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Dream Machines
What's on a custom jeweler's wish list? Here are tools that bench gurus swear are worth every penny.


WHAT DO CUSTOM JEWELERS DREAM

These tools have been game changers, allowing jewelers to pursue new niches and assure cash flow in difficult times.

What do custom jewelers dream about besides fantastically low-priced raw materials, pleasant, punctual, sweet-natured suppliers, and mellow, easy-going clients?

They dream about machines: smart, sophisticated, high-tech wonders than can do in seconds what seasoned pros take hours to do. And the ones they dream about most often are CAD, laser welders, water jets, mills, and engravers.

Are these machines expensive? You bet, and the jewelers we talked to who purchased them said that in some cases they held their breath and asked themselves, “What am I doing?” But, once they mastered their new purchases and began applying them to their work, they soon saw dramatic changes in productivity. They also saw the opening of profitable new niches.

The current economic downturn may be an ideal occasion to consider buying one of these instruments. Manufacturers are more willing to deal when business is slow, and the decline in retail traffic gives custom jewelers time to study and gain skills with new tools.

Staying competitive is another good reason to take a look at these machines. George Fox of Fox Fine Jewelry in Ventura, California, puts it plainly: “We’ve had a laser welder for years. We love it and couldn’t live without it. Well, we could, but we wouldn’t. Anybody who can own one should. We also have CAD-CAM and a mill. They’re 21st century tools. I tell my competitors, don’t buy these tools or master their use. Leave the field to me!”

(Editor’s note: There are several manufacturers for each type of machine discussed here. None of the descriptions are intended as an endorsement for a particular brand or version.)

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CAD Matrix software from Gemvision Corporation

Virtual design: CAD Matrix software from Gemvision Corporation, (800) 357-6272, www.gemvision.com.

Paul Lubitz of Holly Yashi

Paul Lubitz of Holly Yashi shows a sample of the types of patterns the OMAX waterjet can cut.

Photo: Humboldt State University/Kellie Jo Brown.


bracelet by Holly Yashi

This “Vashti” bracelet by Holly Yashi is an example of the work that can be created with an abrasive waterjet machine, (800) 274-2714, www.hollyyashi.com.

Eric Riddlespurger of Liberty Jewelry Mfg.

Eric Riddlespurger of Liberty Jewelry Mfg., Timonium, Maryland, at work with the CAD Matrix software by Gemvision.

Eric Riddlespurger of Liberty Jewelry Mfg.

Eric Riddlespurger of Liberty Jewelry Mfg., Timonium, Maryland, demonstrates CAM manufacturing with the Revo mill from Gemvision.

Rofin StarWeld jewelry laser microwelder

Rofin StarWeld jewelry laser microwelder available from Stuller, which recently released volume 73 of its tools catalog, (800) 877-7777, www.stuller.com.

iWeld laser system by Crafford-LaserStar Technologies

The iWeld laser system by Crafford-LaserStar Technologies, (401) 438-1500, www.laserstar.net.

Signature 8080 Super model engraving machine from Signature Engraving Systems

Signature 8080 Super model engraving machine from Signature Engraving Systems, (800) 323-3283, www.signature-engravers.com.