Retailers seeking designers and model makers for fulfilling custom orders or for developing new designs exclusive to their inventories have a growing variety of options available to them. Companies providing these services through Computer Aided Design and Computer Aided Manufacturing (CAD CAM) are referred to as service bureaus.

Service bureaus primarily offer:
  • Jewelry design for custom order
  • Jewelry design for private label
  • Model Making – milling of wax models and rapid prototyping
In addition, many bureaus offer traditional jewelry making services such as:
  • Mold making
  • Casting
  • Setting
  • Finishing

With the rising availability and affordability of these services, retailers can offer custom orders or conceive of an assortment of private label jewelry with confidence. This month, we feature one successful service bureau and highlight their range of services to the industry.

Skinny Dog Design Group, Inc.

Scott and Jennifer Janiak-Ross of Skinny Dog Design Group, Inc.Scott and Jennifer Janiak-Ross with eleven-year-old Lizzie, the inspiration and namesake of their company, Skinny Dog Design Group, Inc. In 1992 the Janiak-Ross’ founded the Greyhound Welfare League in answer to the abuse suffered by racing dogs. The not for profit group of over 200 volunteers and 8 veterinarians rescued and placed more than 500 animals (including Lizzie and her 5 adoptive siblings) in loving homes. Lizzie is the only survivor from those days, having made the trek to California and now dutifully reporting to work every day to render unselfish emotional support to her staff.

Scott and Jennifer Janiak-Ross began their design studio in 1994. Through the years they have designed a wide variety of products for customers focusing their combined talents on jewelry design and manufacturing.

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The company specializes in 3D CAD/ CAM jewelry design, modeling and manufacturing. Jen is the design expert and has over 20 years of professional computer graphics, 3D and product design experience. Scott has been at the bench for over 10 years and is the in-house Revo milling, rapid prototype and modeling expert. Scott explains, “We are a digital job shop. We will do a part or all of our customers design and manufacturing. Our business is to help our customers with their needs, even if they are currently involved with CAD CAM or not”. Their clients are retailers, designers and manufacturers.

The pendant shown here as a rendering and a finished piece is a conceptual design of the Eiffel Tower featuring a well-cut kunzite as its centerpiece. Gemvision’s Matrix software was a natural tool for Jen with her experience in graphic design.

Eiffel Tower CAD/CAM design Eiffel Tower CAD/CAM design

Because the program is written for jewelry designers, factors like calibrated or custom gemstone sizes are built in to make quick work of layout and setting. Their client, a gemstone dealer, liked the piece so much that Skinny Dog subsequently modified the design to accommodate various shapes of center stones to offer more options for his customers.

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These Art Nouveau-influenced earrings are wonderful examples of the graceful, organic forms that can be produced using Gemvision’s Matrix software.

This customer had acquired a Tahitian pearl pendant from Skinny Dog and wanted a pair of earrings to complement it.

Jen, who is in the habit of doodling pages of fanciful shapes, discovered the perfect earring design among them. With only slight modifications and proportioning in Matrix, she produced this pair to their customer’s delight.

Using Matrix, Skinny Dog can take a photo or drawing of just about anything and turn it into a jewelry item (or line of jewelry). This photo is of an old bar/club called Pawley Pavilion in Pawley’s Island , NC – a popular local hangout for generations.

It was destroyed by a hurricane and is no longer there but the community continues to hold an annual commemorative reunion. The image was provided by a Pawley’s Island jeweler who commissioned Skinny Dog to create an entire line with the theme to include cufflinks, charms, a moneyclip and earrings.

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Skinny Dog provided their customer with Gemvision Matrix renderings like these so that he may take orders for various pieces from the line they designed for him.

The manufacturing retailer owns a Gemvision Revo 540 mill but does not have or use Matrix design software. Upon approval of the designs, Skinny Dog delivered them as Matrix renderings and Revo 540 files (code for the mill) so their customer could do his own milling on demand.

Design ideas can come from nature, man-made things, or from other art forms. In this example, the sections of milled wax borrowed their intricate look from hand-carved floral patterns on folding screens.

After interviewing the client, Jen photographed numerous examples and gleaned from them the most attractive and intriguing carved elements. She then scanned them as 2D images and transformed them into 3D forms to fit the shape and scale of the jewelry pieces.

Dimensional, sculptural forms are a specialty of Skinny Dog as shown in this Matrix rendering of a patterned gray-black pearl ring which they rebuilt for a customer. Skinny Dog has been called upon to build reproductions of their customer’s jewelry that are either so worn they are falling apart or have been lost. In the case of the latter, they must work from available photographs to re-create the pieces.

Unlike wax carving, where material is taken away, Jen builds components and assembles the models in Matrix. There have been countless clients for this unique service, including those seeking to replace one lost earring from a treasured pair or hoping to duplicate an heirloom of intrinsic value.

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Licensing & Copyrights
for Corporate & Trademark Jewelry

Skinny Dog also provides design and production of corporate and/or trademark jewelry. This example is a licensed piece for Disney.

Skinny Dog will neither produce unlicensed pieces nor alterations/interpretations of unlicensed pieces. They ask clients for a copy of all licenses to be kept on file (for their own protection). They also willingly sign non-disclosure agreements with their customers.

Scott states affirmatively that any and all materials received from customers for use in production (files, images, samples, etc.) are returned to them upon completion of the job. Furthermore, Skinny Dog Design Group does not retain any rights to content.

The company also does specialty work for other CAD/ CAM designers or service providers. When a job is completed, the client also receives a tutorial so that they will know the techniques to enable them to do the work themselves in the future should they choose. The customer retains all rights to production.

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Through 3D jewelry design, Skinny Dog is capable of producing engraving that has a realistic hand engraved appearance.

This example is of a Sheriff’s badge commissioned by Kendall County’s finest for an esteemed retiree.

An innovative new system called SensAble ClayTools™ has enabled Skinny Dog’s creativity to soar to even greater heights while saving time as well. ClayTools technology employs a ‘haptic arm’ device in conjunction with a keyboard which allows the user to visually sculpt and manipulate models with tool in hand.

The system is very effective for jewelry work when used in tandem with Matrix software. In this example, their customer requested a pair of cufflinks featuring the black bear shown in the photo.

Jen built the cufflinks and basic structure of the bear in Matrix, creating a mesh. She then exported the mesh bear to ClayTools which converts the surface to a finer gauge digital ‘clay’‘, and proceeded to methodically sculpt and detail the topography of the bear.

When satisfied with the form, she was able to import and add ‘fur patterns’ from various sources and file options.

After reducing the size of the file, she exported the bear back to Matrix, assembled the appropriate parts and prepared a Revo540 file to send to mill master Scott for completion of the models.

Regardless of the request, 3D design and manufacturing service bureaus work toward meeting your goals offering retailers, designers and manufacturers an array of options which are cost effective, labor efficient and profitable.