Has Technology Killed the Jewelry Industry?

Has Technology Killed the Jewelry Industry?


via Beth Wicker.

I’m not sure that it’s that technology has killed the jewellery
industry, I think it’s more a matter of the fact that today’s
generation is finding different ways to make their purchases,
including technology in that decision.

Almost all big and in addition high end jewellers have a tremendous
online presence and offer a great experience when people view their
websites. There are a lot of mom & pop jewellery shops that aren’t
able to bridge this gap, that’s where the problem lies. Most times
it’s because of budget but often times it’s also a matter of not
understanding the technology and what they are expected to present
their clients with to make the sale in today’s day and age. This
includes the use of CAD software, which by many is still considered
a death tool to many in the jewellery industry.

My view may be a little biased since I am considered a Millennial
but to some degree in order to continue to survive in any given
field you need to advance with the times and that’s what a lot of
old school jewellers are failing to recognize.

Cassandra make a good point here.

Tim and I dinosaurs. Very old school. However we happily use the
internet and social media to promote our services. The internet
changed everything for brick and mortar stores. We’re wholeslae only.
The galleries and stores we do custom for that are successful, have
left the old business model far behind.

Jo Haemer

Yeah, 'tis an issue. I got my wife an Ipad for Christmas last year…
OK, so how do we deal with it?


I don’t believe you can leave out the changes that have occurred in
some countries in people’s discretionary incomes. 50 per cent of the
labour force has moved downwards in income share and as we all read,
the top 1 percent makes more and more. High priced custom work will
likely survive with some changes in marketing and partnering. It is
the made by hands jewelry makers who sold to the middle income group
who are probably having the most difficulty making a living through
their art and craft. Just some thoughts to open up the perspective -
the jewelry people make is still being appreciated - but many have to
choose Walmart because they are already having trouble providing
basic needs to their children. When I read that people are graduating
from uni and spending years in internship with profit-making
corporations, yet find themselves not hired by that company in the
end, the point comes home dramatically that we live in a different
world than our grandparents.

Barbara on a sunny and very cold day on the island.

Betteridge’s law of headlines

Barbara has it all correct.

Basically, the percentage of the people who can purchase fine
jewelry is dwindling, thanks to the last 40 years of voodoo

It’s a mathematical fact that the middle class, who is many times
more productive than the American worker before the 1970’s, has had a
chilling stagnation of wages, (while the GDP has skyrocketed).
Combine that with skyrocketed medical costs and a skyrocketed cost of
living for most parts of the country, it’s a miracle that sales of
jewelry is still where they are.

The middle class is the backbone of the economy, once wages for the
middle class come closer to the skyrocketed GDP, they will be able to
spend more of the money.

The middle and lower classes have a much higher propensity to spend
than the top income brackets. Paying them a living wage would
enormously help our economy and then more jewelry would be sold.
Everyone knows this in Economics 101. But the people who bought and
paid for congress don’t want policy to undue the 40 years of the
shift in wealth to only the top 2 percent of Americans.

There is not enough time to show all the graphs that would explain
this better.

I think things will get better soon because big changes are bound to
happen for the better,


Maybe I’m naive but it seems to me like if you’re good at making
things that people want, the wide use of technology can be almost
irrelevant in your life. That’s because the marketplace is so
incomprehensibly huge and the financial needs of one individual
craftsperson is so relatively tiny that you can carve out almost any
sort of niche you can imagine. Granted, refusal to participate in use
of modern technology can make you an outlier. But at some point that
can actually make your work more desirable, look at the Amish. It’s
that ‘old word craftsmanship’ that many people are willing to pay
more for, not the shallow but flashy tech.

I am a firm believer that, as a talented craftsperson, if you can
figure out who you are and how you want to live and work, you can
then design a successful business around that, with or without tech.
Almost without exception.


Regarding sales of luxury items, I have been reading “The Coat
Route” about the making of a $50,000 coat. It traces the “growing” of
the fiber (vicuna in Peru), and on, with fascinating history of
workers, artisans, tailors, and even button makers for the clothing
trade. Just the part about button-making in the 1500’s…! For an
insight into who has the money and what they are willing to spend it
on, it is eye-opening. One is torn between the problems of finding
young people willing to spend years learning their trade (does that
sound familiar?) and the sorrow that people spend so much on some
rather over-the-top items while so many suffer in poverty. Also, it
is interesting to see where the millionaires are nowadays, at least
the ones willing to try to out-spend their rivals. I can understand
where the oil sheiks, the Indian and Chinese, get rich, but the
Russians? Where do they get all their money? Anyway, it is an
interesting book.

