3D printing is set to transform fine jewelry making. Want to know the related opportunities and risks before entering the market? Take a look.
For Andrew Lim and Simon Zhang, 3D printing is just what they required to exploit a market need in the jewelry sector, which is low-cost, custom-made wedding bands. The two young men hardly look old enough to consider marriage themselves. However, the Dartmouth graduates saw that they could design and make tailored wedding bands for much less than today’s standard jewelers through their new venture, Holden.
Holden’s wedding band designs consist of a handful of pre-selected ring shapes. Customers can choose their favorite among the ring styles and select other factors such as size, metal type, finish and special engravings. After a ring design is finalized, Lim and Zhang make a wax model of it using a 3D printer. Through a partnership with a jewelry metal caster, Holden produces rings in gold, platinum or a platinum alloy. Holden’s co-founders recognize that the business is viable because of its early adoption of 3D printing technology within the fine jewelry sector. While no one can accurately predict the opportunities and pitfalls that Holden will face in the coming years, trends in 3D printing and the fine jewelry sector give strong clues to consider. Here are a few of them.
Growth in the Consumer 3D Printer Market
3D printer technology at the 2018 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) was a big hit, to say the least. While the printers are not cutting-edge computing, they have mostly been touted as ground-breaking for quick prototyping within industrial manufacturing. However, this year Aleph Objects brought its LulzBot 3D printers to CES and began building 3D printers right there on the trade show floor. According to Aleph’s Marketing Director, Ben Malouf, CES attendees were impressed with the printers’ ability to make more printers on demand. The company raffled off 16 of the 3D printers to trade show participants.
For Holden, the expanding consumer 3D printer market is a double-edged sword. The ease with which companies and consumers can get 3D printers will eventually result in lower prices for the units. This means that Holden can quickly expand into markets around the country if demand for its rings grows. It also means that the company may face fierce competition in the low-cost, custom wedding band market. Decreased prices for 3D printers lead to lower barriers to entry into this market.
Increase in E-commerce Sales of Fine Jewelry
Most consumers are now used to buying things on the internet. Even emotion-driven purchases such as those for fine jewelry have gained traction in e-tail shops. According to an article by Inc.com, that trend is expected to continue. Selling Holden rings online can open new opportunities for the company when local markets become saturated. However, Holden must be ready to offer its customers more distinctive product features or attractive promotions to hold its own in the digital marketplace. Its ideal customers are price-sensitive shoppers who are willing to shop around for good-value pieces. Competitor brands that are backed by deeper pockets can copy Holden’s ring styles, mass produce the simple wedding bands and sell them online for less based on economies of scale.
Fluctuations in Precious Metal Pricing
Lately, the possibility of a trade war between the United States and China has been in the news. It’s these economic conflicts that make precious metal prices change quickly. When the supply of imported metals decreases in the United States, the domestic supply increases in value. Usually, fine jewelry retailers adjust their prices to reflect the uptick in value. The gold or platinum that is used to make their trinkets will be more expensive to obtain, and they need to pass those costs to consumers to gain profits. This gets a little tricky for Holden, which doesn’t have the freedom of raising its wedding band prices too much since it has positioned itself as a low-cost player in the market.