PTAHrchive #2: The Jewelry Industry's Dirty Little Secret

Posted on July 15, 2014 by El-Aton Georges | 0 Comments

If you had to choose between art painted by hand or art made by computer software, which of the two would you say has greater value???

Obviously most would say the item with the human touch because inherently we recognize the effort and talent it takes for people to create quality art by hand.  However in the jewelry industry there has been a stampede toward computer aided designs or CAD to handle jewelry design. Many celebrities are spending top dollar for jewelry which has little or no human contact at all in designing it. 


Photo: CAD software.  The jewelry in this image isn't a real ring.  It's a computer rendering of a CAD design.


Before this software became popular, it usually took the skill of a Model Maker to create the lines of Jewelry major brands as well as independent jewelers created. These artists would spend hours carving designs out of blocks of special carving wax. It took a sculptor of a certain caliber to do this, as it is very specialized work.  When you were charged, the price reflected the materials used to create it, as well as the artists/ jewelry designer's craftsmanship, talent level or expertise.  Today when you go to a jewelers showroom much of what you will see was created by computer. Today many designers use contractors who plots the design on computer. When the contractor is finished, he/she uploads the design into what is called a milling machine which is fully automated and produces the design to exact dimensions of the rendering made on computer. The human element is all but eliminated from the design process unless you count keystrokes. 


Photo: This milling machine takes the CAD design and carves the wax model used to make most fine jewelry on the market today. 

It's quite safe to say that CAD design in the jewelry industry is the new normal. The argument for CAD designs says that while one's hand may create imperfections the computer generated designs are perfect.  Jewelry designs that are designed by hand isn't perfect and this creates what many call "Character".  My father, Heru Semahj an amazingly talented hand designer (as our website shows ;) ) calls this "Perfect Imperfections".  It is true that perfection is never achieved with even the most experienced and talented hand designers but I believe computer generated designs devalue the true artists and future ones of our trade. The real reason the jewelry industry is screaming "CAD!" is because it's cheaper. The mindset is-"Why cultivate talented model makers and pay them a yearly salary when one could purchase cad software and save money".  As a result many talented model makers are leaving the jewelry industry and many others are finding it hard to justify their salaries to more and more businesses.  

It's sad that so many are pushing for less human involvement in such an artistic and spiritual art form such as jewelry design.  We hope this trend doesn't continue to the point where "hands on" artist become extinct in the jewelry industry.  As it stands right now, they are most definitely an endangered species. While technology must be embraced, we at Studio of Ptah believe that some things a computer could never (or should ever), replace.  Though we appreciate innovation, we have remained true to the art form of traditional jewelry making.  And while we can create custom pieces using CAD if necessary or requested by our client, we take pride in the fact that we maintain jewelry making traditions that are centered on the human touch.

Studio of Ptah

Posted in Jewelry Design

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