For Phillip Voetsch, it’s all about great design. For the past three decades, Voetsch has left his mark on American jewelry design, operating a successful design and manufacturing company whose clients include the nation’s top retailers. He’s won prominent national and international jewelry design competitions. With his wife Tamara, Voetsch expanded the manufacturing operation and opened a store – Phillip Voetsch, Jewelry By Design – serving the Kansas City market.

After 26 years of design success using the skills he learned and developed in the design and metals program at Kansas University , Voetsch was among the first to embrace Gemvision’s 3D CAD/ CAM technology. Using Matrix software, rapid prototyping and milling, he and his staff design and produce more than 400 custom orders annually and have steadily replaced their retail inventory of mass-produced products with their own designs. This article reviews the five key steps in this high-tech custom design operation.

Initial Interview

Phillip Voetsch, Jewelry By Design has an elegantly appointed showroom featuring all natural materials. The exclusive custom-designed collections are displayed predominantly in professionally designed wall and counter showcases that invite browsing. Next to the entrance is the focal point of the room – a consultation area complete with digital imaging equipment provided to enhance communication about customers’ jewelry, whether for inspection, repairs or custom designs.The customer seated at the consultation showcase has brought in two pieces requiring repair. Phillip Voetsch places one of the items in his ImageDome™, Gemvision’s Digital Imaging System and captures an image. He imports the image to his Digital Goldsmith software (Gemvision’s 2D software) so he can show the customer an enlarged view and point out the needed repair work. Design coordinator Carrie Doten records details on a job envelope while Voetsch prints a copy of the image for the customer to verify approval of the repairs.
Tamara Voetsch introduces the custom-design process to potential clients in her naturally ebullient manner. Featured in the wall case behind her are examples of three Matrix – generated renderings that show the same custom design from different views. A polymer model and a finished piece of the featured design are included in the display. She and her husband say visuals help customers feel confident the jewelry designed for them will meet their expectations.When a client is interviewed for a custom-designed piece, Phillip Voetsch begins by asking questions, showing photographs and taking notes on his or her answers and preferences in such areas as furniture, architecture, fashion ad lifestyle. As his idea of the client’s tastes emerge, he selects compatible pieces from his archives and displays them on the computer monitor for review and discussion. After noting specific final details, he is ready to begin designing the jewelry.

The store has a library of more than 500 images of Matrix design renderings and digital photographs of previously completed original work. These images are categorized and easily accessible to whichever sales professional conducts the interview.

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According to Voetsch, the CAD/ CAM design process provides the following benefits:

  • Gives the designer the capability of delivering the precise piece the customer wants within most price points.
  • Involves customers in the design process, making the piece very personal and helping them to take more ownership in it.
  • Turns customers into advocates after their jewelry is completed and generates word-of-mouth advertising.
  • Creates a special experience Being involved with the design creates a special experience for the customer and cost becomes the secondary issue.
  • With CAD/CAM, designers can control budget and desires Voetsch remarks “Customers are willing to spend more on a piece when they have invested their time in the design process.”

The Design Process

Phillip Voetsch is the store’s chief designer and Matrix expert. An accomplished designer and master level bench jeweler, he began using Matrix 3 ½ years ago. He may spend as little as an hour or as much as a couple of days on designs. With each project, he begins by reviewing the information recorded during the interview, including key information such as size, color, cut of gemstones, type, color and finish of metal, setting style and budget. His goal is to provide customers with three options based on their input. After the design work is completed, he gives the package to his wife, who reviews the work, prepares the estimates and e-mails the selections to the customer.

The Estimate

Tamara Voetsch prepares the estimates for each design. When she prepares the estimates, she calculates the total time and materials for the work then adds a markup.After Tamara Voetsch completes the estimates, she e-mails them to the customer along with Matrix – generated images in multiple views (shown). Note that one of the selections is placed on the image of a hand. The images are large and show the detail, though Voetsch says it’s important to offer the scaled view to give the customer an idea of the actual size.

The couple believes that sending the designs and estimates via e-mail gives the customers an opportunity to think about the best choice and to collaborate with others while making a final selection. The designs typically go out on a Friday and customers return in a few days to review details of his or her final selection. The store closes over 85% of these deals.

The Manufacturing Process

Kent Haub, a master level bench jeweler with a bachelor of fine arts degree in design from Kansas University is the inspiration and driving force behind the production at the in-store facility. He collaborates with Phillip Voetsch during the design process and is the primary finisher of all pieces with the help of apprentice jeweler Dan Saeger. Haub and Saeger also produce the Phillip Voetsch, Jewelry by Design collections displayed in the store and distributed to other retail stores for resale.
Dan Saeger is shown pre finishing the top of a pendant from the “Reflection” collection. Phillip Voetsch designed the piece using Matrix. Ultimately, it will be attached to a highly polished inverted dome that will reflect the gem set into the design. Saeger earned a bachelor of fine arts degree from Kansas University and has worked at Jewelry by Design for over a year. He is honing his skill under the direction of Kent Haub and Phillip Voetsch. “Dan is eager and quick to learn, has good attention for detail and a desire to achieve quality” says Haub. “He is a joy to work with”.

Delivery of the Finished Piece

A customer arrives to pick up her pink sapphire and diamond ring. Phillip Voetsch greets her and brings up the image of the final design on the computer monitor as he presents her jewelry. She is genuinely elated as she dons her new ring, comparing it with the Matrix rendering.
Asked about the custom design process and the finished ring, the customer says the ring is exactly as she envisioned it and credits Phillip Voetsch for the remarkable design and quality workmanship. “All of my requests were taken into consideration, and I couldn’t be happier,” she says. “It looks exactly as I imagined it would from the designs I received. Being able to see multiple views of the design was a real bonus.”The CAD/ CAM process has given the couple an opportunity to design and produce over 400 custom pieces per year, clearly placing their store in a different category from their competitors.

Phillip Voetsch is quick to credit Jeff High and Gemvision Corporation for having the foresight to develop and produce products that help to propel their business and others in the jewelry industry.