Friday, July 29, 2016

What if You Could Design it Yourself? Well, You Can!

Bear with me for this introductory anecdote.  At my first Vegas show, in May 2015, I bumped into a Frenchmen at the "meet and greet" event, both of us trying to trade the JCK coupon for a glass of free wine at the overcrowded bar (lesson learned about "free" stuff).  Anyway, Jean Jacques, that's his name, and I got talking and he told me he was at the event to find if there was interest in a "design your own" cloud based software for the general public which allows consumers to personalize jewelry by themselves.  "Design yourself how?" was my immediate reaction?  "It's much too complicated!" Yes, that's what I said - honest, abrupt, very German indeed.  Me being a Ph.D. in analytic philosophy and JJ having an M.S. from Stanford in applied mathematics, a heated discussion over the explosion of options, decision theory, and complicated geometry ensued (I realize those details are only stimulating to a few geeks and this is a blog entry, so I'll spare you).  Anyway, the discussion lasted all evening, with no "winning" in sight.  JJ left convinced I was wrong, I left convinced that he was.

Both JJ and I stayed up late that night in our respective hotels, mulling over what the other had said.  Things like that don't tend to leave me alone - a leftover from publishing articles in the philosophy of science and mathematics maybe, or just an inquisitive and obsessive mind.  Who knows.  The upshot was that I thought, by morning, that I could see a way for this to be done, with each option the customer chooses being carefully pre-selected and limited: allowing choice, yet not allowing too many choices.  Starting with simple layouts for pendants and rings, not yet tackling the more difficult problem of rings, which require more three dimensional thinking.  I contacted JJ after breakfast.

Turns out JJ was also puzzling, but over something different.  "I researched you," he said when we met again for lunch.  Would you like to help us make this work?  "Yes," I said, "and I think I know how."

Cutting to the chase, an intensive pilot program between Cecile Raley Designs and the Research and Development Department of Dassault Systemes, the software provider, ensued, and the outcome is now available to you to try, use, criticize, evaluate, and maybe be excited about enough to make some waves for me if you so desire.  You'll find there are pluses and minuses.  For instance, we still have to upload many more of our pieces as we go along, and we want to offer eternity styles and rings in the future.  But it's a start, and at least right this very moment, I am the only person that has this software launched for jewelry in the US.  I'm NOT kidding.  (So this isn't like "your cruise will take you to the longest beach in the world", but more like REALLY, we measured this beach, it's the longest!).

Jewelry design software is out there, but nothing like this, nothing that lets you manipulate pieces in simulated three dimensional space.  It's not perfect, but right now, it's mine.

Where can you find it?  At my new website - it's been open for weeks but I haven't pushed it much -

Feedback is welcome, in fact, it is greatly appreciated!  For the time being, all U.S. shipping on the new website is FREE. Please come and play.

Above is a screen shot of the homepage. The 'Design Your Own' scroll down has been highlighted to show the different options available under this tab.

This is part of the 'Design Your Own'  Two Part Dangly Earrings option

This is part of the 'Design Your Own' Pendants option

You'll see that, despite being a bit incomplete, is soon to incorporate the entire Brand Experience.  Shop "ready to wear", make your own piece, contact me for custom work, order from the catalog, and read the blog.  Its been long overdue, I think!

Monday, July 11, 2016

What Does "Recycled" Metal Really Mean?

I advertise in my shop that my castings are made from recycled metals.  Recently I got a question about what this really means, which made me realize that there is quite a need for me to clarify.

First off, here's what it doesn't mean: it doesn't mean that I re-purpose old clasps or chains or any other jewelry parts.  All the items I use, unless they are antique (that is rare) are newly purchased and not previously used.

It also doesn't mean that I collect scrap metal and cast at my house.  I use a casting service (disclosed on my Etsy site) that manufactures the castings from me.  I live in a condo, and I doubt I would meet any fire code safety standards if I tried to melt gold here.  Not to mention the cost of good refining equipment (in the thousands of dollars).

My casting service, however, is supplied by a refinery that uses only recycled metals.  My findings (ear wires, backs and posts, bails, chains, and clasps) are purchased from wholesale suppliers in New York City.  So this is the sense in which my metals are recycled.  Maybe I should say instead that they are "ethically sourced" or "green."  

And what exactly IS recycled metal?  It is scrap metal that has been reacquired by refineries via jewelers, pawn shops, leftover metal from casters, items scrapped by jewelry chains  or consumers.  Computers and cell phones also contain precious metals, and when those are collected, the metals they contain can be scrapped.  Another segment of scrap metal comes from dental gold.  

Scraped Metal

Approximately 30% of the world supply of precious metals comes from recycled metals.  In the jewelry industry, this figure is higher.  Most of the gold collected by refineries is scrap from the industry itself, not from finished goods.  Some estimates say that up to 90% of gold in the jewelry industry comes from recycled materials.

Roughly 60% % of all high value gold (both recycled and mined) is used for jewelry.  

Recycled gold is in high demand in the jewelry industry, mainly because mining gold is expensive.  If the price of gold is low, it can actually cost more money to mine new gold than to purchase old gold.

In the jewelry industry, scrap prices is 1.5% below spot market, so that makes it well worth while to scrap leftover metals (which are usually acquired at 5% above market unless they are manufactured into, say, a clasp or another finding). If the ounce of gold is $1000, that means a $985 payout per ounce. The refinery then purifies the gold by melting it at a high degree, burning out the impurities (this process requires such high heat that it cannot be efficiently done at home).

The refinery then produces pure or different karat gold in bullion cubes, casting grain or sheets. This is in turn bought by casting services and manufacturers to cast jewelry and make finished pieces.

 This Refinery take scrap from jewelers refining into fresh mill products in a Crucible. Their refinery also processes virgin metal, which is intermingled with the secondary metal.
Photo Credit: 

And that's the never ending story.  Once jewelry is made, bought, and worn, it is often resold back to refineries by individuals or through estate sales.  Then the cycle begins again.