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Choice of design skill


A friend wishes to compare 2 different approaches to jewelry design,
from the point of view of getting a job with a retailer. I haven’t
done retail for a long time so I’m not able to advise. One approach
being considered is the traditional pencil/paint/paper that’s
available with a few weeks training (much more detail than the 3 or 4
day rendering classes) and the other is CAD. The question is this: if
you had to choose between traditional jewelry art/design and CAD,
assuming the total costs are about the same, which would you choose
to prepare yourself for a retail position. Or, if you’re a retailer,
which skill (one or the other but not both) would you prefer your
front-end people to have: traditional or CAD?

Thanks, Bill


As a retailer who uses CAD, I would say the front end would benefit
from art/design, the back end needs to do CAD.

From the perspective of an employer, instructor of both Design and
CAD at GIA and now the jewelry cad I would want all
the experience in a retail salesperson one can get.

Truth is, they probably would be better at one than the other. If you
are looking at something for a retail selling tool being able to
produce a piece in 3D cad in the amount of time to make a sale would
be very difficult. I would opt for the customization program by
Stuller and Gemvision to quickly be able to open up many designs and
have it produced in 5 days or less. In conclusion, if you go the
artsy drawing technique with colored pencils and the person is good
at drawing it is a cheaper way to convey the message. Assuming the
total costs are the same would be a mistake. The CAD route will cost
you more on the front end but will produce better and faster results
in the future. Think of it this way: You make one model in CAD and
send it to be grown or milled. While that is being done you are
working on the next design.


I would prefer CAD and that they bring their own machines.



A friend wishes to compare 2 different approaches to jewelry

I think it takes both to some degree. I never painted back before
CAD but I did use the old decal system and even colored pencils. I
work a lot for the trade and I have a customer that still uses the
decals and sends them to me to show what he wants.

In my opinion, the CAD/CAM now days is nearly a must for employment.
I do it every day and wouldn’t have half the customers I have without
it. BUT… I think first you have got to spend some time at the
bench making some jewelry… and some time at a desk hand drawing.
Its easy in CAD/ CAM to design things that simply will not work. Its
hard to know the difference between what will and won’t work if you
haven’t designed and built by hand. I have a customer that
consistantly sends me cad drawings that he wants me to cut master
waxes from with gallery work of .1mm in width… sometimes even
SMALLER!!! They look like 4 x 4 fence post on the screen but in
reality they are impossible to cut & produce.

SO… I say encourage your friend to get and maintain a feel for
both methods. If he/she sits down and draws & then produces a few
designs by hand…success in CAD/CAM is much more likely… and a
danged site easier!!!


If Its CNC We Do It
DeArmond Tool


Hi Bill,

I maybe have a rather oldfashioned approach, but I would definitly
go for the traditional method.

In my opinion, drawing skills are essential to our trade I even
consider it as an asset.

In the workshop, the eye-hand discipline of drawing is an important
skill to develop and maintain. Moreover, it always seemed to me that
drawing my projects somehow prepared my hands to actually make them,
like some sort of rehearsal or warming up… In addition, I usually
think that if you can’t draw it… you’ll probably have a hard time
making it.

But your question was about a retail situation, and I would say that
it depends on the type of retail itself, the image that the shop
carries and the skills you (or your freind) already have.

In a business point of view, what would the customer expects is
probaly what I would go for.

Does the shop have a contemporay and stylish display, do the
products show smooth surfaces, clean cuts, geometrical designs…
Then I’d go for CAD If the shop is more of a “traditionnal” type, if
the work features intricate natural patterns and figurative themes
then I’d go for hand drawing. CAD designs are precise, modern and
clean, but they are also impersonnal and “cold”. Unless one really
masters the design interface the result can be quite dull.

When it gets to intricate patterns, CAD can become rather time

So it depends on what you are selling and who you are selling it to.
Will you have to do sketches with the customers? Would you be
efficient et fast enough to do the same job with a computer? Sticking
to client’s expectations is probably the best advise here.



Hi Bill,

I think, from the retailers standpoint, your friend being able to
sketch is more valuable than being able to render using CAD
software. But if you are concerned about the goldsmiths career and
that persons’ future earning potential, then proficiency with CAD
CAM is likely more valuable.

When communicating design options and possibilities to a customer, a
designer can come up with 4, to scale, colored pencil variations to
show for approval in about an hour. If using CAD software, the
designer needs to build the model using the software before it can
be rendered, that can easily take an hour just for one design.
Additionally, a big part of most retail jewelers custom work business
is making wedding bands for existing engagement rings. Rending 3-4
options to show the customer using CAD requires building the model of
the existing engagement and then building wedding band models before
rendering them. That is so time consuming that it eats up much of the
profit on the custom job. Much better to show them 3-4 nice drawings
and then have your CAD person build the model from the selected
sketch, then mill or grow the wax/resin to show for approval.