Engagement rings are steeped in tradition. From picking the perfect ring out to getting down on one knee, the rules have been in place for years. But now, Simon Wright is ripping up that rule book, introducing new technology to this tradition, and revolutionising the way men across the country pop the question.
After buying his first 3D printer in 2009 – after being impressed by some wax models he’d seen printed – Wright says his entire business has been transformed. We met up with the pioneering jeweller to find out how.
In the modern market, why is it important for engagement rings to stand out from the crowd?
We live in a society where large corporations buy up brands and the public don’t know who owns who. Large corporations pay little tax, and get a lot of their products made overseas. Consumers should – and increasingly like to – buy an engagement ring from a small company – a company who pays tax in the UK, and makes engagement rings in their own workshop.
Clients want something created especially for them, and it’s important for the craftsmanship to be kept alive and individual. Beautiful things can be made in a small workshop. Anyone can buy a ring from a large store, but it takes time and effort to seek out a dedicated and trustworthy craftsman to get things right.
How have you set about making rings that are distinctive, but still remain tasteful?
Two ways – both materials and an eye to the future. I first ensure that the materials I work with are of high quality, and then I always ask myself if the piece I am making is going to look lovely in 50 years time. You can design a crazy piece, but how’s that going to look on an older lady’s hand? Will the people who inherit her jewellery find it appealing? All of these questions have to be taken into account. High quality stones are also essential – a large stone that has no lustre will kill a piece of jewellery.
With the advent of 3D printing, how has this revolutionised your industry?
It’s allowed designers to be a lot more confident. We can save on weight of metal by easily hollowing shapes out, where previously you could not access the areas to carve out. You can easily repeat shapes to create patterns and textures.
For me, it’s completely changed the way I run my business. Previously, when I was hand making jewellery, all of my time was spent on my bench making. Now I can design, put it onto print and then I’m off doing something else – running the business. It’s like when cultures started to develop farming techniques and moved from hunter-gatherer societies – suddenly people could sit around and think, and that’s how technology and philosophy were able to advance. If it wasn’t for computer aided design (CAD) and 3D printing I wouldn’t be able to produce the amount of goods I do.
What has the customer uptake been like regarding the 3D printing element. Are some sceptical?
Customers love it. They get to see their jewellery from all angles on their home computers before it’s made. Then they get to see a plastic model that they can try on. I haven’t yet had a customer sceptical of the process, but there is still some suspicion of it in the jewellery trade.
It’s like how the automated loom was viewed during the industrial revolution. To some, it was a threat, to others a means of achieving great things. There are a lot of people calling themselves jewellery designers using CAD and designing jewellery badly, because they have never made a piece of jewellery. You’ve got to be like an engineer, you have to know your materials, your line of supply, the environment the object will exist in, the stresses it will undergo and you have to know what budget you are working with. But, in the right hands, it’s changing the jewellery industry for the better.