Saturday, June 11, 2016

Tremors and Upheaval

My buddy Mel of Regal Imports once complained that Swarovski was selling glass as though it was diamond, while our industry was selling diamonds as though they were glass.
The trend over the past several years has been an unfortunate race to the bottom for the manufacturers of jewellery and, while I can understand the need to make a profit in a monstrously competitive business, it seems to me that the magic and legacy has been lost. Jewellery used to be (and in many cases, still is) an important part of the great events in life. It was not something purchased lightly and was expected to last, if not for generations, at least for a lifetime. This would no longer seem to be the case in mass-market jewellery.

With the popularity of white gold came what we call “beige gold”, an alloy that was conducive to large-scale mass production, but entirely unpleasant in colour. This lead to widespread acceptance of rhodium plating to make the jewellery acceptable to the public. Customers take it as given that their white gold rings need to be “dipped” periodically to maintain the colour, and are actually being told by sales staff that white gold that does't require replating does not exist. This is misleading if not fraudulent. Now, I understand that this practice has led to a secondary income stream for retailers that they would be loathe to give up, but it erodes the trust that has been a mainstay of the jewellery industry historically.

The recent development of CAD design in the industry has cut costs and design time for manufacturers, but has also accelerated the use of micro-pavĂ©. Not being in the repair industry, this phenomenon hasn’t affected me overmuch, aside from much mean-spirited hilarity, but I am terrified of the day when these rings start falling apart in great numbers and the remount business is confronted with a multitude of near-invisible diamonds that a customer expects to be reset securely into a new piece.

CAD has also led to innovative techniques, such as “Invisible Setting”, which further promotes the use of marginal stones in what amounts to disposable jewellery. When these invisibly-set stones fall out, which they inevitably do, they are all but impossible to replace properly and securely. My friends in the repair industry hate doing “No Guarantee” work, but are forced into it by the inherent insecurity of the modern setting techniques. We like to stand behind our work, but if the basic structure of the piece is compromised, there is little recourse.

Granted, I've drifted away from the initial subject of diamonds, but I get all enraged sometimes, and my mind wanders. I'll come back when I'm more focused.

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