Professional Jeweler Archive: From Design Concept to Finished Piece

May 2002

Professional Bench/Five Steps to Profit


From Design Concept to Finished Piece

Lenkeit's strength: doing it all


Wayne Lenkeit began his career while still in high school, through a part-time job producing jewelry and cutting cabochon gemstones. After graduation, Lenkeit (pronounced len-kite) remained dedicated to jewelry making. His employer kept challenging him to learn and do more, and Lenkeit thrived. Soon he was increasing his proficiency and performing more skills. He enjoyed the challenges and remained on the job for four years.

To be completely involved with custom jewelry, Lenkeit accepted a position with Jack Prentice, a premier California retailer, designer and custom manufacturer. While working and apprenticing under Prentice, Lenkeit realized he was involved at the level he aspired to for his future. “Working and learning from a gifted professional like Jack gave me a deeper view into the magic of this craft,” Lenkeit says.

Lenkeit later opened a trade shop to provide design, custom-order and jewelry reconstruction services to jewelry retailers in California. Seeking a lifestyle improvement for himself and his family, Lenkeit moved his operation to Paradise, CA, where he added a retail store to his endeavors. With his family grown, Lenkeit recently returned to southern California to focus on the work he finds most rewarding: design, custom order and manufacturing for jewelry retailers.

For the past two years, Lenkeit has taught part-time at the Revere Academy in San Francisco. He will present “Increasing Your Platinum Proficiency” at JA’s Masters Up Close Annual Symposium, to be held July 28 at the JA New York Show. His featured project will be the design, wax carving, casting and manufacturing of a platinum and gemstone ring. Lenkeit also gives presentations and demonstrations at annual JA affiliate events.

Here is how he uses the five P’s of pricing, process, promotion, productivity and professionalism.

Pricing

Lenkeit provides estimates to retailers for each job he undertakes, taking into account the uniqueness the work requires. He determines the price of the final product based on materials needed and the time required for design, manufacturing and administration. He also charges for his design time when working from verbal parameters given by retailers.

“By providing a defined plan, reworking is held to a minimum,” he says.

Process

Because Lenkeit prefers to focus his attention on a particular project, he performs only one job at a time.

Another service Lenkeit provides is model and mold making. His customers bring him a concept, and he plans the overall manufacturing procedure and production runs for the piece.

Promotion

Lenkeit says he built his business by referral. He now is establishing a Web site so retailers and their customers can preview his custom pieces and wedding band line. “I have no desire to sell directly to consumers with the site, but I do want it to be consumer-friendly so the retailer can refer the client to it with no fear of being undercut,” Lenkeit says.

He hopes to have the Web site up and running by early summer.

Productivity and Professionalism

Lenkeit specializes in handmade pieces. He performs all work from design to stone setting to the finished piece. He also does wax carving and casting. Lenkeit was among the first bench jewelers in the nation to become certified by Jewelers of America. Here is a sample of his previous work.

Wayne Lenkeit
These wedding bands are working prototypes for a soon-to-be-released Lenkeit collection. They will be produced in platinum and 18k yellow gold and will be cast, hand-assembled, machined and carefully finished. There will be a dozen matching sets of men’s and women’s bands, including complementary solitaires.
Lenkeit uses a close-up viewing microscope he developed by combining a tabletop fluorescent light and a microscope to inspect work in progress for a custom piece. He removed the lamp enclosure from the scissors arm of the light fixture and attached a microscope. This allows him to swing the viewing system into place at any position required for his work.
This piece, Lenkeit’s own design, features a tourmaline center flanked by bezel-set orange sapphires. It is hand-fabricated in platinum and 18k yellow gold.
This wedding set was produced based on design parameters provided by a retailer client. It’s made in platinum and holds a pear-shaped diamond that weighs over 2 carats.
Lenkeit designed and hand-fabricated this platinum ring with a cushion-shaped sapphire with trillion and bead- and bright-cut-set round diamonds.

By Mark B. Mann, Director of Trade Programs, Jewelers of America

Featuring JA® Certified Master Bench Jeweler™ Wayne Lenkeit of Lenkeit Manufacturing, Temecula, CA

For information about JA’s certification programs, call (800) 223-0673 or visit www.jewelers.org. For information about Lenkeit Manufacturing, call Wayne Lenkeit at (909) 303-3660 or visit www.Benchpin.com when it becomes operational this summer.

Photographs: Jewelers of America and Victoria Ward

©2002 Jewelers of America

Copyright © 2002 by Bond Communications