The advent of 3D printers has brought about an entirely new supply of jewelry. The ability to cut shapes and use materials which were previously impossible through traditional tactics has garnered the public’s interest.
There’s no denying that 3D printed jewelry is fascinating, but what does it mean for jewelry created through traditional means? Does tech jewelry spell the end for traditional jewelers?
No, I don’t think so.
Out With the Old - In With the New
It’s a time-honored phrase that’s seen nonstop use - and for good reason!
New tech is often the demise of tradition:
- Vinyl < 8 Tracks < Cassette Tapes < CD’s < MP3’s.
- Movie Theaters < VHS < LaserDisc < DVD’s.
- Cable < Satellite < Netflix and Hulu.
There’s an endless set of examples where advancing technology replaced older models and formats. Evolution is the way of the world and something we all must come to terms with…but maybe not in all instances!
This new sector of tech jewelry products is interesting because it differs from other forms of technological advancement.
While progress in tech often results in the ousting of older products in place of newer ones, I don’t foresee that happening with jewelry.
When “The Old” Prevails
Let's take a look at examples when OLDER technologies have prevailed over NEW technologies.
Traditional Print vs. E-Readers
Once Amazon’s Kindle and other company’s e-readers burst on the scene, publishers and consumers alike began to fret over the future of hard copy books. Article began popping up throughout the media projecting the “Death of Publishing”. By sales, however, e-books accounted for only 7.0% in 2011 and 11.0% in 2012 (IBISWorld).
Since then, E-readers have grown in sales – but not as much as print books.
While there’s certainly a market for e-readers, it seems to have sparked a resurgence of consumer interest in print books. Brick-and-mortar bookshops may have suffered a hit, but sales of e-books seem to have plateaued while print has regained its foothold in the industry.
SmartWatches vs. Standard Watches
When Apple unveiled the Apple Watch in 2014, people lost
their minds. This piece of high tech gear reminiscent of Star Trek gadgetry was sure to catch the public’s attention.
Not long after Apple’s foray into the market, Samsung released their version of the smartwatch – the Samsung Gear.
These early models, however, garnered negative reviews by critics and complaints by consumers. Low battery life, hardware malfunctions and limited functionality were at the top of consumers’ lists of complaints.
Ever since then, it’s been a rocky road for companies in the smartwatch business.
Last year, sales were down by 52% worldwide in the smartwatch sector. While smartphone producers have tried their best to incorporate fitness applications into these products and re-target them, consumers don’t seem all that interested anymore.
Compare this with standard watches, which saw an increase in sales in 2016 – aligning itself with the rest of the fine jewelry category. It seems that consumers prefer a more traditional watch to a gadget, and for varying reasons.
Contemporary vs. Classic
Classic is defined as "judged over a period of time to be of the highest quality and outstanding of its kind" - hence why certain products seem to stay the same throughout history. While alterations to classics may have their time in the limelight, inevitably the classics make their way back to the top.
Contemporary is defined as "belonging to or occuring in the present" - and often lacks permanence. You can find countless examples of products and styles that were popular during their contemporary period, but in the end, failed the test of time.
The reason I specifically highlighted print books and watches is because they're examples of long established goods. More than anything else, contemporary e-readers, e-books and smartwatches seemed to revive the sales of their classical predecessors.
Books and watches have been around for ages and - in a sense - they could be considered immutable. Sure, watches have undergone variations in their inner workings or have been made digital, but a watch is still a watch.
In the same vein, while the inks used for their lettering have changed and the process of their binding has been altered, books are books.
There’s something about these types of products that holds them as a relative constant. One must consider that the reason these objects have remained the same for such a long period of time is because people like them that way and I personally believe jewelry to be in this category of goods as well.
While jewelry may undergo minor changes and updates, there’s only so many ways you can alter them.
Contemporary Tech in Jewelry
In that sense, I see increases in the production and popularity of tech jewelry as a positive for traditional jewelers!
It’s getting jewelry into the front pages of fashion, business and technology news publications, offering previously untapped market segments products that may pique their interest and increasing overall exposure.
Over time, contemporary tastes change.
Keeping that in mind, traditional jewelers need not fear this wave of tech jewelry that seems to be garnering all the attention in the present moment. In the same way that the release of e-readers and smartwatches lead to an increase in interest in classical books and watches - an increase in the purchase/popularity of tech jewelry will more than likely lead to an increase in the purchase/popularity of traditional jewelry.