CAD/CAM, New Location Boost Smith & Bevill

In the Portland, Ore., area Smith & Bevill Jewelers is known for both custom work and repair work, which represent 35 percent and 10 percent of the company’s operations, respectively. But in 2004, as these sectors expanded, the store outgrew its space. Making a virtue of necessity, owner Bill Bevill moved from a 2,500-square-foot location to an 8,500-square-foot location where he created a luxurious showroom and a shop that accommodates five goldsmiths. Bevill had already invested in a laser welder, and in 2007 he brought in the latest CAD/CAM technology to further enhance his custom work.

After initial training, chief goldsmith Kelly Thorton began taking the CAD/CAM laptop home to learn the system better. By the eve of the 2008 holiday season, Bevill and Thorton had collectively mastered the system, and it was time to educate customers about the technology. That presented some challenges.

“You can’t send out a direct mailer showing a CAD/CAM computer, a milling machine, or a laser welder and expect people to get excited about our custom jewelry work and repair services,” Bevill says. “Even mailers featuring a beautiful custom piece can’t visually tell the whole story.”

Instead, Bevill and his staff promote the technology inside the store, where customers can see the equipment in action. Customers learn about the jewelry-making process and can take part in shaping their own jewelry. “When we have taken a client into the shop to look at the computer image and rotate it around in 3-D to show all views in gold with gemstones, it has always been very impressive,” says Bevill.

Bevill wants to incorporate CAD/CAM visuals on the sales floor. “We anticipate the need for a second laptop and key personnel dedicated to the program on the showroom floor,” he says. His daughter Gina, a computer-savvy jewelry designer and salesperson, has taken the CAD/CAM courses and will use the sales presentation feature.

Bevill is using the technology to create custom signet rings. With a standard blank ring rendered in a CAD/CAM file, Bevill designs art deco–style initials on the computer before creating a wax model. “What was once outsourced and took two months to make can now be done in house in less than a week—three days if we push it,” he says. “This Father’s Day we’ll see just how this new category of men’s jewelry will work for us as an on-demand delivery item.”

Later this year, Bevill plans to create stud earrings using matching pairs of different-shaped gemstones. “Finer gems that aren’t typically cut in calibrated sizes but are close matches in terms of size, color, and quality would make for stunning niche products,” says Bevill. “And we can use the same custom design heads for multiple shapes and unusual sizes of gems with very little labor.”

CAD/CAM also improves quality control. “With this new system, we can invite customers to come in and try on a wax model,” says Bevill. “We can tweak the design if needed or even resize the computer model before milling the wax. Again, there is an incredible amount of flexibility in the system that saves money and time, gives us more interaction with the customer, and produces a better finished custom jewelry product.”

Do you have a retail success story you’d like to share with your peers? If so, e-mail Rob Bates at rbates@reedbusiness.com.