Noralie Katsu

I am a firm believer that, as a talented craftsperson, if you can
figure out who you are and how you want to live and work, you can
then design a successful business around that, with or without
tech. Almost without exception. 

It’s that “Of course I can do it!” attitude that’s so very important

  • almost above any skill or talent a person may have. If you believe
    you can, you almost certainly can, but the converse is also true - if
    you think you can’t before you even get going, then almost certainly
    you won’t, however skilled you might be. Attitude, attitude,


I’m coming at this from a newcomer’s perspective, but it seems to me
that technology is enhancing it, not killing it. For example, I find
CAD useful. I kind of dig it, in fact. It’s c ertainly not a
universal tool, but it’s avalid one. So are a lot of other
technologies. If I’ve learned anything atall, it’s that the quality
of the materials used, attention to detail, andthe quality of the
end product are what ultimately matter the most. Well, and obviously
the ability to do all of that in a manner that allows people to make
a living. Doesn’t really matter how good your work ultimately is
ifit’s so expensive and time-intensive to produce that you can’t
price it tosell and make a living. Then you’re a starving artist, or
a hobbyist, not a professional who has to pay attention to the
bottom line and pay bills every month.

I’d be a complete idiot to limit my viability by summarily
dismissing the advantages that various technologies offer to
designing and manufacturing jewelry. On the other hand, I can’t
dismiss the people who’ve built successful livelihoods on the
traditional skillsets. Unfortunately I don’t have several lifetimes
to master them all, much as I’d love to. But seriously–unless
you’re a craftsman who has built a niche that deliberately shuns
everything except the primitive hand tools first utilized centuries
ago–how many jewelers and artisans don’t use some form of
technological innovation? Useof tools and techniques is a
technological spectrum. Anybody who uses thisforum is using a
high-tech tool to exchange ideas. Anybody who uses a flexshaft,
rolling mill, casting setup, etc. (the list goes on), is using
technology that at one time was the new thing, if you compare it
to the alternative of forming every piece of jewelry completely by
hand using no tools that require electricity.

I’d kind of make the argument that jewelry is two-fold: it’s about
the end product, AND it’s about the innovation and development of
the tools to makeit. If you can adapt something and make it work,
then it’s not killing thejewelry industry; it’s enhancing it. It’s
the people who summarily reject innovation and refuse to adapt
themselves in any way whatsoever who’re shooting themselves in the
foot and making themselves obsolete. Innovation, development of new
techniques and technology, and enhancement/refinement of existing
traditional techniques are the very heart and soul of the jewelry
industry, otherwise we’d still be boring holes through
stream-tumbled rocks and stringing them on a strip of leather to
wear around our necks.

Just my two cents. Obviously, your mileage may vary.

I think I don’t understand the question. I think what is technology
as well as the jewelry industry must be defined better for the
question to be answered. By me at least.

I am a metal crafter and I have never considered myself a jeweler
although I make jewelry. What constitute technology for me are a
torch, hammer, anvil, some basic machinery, and a pencil and a pad
of paper. I do no casting or CAD design work. I will use heat and
metal and a degree of good artistic sense and on occasion I make a
really nice piece of artistic jewelry.

The bulk of my business is in sterling silver jewelry made in the
American Craft Tradition. And unless someone insists on a piece made
in gold my costliest hand craft made product is just under $400.00
dollars with the average piece selling at about $70.00. I sell at
quality craft shows as wellas in my kitchen shop and I do well
enough for my present needs. And I suppose if I were retired from
the 40 hour world I would have to re-evaluate what actually is well

I have seen my business rise and fall with the economy but I fail to
seehow technology helps or hinders my business beyond what new tool
I purchase to help in my manufacturing process.

Don Meixner

Don. I just saw a 3doodler for the first time. Neat! and they claim
no computer attached. I have made delft clay models using my hot glue
gun. For $99, maybe I will try a 3doodler. Since my shop is a lot
like yours, I enjoy the fact that there is no digital technology in
it. I made my living managing digital technology and going to my shop
was a way to get away from it for a while. While I am sure that there
are some who do, it is difficult to run a business without using a
computer to search for and order tools, equipment, and supplies,
maintain business records, create invoices, pay taxes etc. I also
maintain my website and store and manipulate pictures on a computer.
Since I worked in academic computing, it didn’t take me long to
conclude that the use of digital technology is, or can be, another
form of creative expression as well as a productivity tool. I think
that it is the potential for creativity in technology that appeals to
artists who work in many different types of media including metal.
You and I don’t yet use it to do what we do and don’t have to, but I
am open to the possibility. Rob Meixner

Rob Meixner