The high end, however, also sees opportunities. Tiffany & Company, for example, has used parametric design and additive manufacturing to create prototypes at its three-year-old Jewelry Design and Innovation Workshop (J.D.I.W.), a 17,000-square-foot facility around the corner from the company’s corporate headquarters in Manhattan’s Flatiron district.
“We have these brilliant designers and merchants who have ideas about where we need to go as a brand,” said Dana Naberezny, vice president of the workshop. “It’s important to figure out how we get something physical in their hands to understand the idea and be able to iterate quickly.”
Ms. Naberezny said the workshop employed about 60 people — a combination of master jewelers, model makers, C.A.D. designers, engineers and quality-management specialists — who, before the pandemic, sat at mobile desks that allowed them to cluster together as project needs arose. Now, team members rely on remote viewing equipment such as high-tech cameras, microscopes and video conference tools to simulate the feel of sitting next to one another, a spokeswoman said.
“The opening of the J.D.I.W. was about aggregating them,” Ms. Naberezny said. “When you put people together, it’s electric.” (Presumably Tiffany’s new owner, LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton, which acquired the American jeweler in October, hopes that creativity — and the allure of the reimagined Fifth Avenue flagship — will power financial growth.)
Equally electrifying are the radical advances in material science that have transformed some jewelers into 21st-century alchemists.
Steven Adler, founder of A3DM Technologies in Sarasota, Fla., a pioneer in the research and development of additive manufacturing for precious metals, said the most exciting developments were coming out of Europe. Metallurgists at places like ETH Zurich, a Swiss research university, are mixing plastics with gold or adding ceramic to precious metal composites to make pieces that are lightweight and affordable — and likely will redefine our understanding of preciousness and luxury.