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August 1999

Precious Metals & Bench:News

All Locked Up

Donald Bruce & Co., parent of Princess Pride Creations and Skalet Gold, focuses on creativity, attention to detail and technology

Every successful company must have an internal philosophy that governs how it makes its product, says Gary Solomon, president of Donald Bruce & Co., Chicago, IL. Donald Bruce & Co. is the parent of Princess Pride Creations and Skalet Gold, whose distinctive line of Papillon jewelry has been highly successful since its introduction two years ago.

Solomon, whose companies have manufactured jewelry for more than 30 years, spoke with Professional Jeweler during a recent tour of one of its factories in Johnston, RI. The keys for manufacturing high-quality products efficiently and at a wide range of prices, he says, are:

  • Creativity.
  • Attention to detail.
  • Technological expertise.

These can be achieved three ways:

  • Continuing education and improvement.
  • Manufacturing excellence and innovation.
  • Creativity enhanced by the latest technology.

Worker Education
A crucial part of consistent quality is a skilled and loyal staff. Respect for the people who work for him is the cornerstone, says Solomon. He shows his respect and builds loyalty by offering educational opportunities, skills and language training, and carefully supervised apprentice programs. Every manufacturing employee must know how to do at least two jobs. Paul Leonardo, vice president of manufacturing at the Johnston factory, is a prime example. He started in the shipping department 21 years ago; because Solomon offered educational opportunities and rewarded loyalty and quality work, Leonardo worked his way to his current position. Professional Jeweler spoke with people at every step of production. Most had been there for many years and avail themselves of the chance to master skills and techniques through apprenticeship and training.

Manufacturing Excellence
An important aspect of quality control is that all tools and dies are made at the plant by computer and by hand. Unless the tools and dies are perfect, says Leonardo, the pieces they stamp out cannot be. Every press uses a die set to assure accuracy in the pressing process. Lockets, one of the company's largest selling and most familiar products, take five or more steps to assemble. Hinges are recessed for a finer look and so they will not catch on clothing. Edges are rolled for a better appearance and strength.

A full 95% of the company's products are hand polished after being mechanically polished to remove fine surface scratches. Gold fill is finished as finely as karat gold. The goal is to get a die-struck piece up to the same quality of cast jewelry.

Almost all the company's lockets are hand engraved. It takes six to eight months to become a competent engraver and years to become truly skilled.

The company also uses two rivets to join pieces rather than one and uses square rivets because round ones are more prone to loosening. "Another innovative way we found to improve quality," Solomon says, "is to join cast embellishments to die-struck pieces."

Creativity and technology go hand in hand. Skilled artists and jewelry designers use computer graphics to elevate and streamline the design process. Computerized tool-and-die making enhance the company's precision manufacturing equipment.

Through its various companies and divisions, Donald Bruce & Co. offers lockets, pendants, earrings, bracelets, brooches, religious items, cultured pearl jewelry and colored gemstone rings in gold, gold fill and sterling that are $10 to over $2,500 suggested retail.

The next article in this series will look at Donald Bruce's external philosophy. As the face of marketing and distribution changes, we'll see what this major manufacturer does to keep up and move ahead and what these changes and advantages mean to jewelers who buy the company's products.

  • Donald Bruce & Co., Chicago, IL; (800) 621-6017.

– by William Donahue Jr.

Copyright © 1999 by Bond Communications.


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