3D printing helps fine jewellery makers

Australian boutique jewellery manufacturers are using 3D printing to help create unique, high-end engagement and wedding rings.

Jewellery manufacturers who provide custom-made items have been in high demand over the past five years as high-income earners seek personalised jewellery.

Jewellers who provide an integrated service of designing, personalising and creating products that suit the customer’s tastes and budget have enjoyed strong growth, industry analyst IBISWorld says.

“That’s basically due to increased consumer demand for handmade unique products particularly for engagement rings and wedding rings,” IBISWorld analyst Nick Tarrant said.

That has been aided by 3D printing technology.

“It allows them to produce a prototype in a short time frame and they can mould it to their design. They can adapt and refine that easily for the customer.”

Mr Tarrant said a prototype of an engagement ring can be made quite quickly, although it is still costly technology.

IBISWorld estimates the jewellery manufacturing industry’s revenue has risen by an annualised 3.5 per cent over the five years through 2015/16 to $2.3 billion.

Mr Tarrant said industry players were looking to higher-margin, lower-volume fine jewellery rather than mass-produced products, as Australian manufacturers do not have the cost advantage of overseas firms.

“With a lot of manufacturing industries in Australia, they’re facing a lot of import competition from these low-cost overseas manufacturers in China and throughout Asia that have lower overheads and can mass produce products for much cheaper than they can in Australia.

“That’s particularly prevalent in the costume/fashion jewellery segment.”

Mr Tarrant said many costume jewellery manufacturers had left the industry over the past five years because of price pressures from low-cost overseas firms. He expects the trend will continue.

“I think, even with the low Australian dollar, the manufacturers of fashion/costume jewellery will continue to be under significant price pressure from firms from overseas.”

The depreciation of the Australian dollar from about 2013 has, however, boosted export sales and helped local firms fend off some of the intense competition from foreign manufacturers.

Mr Tarrant said exports, which account for nearly 80 per cent of overall industry revenue, have recorded almost seven per cent year-on-year growth over the past five years to reach $1.9 billion in 2015/16.

He said tariff reductions under the China-Australia free trade agreement will further boost exports, in particular of diamond-mounted fine jewellery.

IBISWorld has forecast Australian jewellery manufacturing industry revenue will increase at an annualised 2.2 per cent over the next five years to reach $2.6 billion.