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Back to square one

I am closing a small bricks and mortar. Basically breaking even.

I am middle-age with experience in most areas of the trade. I could
take a few months and a few thousand dollars to start over but it
would have to be successful. There wouldn’t be any money left to try

To increase employability, here are some ideas I’ve had:

–buy Matrix 7 and spend 6 months self-teaching.
–buy Countersketch and spend 6 months self-teaching.
–learn professional level pencil/paper sketching and design.
–get formal training in making appraisals.
–specialize in one area and get training in it–not sure what.
–learn lapidary arts to be able to repair damaged stones.
–get training in jewelry repair.

If other Orchid members wanted to stay in this business and were
starting over, what would you think of doing?


Hi Stefan, I have had a brick and mortar for over 30 years, and I
would have to say with out custom made and repairs it wouldn’t have
been a success. With metal prices as they are, you have to be able
to fix the old sentimental and re-set the stones they have and want
to wear for years to come. The new tect stuff is nice, if you can
afford the price to get up to speed. Butnothing is like old world
craftsmanship of keeping the family jewels wearable.

Janine in Redding CA, where today was a really good day at the shop.

Hi Stefan,

I’m sorry that your venture didn’t pan out, how long did you have it

Anyway to your question. I can only speak from a local perspective,
but I’m sure others will add some helpful comments.

In Australia, to be employable, it seems the push is towards
CAD/CAM, these skills are looked upon very favorably. It doesn’t
matter what level jewellery business, from mass retail to high end,
it seems to be the same.

What you need to do is look in geographical area where you want to
work and ask hypothetical questions like :- “If you were to employ me
what would you be looking for?”

Naturally you would ask first if they don’t mind answering questions
about career guidance, and for heaven sake choose a time when they
aren’t busy.

Most people are more than happy to give career advice.

Best of luck regards Charles A.

Starting all over?

what an interesting question?

So how would I do just that?

with 45 yrs experience in designing, making and marketing my own
work direct to the public, I wouldnt need any of all that stuff you
describe. Just some 1/4in dia copper rod, a hammer, a 3rd hand ie a
vice, a hack saw, some engineers files, and a simple block of steel,
like a piece of railroad, and a 1in plumbers propane torch and gas
tank, some old pliers and some old battery acid. Withing a week Id
have forged up and finished say 50 bracelets for sale at a flea
market at $10.00 each. That would enable me to buy some sterling
silver rod, and I repeat the process sell then for 10 times as much.
simple really.

Then Id get some more kit, like a belt sander/polisher to speed up
the shaping and finishing and removing cockups!.

Improve my display, and some more bits of steel to simplify the
bending up of the cuff type bracelets.

Sell you work every week, theres no substitue for reacting with your
customers. Someone will want something a little different, youll be
there next week with it made, having taken a deposit first, to cover
the metal cost.

Keep making keep selling every week, dont fabricate anything yet,
that can come later.

So go for it.
It can be done.

If they were my options I would op to learn to do repairs. I have
learned that during down turns in the economy that people spend
money on repairing what they have over buying something new, or they
redesign what they have now to save money. If you know how to repair
you can make new jewelry when the time is right.

Thank you for your ideas and advice.

I have another question; specifically about CounterSketch Studio. It
promises ease of use with almost infinite flexibility. So it might
be fine for the first shop that has it but what will happen when
"everyone else" has it too?

Will the margins on custom work go down because it isn’t really
custom any more? How will goldsmiths compete with unlimited designs
that are available to anyone, especially when the “custom” items are
all made off-shore?

I remember when diamond certs were new to the retail scene. At that
time, diamond margins were still high and the certs just made
everything easy and very profitable. Didn’t last long.

Now I’m wondering if the same erosion of margins will occur with
mounts and melee because they’ll be easily shopped by buyers.

Maybe at some point CounterSketch will be available on customer’s
iphones and they can just order a ring without the bother of going
to a store to do it.

Maybe at some point CounterSketch will be available on customer's
iphones and they can just order a ring without the bother of going
to a store to do it.... 

I think it’s very easy to worry about business evolving away from you
and that it’s good to be conscious of changes in the industry. But I
also think that if you do good work in a timely fashion, can
communicate you design ideas and important details well and build
good (if not strong) relationships with your customers, you will not
be threatened by whatever new thing comes along. You build a
reputation as a good craftsperson/artist and people come to you
because they want you to do it, not a computer. You sort of operate
in an ever expanding bubble, safe from outside influences.



for one thing you can get stones recut inexpensively in thailand. so
that may be an answer- take on large retailer’s re-cutting and sub
contract it out while learning faceting. which is as easy as turning
an index to match pre described patterns, or eventually your own.
Second, things are leaning towards 3D printing, lasers and cad design
( though i don’t like Cadd esign so much as it looks like retailer’s
stuff in general- the software has some advantages if you set stones
like keeping them ina database you can pull up and set in a virtual
shank/mounting as needed. l like 3d printing for making quick
masters, and the nexus laser is a great addition to the studio at
under 2K! its a desktop model and works fine enough. MAKE magazine
has tons of tech stuff applicable to jewelry making with which you
can even MIY.!! I made a great 3D printer using solvent and heat
proof spools of plastic for making masters that can be cast from
easiy and water soluble ones as well that will dissolve in a mould-
really cool for using metal clay powders to make direct castings!

I highly recommend your learning hand sketching though despite what
anyone may say- what happens when you have no power for an extended
period- i have been in that situation and knowing how to do every
operation in the studio with non-electric tools keeps you working
when others can’t do a thing!!! There are some great books on design
for jewelers out there that go into a lot of detail on renderings.
just don’t fall prey to the ridiculous stick-on dots of plastic in
different sizes to represent stones- a coloured pencil works
better!!! With a brick and mortar store though I am concerned that
you don’t know repair- in fact i can’t understand how one can own a
store and not know how to fabricate jewelry and repair it as well.
nonetheless, there are a number of excellent books on repair (i think
there is even one OOP text free with google books that is a
standard)- the real trick is to identifying previous repairs and
having the customer sign a waiver if it has been repaired before you
tackle a job. Many won’t accept silver repair- another thing I just
don’t comprehend. so that may be something you want to specialise in
and offer to the larger retailers as well as independents that don’t
do silver work. and there’s replating- a great money maker with a
little investment if you DIY. so ther you have it. . rer .


I know it sounds like science fiction, but a home 3D printer isn’t
too far off.

The premise is that you only have to buy the designs, and not the
physical items.

For example you like a pair of Nike’s, you download the pattern off
the net, print the shoes then wear them.

When I say it isn’t too far off I mean about 8 to 10 years.

How a goldsmith can compete is in the design, and charging a little
more for the construction. This has been hashed out many times on
this list, and it can come down to the “sell”.

Advertising something that is made by a craftsman, using time
honoured traditional methods, blah blah blah etc. Will attract
customers wanting your products.

Here’s another example :-

  1. For sale: A pattern welded knife, with a red mallee burl grip,
    with silver, and antler fittings.

  2. For sale: A carefully crafted pattern welded knife, with patterns
    reminicent of wood grain, the wood grain pattern of the blade is
    reflected in the exotic twists and patterns in the rare red Mallee
    timber grip. The knife is enhanced with hand crafted antler and
    sterling sterling silver cross guard and end cap.

Which would you feel inclined to buy, 1) or 2)?

Regards Charles A.

Maybe at some point CounterSketch will be available on customer’s
iphones and they can just order a ring without the bother of going
to a store to do it. Um, Hello! Finally someone gets the end-game.