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Technology used in fine jewellery vs hand fabricated


#1

I am writing a 3000 word essay for a school project here in england
and hoped I could get some opinions from you guys :slight_smile: I am looking at
how technology has helped and hindered the manufacture of high end
fine jewellery. I am not just talking cad cam, but lasers,
sintering, 3d printing etc. I really just want to hear everyone
opinions on firstly what they consider technology in jewellery
manufacture as i’m sure this varies a lot, but also on how useful
this technology is, for example can CAD ever come close to matching
the work of a master craftsman? I would also love to hear what your
favourite technologically advanced tools are and why :slight_smile:

Thank you so much
Cheers from England
Lucy


#2

You might want to look at the archives for this, we killed that
horse several times over just a little while ago.

John


#3

Hi Lucy, All of the technological advances that apply to our
business are just tools that have been put in hands of the
metalsmiths who could afford them. If you put any tool into the
hands of a talented and skilled craftsperson and you’re likely to
get some good work, but if they are not so talented…you know what
you get.

The big thing that advances like overnight deliver, laser welders,
CAD/CAM, bench microscopes, job tracking software and the like have
done are to speed things up and increased productivity for the
businesses that use them. Once any of us decides to make a living as
makers of jewelry, we find that we need to produce and sell enough
of that jewelry to make that living. Anything you can do to increase
your productivity while maintaining your quality at price that you
can afford is hard to refuse. For me, the laser welder has been the
biggest time saver and worth every darn penny. CAD is not as big a
time saver in my experience, and aniffy purchase because of the cost
vs savings. CAD is expensive, takes a lot of time to learn and has
updating costs while CAM is also expensive, takes time to learn and
maintain the equipment and has continuing maintenance costs. You
combine those costs of time and money and it often becomes too
expensive for the individual jeweler to justify buying (but not
using). The product however, CAD vs hand-carved, is equal in the
hands of skilled users (IMHO). The bench microscope is something I
use on almost every job and consider indispensable, If I magnify my
work as much as I can, light it as well as I can (Wolf LED light),
do that much better than my customer will or can, and I think the
work looks good, the customer will always be happy.

Mark


#4
 You might want to look at the archives for this, we killed that
 horse several times over just a little while ago.

It’s always a bitter discussion :wink: CIA


#5

Thanks Mark! great answer, and exactly the unbiased stuff my essay
needs - may I quote parts of your response?

Cheers from Thailand
Lucy


#6

One of the things people forget about is one of the prime reasons for
the uptake of technology.

It saves gold, and that’s a pretty significant factor with the price
of gold as it is today. Businesses are looking at technology for this
particular reason.

When you make a piece of jewellery by hand you have a significant
amount of filings, you don’t have as much waste with the CAD CAM
approach.

One of the things they are teaching us is to be all-rounders.
Traditional hand fabrication and CAD CAM techniques.

Regards Charles A.


#7

Modern technology in design and fabrication requires everything to
be resolved to the smallest detail at the design stage. The
manufacture then impliments the design as programmed. Sophisticated
alogarithims can filter and sort enormous data but they cannot
replicate the foibles of the human brain and the human hand. I think
the best example of technology is the manufacture of computer chips.
The design is aided by computers and the manufacture is done in an
isolated and automated environment where perfect copies of the most
intricate articles ever seen are made.

Hand fabrication leaves scope for infinite adjustments while keeping
the desired result in focus. The final outcome should exceed the
original design parameters because of intuition…art…the imprint
of the human hand…if that’s what is wanted. No human can
hand-fabricate a computer chip alone. Yet humans value both perfect
copies and individual expression.

This is not a competition, this is plain evolution where all things
interact with some disappearing as others appear, and some continue
unchanged regardless.

Alastair


#8
You might want to look at the archives for this, we killed..... 

Thanks John, Im hoping to bug some helpful guys for a few quotes
that I can use in my assignment though - a lot of the old stuff is
from in-active members who I can’t get hold of. That and I am
specifically looking for opinions from people that use both
traditional and technological advanced methods - not just one
beating up on the other.

Thank you for taking time to respond though.
Lucy


#9

Lucy- The short answer is, it depends. It depends on any one’s
opinion of what is fine high end jewelry.

The clients Tim and I have expect everything we make for them to be
hand made to the highest standards. We are dinosaurs but very highly
valued ones to certain folks.

On the other hand I know folks that think anything made from gold or
platinum with expensive gems is fine high end jewelry regardless of
the quality of the craftsmanship or how it was made.

It not just the sale price that determines if it’s high end fine
work.We almost never make more than one of a kind so CAD CAM is of no
use to us. We hand forge our platinum ingots before fabricating and
azure out behind our pave, 'cause that’s the way we roll. Pun
intended. When about once a year we need something lasered, we go to
a friend’s shop. No point in spending 25 grand on something we use
once a year. I do use a water torch that I just love for very fine
work. No microscopes yet, but I see that coming since we both have
aged eyes.

I do encourage all of my students to learn as much as they can about
CAD CAM, lasers etc. because it’s important to have as many skills in
your chosen field as possible. I tell folks that if time travel was
available and Tim and I were able to be transported back a thousand
years, we’d feel perfectly comfortable in an ancient shop.

