentic experiences, why not offer it? I've personally seen a growing interest in custom design jewelry (mostly refurbishing old jewelry). Why is that? Because rather than picking out something ready made, they can have a direct hand in creating something totally unique while making use of something that is already close to them (usually an heirloom). For good measure, you can even offer to create a 3-D design of the item you will create thanks to CAD-CAM technology, making good on this generation's obsession with electronics.
CAD-CAM technology at work . Photo courtesy of
I hardly think that the Millennial consumer pool is ringing the death toll on our industry. Rather than looking at our current market with nostalgic sighs, asking why it couldn't be more like the one that came before; more proactively we should be telling ourselves that we'll just have to get more creative.
Are you in?

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Taking the Holes Out of Porosity

I came across a fairly recently cast ring the other day for evaluation (insurance purposes). As I was assessing its quality, I noticed some visible pits on the shoulders and on the prongs of the ring that I thought warranted some discussion with the client before going on with the appraisal. I already knew what this was, but there was something he could confirm for me. When I got a hold of him, I asked if the jeweler had done the work quickly. "Oh yes, he answered. Turned it around in less than a week for me!''. Bingo. This client had a classic case of porosity on his ring, very likely due to the casting which was done too quickly.

In more extensive cases such as this one, porosity can compromise the structure and the setting of the item, and would require recasting. Photo courtesy of  

What is porosity exactly? If you've ever made a cake, you'll know there are ingredients used to make bubbles in the batter that allow it to rise. While this is done intentionally in cake, it is not in jewelry. In recent years, casting precious metals into molds and waxes has become the most popular form of manufacturing jewelry. Roughly 95% of gold jewelry is produced this way and I can understand why: it's cost effective, less labor intensive, and successfully replicates designs (which is perfect for ring refurbishment).  
An example of surface-reaching pits. Possibly just superficial porosity. Photo courtesy of
The downside to this method is that the high temperatures used to obtain molten metal also allows the metal to absorb gases (usually hydrogen). If the work is too hastily cast and forces are not applied to drive these bubbles out, the bubbles get trapped in the cooled material. Mild pits in jewelry are in the best of cases a blemish  that can be repaired fairly easily. In extensive cases which involve full bubbles, cracks and folds, or where these pits or bubbles have gathered in crucial structural parts of ring, this can be a sign of a structure that is inherently weak and may break in time.

Filling porosity pits in a ring. Photo courtesy of

A proactive solution to porosity is also to avoid using wax molds such as this one which have defects which can in turn produce cavities in the finished product. Photo courtesy of
So what can be done about porosity in jewelry? Well this is all really dependent on how extensive the porosity is. If there are only superficial blemishes like pits, some jewelers will elect to fills the pits by soldering gold into them and then to rebuff the overall piece. If it's uncertain how extensive it is, the prudent jeweler will propose to recast the jewelry altogether. My personal experience has been that the reputable jewelers that detect these defects in their jewelry will opt for the recasting, as it means peace of mind for both the jeweler and the client. As for my client from earlier, I proposed that the client see his jeweler to make these changes before appraising his ring. His jeweler took care of it free of charge.
Have you ever experienced this kind of issue with your jewelry?