Posted on Thursday, February 22nd, 2018 at 5:35 pm by Mark
Business Before Hours, Faribault, MN, February 7, 2018
When it comes to making jewelry, a lot of our manufactures make the jewelry in the United States, so if that is important to you we have purposely chosen manufactures, not all of them, but we try to manufacture as much here in the United States as possible to keep the business here.
A little bit of history: I started in 1980, I am not going to go too deep into it, but I was going to Bible college in Owatonna; I was headed into the ministry, so my education is a Bible Major, Pastoroligy, Greek and Music Minor. And here I am. So I don’t know how that works, but here I am.
In 1995, we’re kind of skipping ahead, we bought Faribo Jewelers. Some of you old timers might have remembered Faribo Jewelers right here in the mall. That used to be a Paffrath and then it was renamed in, I think, 1984, Faribo Jewelers. Unfortunately in 1994 the owner actually had a heart attack and died. We ended up purchasing the store from his widow in 1995.
In 2004 we changed our name from Faribo Jewelers to Douglas Diamonds. In 2008, many of you remember, we moved down by, we call it the Big Store, by A&W down there. Then the recession hit right after we moved. We tripled our size and the recession hit. We were in a little bit of a bind... because all of our expenses were increased and our business was decreased. We struggled for those three years and then we moved to here in 2001 (300 western Ave NW #107, Faribault, MN 55021).
And then in 2014, three years ago, we opened the Owatonna store (1100 Frontage Rd W #145, Owatonna, MN 55060) So that’s a really brief history of our stores.
A couple things, I have talked with a few of you and our business is changing like many of yours. We have to change with the times or we will be left in the dust, right?
So a couple things that have changed, I am holding in my hand and you should get around to seeing them, we have some in that case, this is a Lab Grown Diamond. They are actually making Diamonds now instead of having to dig in a big huge hole with really heavy machinery. These are sold for eco friendly purposes. They have been doing this for 20 - 40 years, but now they have gotten it to where these Lab Grown Diamonds are actually about 15-30% less than the natural Diamonds. These are really Diamonds. They are chemically, optically and physically the same it’s just that they are not dug out of the ground.
Are they all made identical?
No they still have different characteristics and flaws and different colors, the four C’s of Diamonds still applies, because even though they are made by machine, the machine isn’t stamping them out identical like that, so they still have grades. This is why I say 15 - 30 % less, because it is really hard to compare two Diamonds. No two Diamonds are exactly the same. We can talk more about it; ask some of my staff as they will be happy to show you some of those.
I would like to talk about how the computers have impacted our industry. In 1992, while I was working for someone else, we put one of the first computer aided design program into the Mall of America in August of 1992 when the mall first opened. I describe it as the photoshop for Jewelry. It was two dimensional, cut and paste, but that was big in 1992. We were able to take pictures of Jewelry and it was all to scale; it was a big deal. If I sit down and try to draw a design, and I can draw a design for you; making it to scale is the toughest thing. (If a drawing is made to scale we can add elements and know how they will fit on the live ring). We started doing that in 1992; the program was called Digital Goldsmith. Since then things have been introduced like 3D design. It’s gone from 2D to 3D; I will show you a 3D design program. Then is has gotten into 3D manufacturing which means 3D printing; I have a sample if you want to see it. Once we design something in 3D, in order to make it we have to make a mold. That mold can be made by a wax printer which basically grows a wax almost like an inkjet printer. It would go across, into the 3D computer file, into a computer program. The wax printer would come across; it would not lay down wax, if the ring was this shape, then it would lay down a little wax, stop, lay down a little wax, then keep going like a printer would; like the old dot matrix printer. Remember those? But it would have to go slow enough so that the wax dries before the next pass. It takes about eight hours to grow a wax that way.
Then they have milling machines. I call it Edward ScissorHands because it takes a piece of plastic, then they have all these milling tools that just ZshZshZshZsh carves the design out of plastic with these sharp instruments, drills and cutting tools. That machine costs about $40,000 so we don’t have it; we do heir that part of it out. Once you have the plastic or the wax you can cast that into gold.
Now the next step, the next innovation…. of 3D printing, it hasn’t hit the store level yet, but in the manufacturing world they actually take that 3D file and hook it up to a machine that cuts the metal ring.
Then there is 3D imaging, this also has not hit the store level yet, but it will. And that is if I want to take a ring and make a perfect wedding band to go next to it, the only way to perfectly fit a band to match the ring is for me to have the ring here. With imaging they can take a 3D image of that ring and they can make a ring that fits perfectly up to it, especially if you have a curve to it; we need that curve to be perfect. Right now we have to take a side impression in wax and hand carve it. So those are some of the things that are happening.
I am going to give you a very simple example of what we do here at the store. I don’t know who else has this program. A lot of jewelers can buy this. We have had it for; I think we bought our first one in the early 2000’s. This is the next generation, the 3D version of that 2D version I was telling you about at the Mall of America.
We have 3000 actual rings in this program and we are getting the updates on Friday and a new computer from Pantheon. A plug for Pantheon Computers.
This is all 3D and I get these choices over here to the left. If I click here I get the finger size. I can change the shape, it has these little notches right here, I can change that to just be rounded rather that the euro shank. So that simple little click of the button, if you were designing a house would take two hours to actually make that little change, but I was able to do it in a second. We can change the width.
Let’s say that one of you came in and said, “I have Grandma’s ring, it’s all worn out, but I have these eight Diamonds that I want to put in a ring. Instead of us telling you that these rings will fit your Diamonds, we can say, “pick any ring you want and we will make the ring to fit your Diamonds.” So let say that you had more Diamonds that you wanted to add on the side here; I can simple stretch out this area and add more Diamonds. See the fourth and fifth one came up here. A click of the mouse and I can show you all five. I can change the width of this ring, make Diamonds go all the way, change the size, change the height, change the size of the prongs, anything you want. So that’s a very simple model. We have a lot of the prototype samples of the rings here; we can make changes to any and all of those. So instead of us telling you what rings will fit your Diamonds, you can now say, “I like that ring” and we will make that ring fit your Diamonds. That’s a brief demonstration.
If you say, “yes, Mark, I really love that; I want to go. I am ready to go; I want to do it.” I just email that file to the largest jewelry manufacturer here in the United States; they are located in Louisiana. They produce either a wax printed model or that milling machine. They cast it and I can get it to me blank; I can have them supply the side diamonds, I can set just the center stone, I can do it anyway we want. I can get it rough cast, I can get it finished (smoothed & shinny), any of those. The only stipulation is, since they are the ones that produced this program, is that they have to do the casting of that model. Again, Made in the USA; made in Louisiana.
If you have any questions you can talk to me, maybe one on one, unless there is some question that is just burning in your sole right now.