I can without hesitation spot a CAD CAM piece from a hand fabricated
or carved one. Just like I can tell the difference between a CZ and a
Diamond without a loupe and a real rotating Leslie Hammond Organ from
a synthesized one even though I’m pretty deaf. Can the general
public? Probably not. But then I never let what the general public
thought determine my path anyway.

Have fun and make lots of jewelry.
Jo Haemer
timothywgreen.com


#10

I have been hesitant to join this discussion. After all, we have
been over it many times. Alas, the monster of modern gadgetry has
raised it’s ugly head once again, so it has to be put down.

So called technological innovation did nothing except enabling
jewellery manufacturing, using unskilled labour. It promoted bad
taste. It allowed used to be shoe salesmen to browbeat customers to
accept inferior quality by using terms like CAD/CAM and etc…, the
meaning of which they do not understand themselves. The things got
so bad that some will accept absolute anything as long as word
technology is used somewhere in description. The list can go on
forever, but I am running low on barf bags, so it is time to stop.

Leonid Surpin
www.studioarete.com


#11
One of the things people forget about is one of the prime reasons
for the uptake of technology. It saves gold, and that's a pretty
significant factor with the price of gold as it is today.
Businesses are looking at technology for this particular reason.
When you make a piece of jewellery by hand you have a significant
amount of filings, you don't have as much waste with the CAD CAM
approach.

I must disagree, in the hands of a skilled goldsmith the amount of
metal lost to filing swarf and polishing (needs to be refined for
reuse) vs casting is much lower. A fabricated piece where the
surfaces are produced by rolling, forging, drawing etc. needs much
less surface removal to become a finished piece. With casting one
must remove a substantially greater amount of material as all
surfaces need to be sanded, filed, and polished to remove the
casting skin and it is even worse with RP models due to the rough
surface of the initial model before investing and casting requiring
even greater amount of metal removal. In manufacturing casting and
CAD /CAM are used because they require less in the way of a skilled
workforce and they are faster.

James Binnion
James Binnion Metal Arts


#12
When you make a piece of jewellery by hand you have a significant
amount of filings, you don't have as much waste with the CAD CAM
approach. 

[] Handmade methods is the most efficient of all, but one must know
what he/she is doing.

Leonid Surpin
www.studioarete.com


#13
So called technological innovation did nothing except enabling
jewellery manufacturing, using unskilled labour. It promoted bad
taste. It allowed used to be shoe salesmen to browbeat customers
to accept inferior quality by using terms like CAD/CAM and
etc.'(Mr. Surpin) 

I would like to join in to this discussion and make myself the
unpopular guy - of course I do not care. At one time, a goldsmith
was a highly valued profession and master goldsmiths could earn
excellent wages. But it took a lot of schooling to get there. There
was the apprenticeship, which is invaluable and for which there is
no alternative. You had to show talent to get accepted as an
apprentice - a willingness to work until you have it perfectly
right, nothing else is acceptable and the talent to get there -
and you had to show intellectual and artistic promise - the
expectation that, down the line, you would come up with interesting
designs of your self, perhaps even developing or improving upon some
techniques. It takes between 6 and 10 years to get there.

Now every Mary and Joe can buy her/himself some books and start
selling stuff after two months. It is not per se the technology
which did this, although it drives the process, but capitalism. We
see more ‘hobbyists’ every day because capitalism makes decent,
full-time, well paid work into a rare commodity and so what are
people going to do? It is a very sad situation. Thousands upon
thousands of pieces are made and presented for the sale, although
they would never pass the scrutiny of an examination of first year
education. This multiplication of inexcusably bad and uninteresting
pieces led to a world of its own, lectures are given, by people who
are themselves unqualified to teach, websites are set up, congresses
are organised - nothing has been more detrimental to the infection
with bad taste than this.

Due to cultural relativism, even common sense suffers, for who am I
to say what is interesting if you hit a rusty nail into a ring and
call that interesting. It certainly is ‘innovative’. It makes no
difference that I have many years of schooling and you have none. We
are all equal now. The worst piece imaginable is as good as the best
I have ever made, it is just ‘different’ and, besides, why do not
let the market decide? The market, this mythological shrine of
capitalism consisting of well-informed, rational actors which are to
be found absolutely nowhere. Or, take the accompanying view, that
CAD-CAM is ‘just a tool,’ a false statement which is repeated ad
nauseum - in the old days we had a very famous philosopher here in
Bordeaux, his name was Jacques Ellul. He wrote some very interesting
books which are translated into English, one is his Technological
Society - but who still reads this stuff? We are all too busy
propagating myths, hoping to make a buck - exactly as Ellul
explained long time ago.

Of course, the mainstream of goldsmithing has been debased too -
from a rare, highly respected and delicate craft, it became an
industry of cast or die struck sheet or wire adorned with a low
quality diamond, because capitalism makes us all want one - it’s a
sign of love for our significant other etc., it is a sign of love to
spend up to two or three monthly wages for something which has no
soul, no meaning and no beauty. And since goldsmiths have to live
too and so they went for it. It is the same old story of mass society
destroying skill and refinement. The ultimate victim of it is
society as a whole, but its members do no longer realise it.

