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What’s old is new again: How CAD can bring the shine back to an old piece

What are they expecting?

Although the 'budget' talk may be difficult, getting right to the point can help save a lot of time and energy.
Although the ‘budget’ talk may be difficult, getting right to the point can help save a lot of time and energy.

When it comes to jewellery, your client’s expectations are always high, but even more so when you’re recreating an old or damaged piece. And while it’s true you do not want to disappoint them, you will have to explain to the customer the piece will likely look different, as parts of it may need to be made thicker. (This is likely the very reason why the jewellery is worn out or damaged in the first place.) My neighbour, setter Alex Haddad of Haddad Brothers in Toronto, always says, “Safety first, design second.” To help the client have a better sense of what you mean, grab something similar out of the showcase as an example. This will help lessen the chance of a misunderstanding.

A bird in a hand is worth two in a bush

You must have the piece in hand in order to measure it and to be able to refer to it often as you work in CAD. First of all, take three pictures of it—top, side, and front—and make sure they are clear and in focus. Also, the photos must be straight-on shots. Use silly putty or a bent paper clip to stand the ring up. The secret to taking a good picture is to have plenty of light. Although I still recommend getting a good camera system for snapping photos for your website or catalogue, some newer smartphones are capable of taking nice shots. Make sure you have your phone set on ‘close up.’ Also, take a few test shots to determine whether you need the flash on or off.

What’s the customer’s budget?

I was very uncomfortable asking clients about their budget for a project when I first started working behind the counter. But over the years, I’ve realized you just have to ask—it can save you time and energy to simply ‘get to the point.’ Pricing, however, can be a little tricky. An experienced CAD user can offer a pretty good guesstimate on time and weight. However, until you build the piece in CAD, you will not be able to provide an actual quote. Some CAD programs include metal and stone weight calculators, which also come in handy when you want to build a virtual inventory on your website.

One question to ask the client is whether the original piece was mass-produced. If it was, he or she may not be prepared to spend a lot of money on labour. While most people expect to be paying more to create a new piece, how much are they willing to pay to recreate old or damaged jewellery? The sentimental value they have in the piece will certainly sway the decision one way or the other.

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