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Design: The Key To Jewellery’s Future

Given that the global industry has a history stretching back literally to the origins of human civilisation, it is surprising to see how little understanding there is of the very idea of jewellery and what it is that people value in it.

The vast majority of those involved in the jewellery business, stretching all the way from those who cut and polish diamonds and gemstones, through those who fabricate jewellery, distribute it to markets all around the world, and finally sell it to consumers, seem to see jewellery simply as a way of transferring the intrinsic value of the materials it is fabricated from to the end consumer — with a business mark-up for themselves included.

Very few understand and appreciate the idea that design is one of the key elements that add value to jewellery as a product category. In jewellery, design is much more than just the final appearance of the product. It is about a kind of story-telling, a statement that the wearer of the jewellery makes to the world around. It matters more than the value of the gold, diamonds and gemstones in the piece.

When I see much of the debate today about how difficult it is for jewellery to compete for the consumer’s attention alongside a whole range of other luxury products that offer a dazzling array of attributes — from technological wonders to unique experiences and emphatic style statements — I wonder why no one in the industry brings up the topic of design.

Some of Laksh Pahuja’s creations

Design is an attribute that adds value to everything from dustbins to the most exclusive luxury products. Design visually says something about the product that has nothing to do with its use, the materials it is made from and how much it costs. That statement about the product in turn envelops its owner, user or wearer and consequentially makes a specific statement about the person, some attribute of his or her life, and most importantly, his or her personality.

Literally anybody can buy gold, diamonds or gemstones. One might be able to afford the purchase easily, while another might have to scrimp and save in order to buy a product with high intrinsic value. On their own, these materials say nothing about the purchaser or help set them apart in today’s crowded, noisy society. On their own, these materials have to compete with the likes of stocks, bank deposits and a variety of other investment vehicles for the consumer’s attention.

Jewellery, on the other hand, says so many things about the wearer and why he or she is wearing something. Jewellery competes with luxury products and services. Jewellery is created when a designer takes gold, diamonds and gemstones and ties them all together with a design that has a visual narrative of its own.

Jewellery design and jewellery designers are among the keys to the future well-being of the gem and jewellery industry all around the world.

The gem and jewellery industry inflicts great harm on itself when it indulges in or condones design piracy and doesn’t value its designers. Designers are the people who actually create the product that has to compete with the latest in consumer technology, travel and customised holidays, fine wine and dining as well as a variety of other products and services.

Stone-age humans appreciated design and designers. The concept of intrinsic value hadn’t been invented in their time. They etched and tied together bone, shells and shiny stones and wore the first jewellery with delight.

That delight has endured tens of thousands of years. Today’s tech-savvy consumer also experiences the same delight when presented with a product that celebrates design.

The gem and jewellery industry shouldn’t worry so much about the price of gold, diamonds or gemstones as it should about figuring out how to give today’s consumer that same delight. To begin with, the industry itself should delight in design.

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I am surprised to find no comments here as I was certain I had supported Laksh view. It is critically important for the diamond industry to support design, especially in the sizes that designers cannot afford to inventory. What we are seeing is that the standard bearer "retailers" for design in Luxury diamonds are no longer emphasizing larger diamonds of one carat or more. They are moving where the margin is....tiny diamonds and colored gemstones. The main street jeweler will no longer stock diamond items in inventory because of low margins and the diamond houses who find they must create "some" finished pieces are disconnected from fresh design, choosing to re-make what has sold for the last 20 years rather than advance design with some distinctive offerings. The luxury consumer does not want "fusty" design (fussy, musty design) Digital media will make it far easier to communicate design globally in order to reach the right customer. Fewer, better pieces will bring us back. Diamond companies placing value on designers and bringing forth fresh design is imperative.
Laksh, you are absolutely right. Design is of importance as everything about that piece of jewellery starts with the design. Material, price, etc...all come after design.
I completely agree with every point you made. It is indeed high time someone shed light on the issue of sheer disrespect for authentic design within the industry. There are more replicas than original jewelry pieces in the World and that is genuinely sad and disgraceful.
I would like to disagree. Design can not only be standing alone. I agree that designers need to have a greater intake on the jewellery design language an differentiate the brands products from others to stand out. But it alone can not stand in it's self. As a good designer you will need to understand the value af the costumers need, look at the segment you wan't to target. What are they willing to pay for this? Can it be produced? Is the product durable? Is it scaleable? Does it fit to the brands Design manual? And so on, and so one. I am a teacher at KEA BA Jewellery, Technology and Business and at our education we teach our students this that when you combine design, technology and business, you will get an innovative solution towards designing jewellery.