Another victim is the authentic goldsmith, like some of my esteemed
French and Italian colleagues and good friends - first rank
goldsmiths and real artists which are very well known but who did
not even sell one piece sofar this year.

Jacques Pinaud


#14
I can without hesitation spot a CAD CAM piece from a hand
fabricated or carved one. 

The reason for that is that it’s often comparing apples and oranges.
Just because someone has a hoe and a wheel barrow, that doesn’t make
them a great gardener (I’m living proof of that). Too many CAD
operators just aren’t very good. But there are plenty of unbelievably
talented jewelers who spent many years hand carving and fabricating
their work, who then took to using CAD as another tool in their shop.
Those people still have the same high standards and quality they have
always had, so when they use CAD it must look indistinguishable from
their own hand carving work.I believe that if you were to have a
world class hand carver and a world class CAD operator each make the
same complex piece, they would each be amazed and impressed with the
others results.

Mark


#15

There is only one technology, which has become important to build
fine jewelry over the last twenty years. It is not CAD/CAM (this
produces not fine jewelry) and I also don’t talk about using a laser
(nice machine to do repair jobs - but never need one to build
jewelry).

I’m talking about using of a microscope in combination with air
assisted gravers. This is by far the gorgeous development for all who
are professional goldsmiths and want to do the best in setting and
engraving.

Mario Sarto


#16

I agree with James. I used to produce a range of hand forged jewelery
in gold. The shapes and forms, flowing and organic, were achieved by
experienced hammer work. My polished hammers gave the finish, just
like the silversmiths of old, a quick flick on the mop and a gleaming
hard surface appeared. The only waste was in trimming to make joints
but even then not always required. No, technology deskills and makes
things achievable to the unskilled and untrained. It removes the
personality, the Artist/Craftsman can achieve in his or her work.

Regards
Hamish


#17
Of course, the mainstream of goldsmithing has been debased too -
from a rare, highly respected and delicate craft, it became an
industry of cast or die struck sheet or wire adorned with a low
quality diamond, because capitalism makes us all want one - it's a
sign of love for our significant other etc., it is a sign of love
to spend up to two or three monthly wages for something which has
no soul, no meaning and no beauty. And since goldsmiths have to
live too and so they went for it. It is the same old story of mass
society destroying skill and refinement. The ultimate victim of it
is society as a whole, but its members do no longer realise it. 

Loved your whole post. Brilliant, sadly true…there is gold in your
post, if some can put their self serving agenda and defensiveness
aside. A lot to ask. Much to gain. Mediocrity loves company, I think
it is called “support”. You and Lenoid become targets.

Richard Hart G.G.
Denver, Co.


#18

Hi James,

I see what you’ve done here, and it was partially my fault for not
going into further details. I didn’t want the same circular argument
cropping up.

To the details:-

When anyone makes a piece of gold jewellery you always buy more
metal than is required in the finished piece, at any skill level
there’s lemmel, that’s a fact.

If you have a CAD you send it to Hong Kong, you’ll have your piece
of jewellery finished to a high polish in your hand very quickly, and
you only buy that gold, the waste is not your concern.

This is why businesses are investing in CAD, because it is far more
cost effective than hand made jewellery.

Regards Charles A.


#19
Another victim is the authentic goldsmith, like some of my
esteemed French and Italian colleagues and good friends - first
rank goldsmiths and real artists which are very well known but who
did not even sell one piece sofar this year. 

Could not have said it better! I started in the buisness of
jewellery at 17yrs old. That was 43yrs ago. There certainly wasn’t
many women in the field then, but that is not my gripe. I have paid
all my dues. What irks me is everyone is a “jeweler” now days. Huh?
You string beads together and you are a “jeweler” ? Oh you learned
how on You Tube? Great my whole life in the buisness has been hard
earned and now it is down to that. I have and will always be very
proud of my profession, and I am a real Jeweler.

Thank You


#20
It is a very sad situation. Thousands upon thousands of pieces are
made and presented for the sale, although they would never pass
the scrutiny of an examination of first year education. This
>multiplication of inexcusably bad and uninteresting pieces led to
a world of its own, 

That was a great post, yet it left me feeling sort of sad that you
have that somewhat dark point of view. It’s undeniably true that the
business has changed and that there is a world of low quality
merchandise that is forcefully marketed to an unsuspecting public.
But there is also a world of beautifully made pieces by talented
makers of jewelry available to that same public. Skilled goldsmiths
have found and exploited niches and are making very nice livings
making very fine jewelery. It’s not mass produced or widely
marketed, because it can’t be. And in some ways, it would take the
fun out of it if it could be.

I believe that the more prevalent low quality, mass produced jewelry
becomes, the more opportunity that creates for skilled craftspeople.
The contrast between that poorly made trinket and your finely
crafted miniature work of art only becomes more apparent to anyone
who looks at it. The world is filled with people who appreciate fine
workmanship over what is common. It just takes a little effort to
show them the difference.

Mark