Precious Metal for Precious Moments

[Part three of a three-part series on manufacturing seamless tubing and design and production methods for palladium wedding bands made from it.]

Established in the 1900s, the Lieberfarb company built a reputation on exclusive manufacture of precious plain wedding bands. Mark Schonwetter purchased the company from the Lieberfarb family in 1971 and expanded the product line with several new design options within the wedding theme. Schonwetter developed a wide selection of high-quality precious-metal bridal jewelry products including engagement rings, wedding bands, and anniversary rings. He brought platinum to the line when it reemerged in the early ’90s to appeal to a discerning new audience. In 2002, he added palladium.

Today, Lieberfarb enjoys even more recognition and success thanks in large part to Schonwetter’s influential vice presidents—daughters Ann Schonwetter Arnold and Isabella Schonwetter Fiske, who joined the company in the ’90s. The Women’s Jewelry Association honored them in 2002 with its Award for Excellence in Manufacturing.

When Ann and Isabella joined the business they brought a broad set of skills in finance, management, marketing, and design. The two grew up in the family business and are well versed in all aspects of manufacturing, sales, and customer relations.

The machining process begins with extruded 950 palladium and ruthenium seamless tubing. The first step is to cut the extruded tubing to length according to the orders the company is fulfilling. Next the band blanks are trademarked with Pd along with the company logo, which is a stylized L for Lieberfarb. Then they are ready for shaping and for the design details to be applied through the machining process.

To make sure jewelry items wear and perform well, Schonwetter studied the properties of palladium to determine adequate tolerances for the designs he contemplated producing. Schonwetter notes that palladium can cause tools to wear more quickly and says machinists need to check periodically to make sure tool marks have not been left in the product. He compensates with a routine of extra tool sharpening.

Swiss-cutting machines with diamond cutting tools apply much of the design pattern on the surfaces of the bands. They also can cut recessed areas in preparation for diamonds to be set. Diamonds on Lieberfarb products are set by hand.

Just as the machining process is specialized to quickly produce the ring foundation and certain specific decorative designs in the extruded ring manufacturing process, some processes are more effectively and efficiently done by hand. Hand-manufacturing techniques such as final polishing or the application of certain finishes offers greater options in design. All diamonds are set by hand to ensure quality of craftsmanship and security for long wear.

Support and Training

Isabella Schonwetter Fiske is the vice president of marketing. She describes palladium as another great precious metal possessing aura, beauty, and sentiment. The company believes that precious moments require precious metals, and palladium is a perfect third option in this regard. Nonprecious alternative metals such as stainless steel or titanium are not used by Lieberfarb.

Fiske credits the company’s palladium sales success to retailers who are open to new opportunities and willing to learn about available precious metal options. She says retailers who wholeheartedly embraced palladium products have been successful, and she’s impressed with their reorders. To help educate retailers and consumers about Lieberfarb palladium bridal products, they conduct in-store training for sales professionals, and they design and distribute collateral material such as brochures directed to consumers and offer telephone and Web site support.

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