Unpredictable. Unruly in their spending patterns. Disinterested in the status quo. To many in the jewelry industry, millennials are creating a climate of crisis. Small jewelers bemoan the “millennial crisis” and large jewelers are continuously attempting to redefine themselves to connect with millennial shoppers, vying for attention on a global playing field. Luxury behemoths attempt to capture this audience through storytelling with sales teams relaying the evolution of a product line or brand to the client. But, the items in the case are not enough and the stories being told are outdated—millennials want more.
Millennials are focused more and more on their own needs and experiences, a concept that seems to elude many establishment jewelers. This is a generation of individuals who want the brand to prove it is worthy of his or her credit card swipe. Their questions have shifted from the easily Googled “What are the 4Cs?” to “Why does the luxury brand deserve my money?” “How is the product a reflection of my perspective?” and “Where is my unique purchasing experience?”
For a generation enamored by technology, the solution to the “millennial crisis” will result from using technology to create the uniqueness they desire via computer-aided design (CAD) and computer-aided manufacturing (CAM). CAD-CAM has been used in the jewelry industry since the 1980s, but it is only now being fully embraced by the field as a result of improved speed, quality, and accessibility, as well as increased acceptance of alternative methods for creation.
Throughout the jewelry production line, CAD is used to create prototypes, molds, as well as tools that aid in fabrication; however, the most profound use of CAD in the jewelry industry has been in satisfying the increasing desire for custom items. The low-cost, small batch production of Additive Manufacturing allows designers the opportunity to create unique items and quickly make changes to produce multiple iterations without wasting precious materials.
CAD Artists have the ability to create intricate and complex objects, twisting and turning surfaces to design structures that could never be created by hand. This is a new method for exploration, making CAD an invaluable medium for authentic storytelling. In terms of customization, CAD can tell not only the story of the creator, but in true homage to millennial individuality, the story of the wearer.
In creating my business, Original Eve, my objective was to use CAD as a medium to create jewelry based on experiences visiting various locations around the world. I attempt to recreate the feeling of being in a breathtaking new place by borrowing motifs from the location that I drape on the human form. In my introductory collection, “Terracing Peru”, which will be introduced in the coming months, we will travel through the lush mountainsides of Peru, experiencing the terraced landscape that weaves through and wraps around the staggering mountains like ribbon. In each piece, ribbons of gold wrap around the body, creating supple lines of organic, yet architectural, forms.
I recognize (where a larger luxury behemoth may not) that many clients are not interested in borrowing from my own cache of experiences. This is why a major portion of my business focuses on creating custom pieces. This can include alterations to the collection, but also unique items that bring the imagination of the client to life, using my own skills as a CAD Artist and Gemologist to realize his or her vision. True luxury consumers have their own stories to tell, and CAD, my medium, is the vehicle through which their experiences can come to life.
With accessibility to CAD-CAM and therefore availability to customization increasing rapidly, millennials will soon satiate their thirst for uniqueness with a number of boutique luxury providers, like myself. From here on out, if the item is not unique and catered to the buyer’s distinctive elegance and purpose, it is not utilizing all of the finest methods for realizing creativity and innovation.
Customization and CAD are going to continue to rise to dominance in the industry. The question is not: “What are we going to do about the ‘millennial crisis’?” The question is: Will those in the luxury jewelry community alter their stories and approach to take a piece of the pie?
Eve Streicker is a certified Graduate Gemologist and Graduate Pearl expert by the Gemological Institute of America. She received her M.F.A. in Metal/Jewelry/CAD-CAM from Tyler School of Art at Temple University and her B.A. in Art History and Studio Art Practice from Williams College.
Guest Blogger: Eve Streicker, CAD Expert and Founder of Original Eve