Professional Jeweler Archive: It's All About Great Design

April 2005

Bench | Design Focus: CAD/CAM

It's All About Great Design

Designer uses CAD/CAM to take manufacturing and retail business to new heights

By Mark and Lainie Mann

Featuring Phillip and Tamara Voetsch, Jewelry By Design, Prairie Village, KS

For Philip 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 also won prominent national and international jewelry design competitions. With his wife, Tamara, Voetsch expanded the manufacturing operation and opened a store – Philip Voetsch, Jewelry By Design – serving the Kansas City market. For 11 years, the couple and their staff have nurtured close working relationships with their clients, designing and making jewelry to celebrate their hopes, dreams and milestones.

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.

Tamara and Phllip Voetsch

1. Initial Interview

Philip Voetsch, Jewelry By Design features 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 specially designed light chamber of the Gemvision ImageDome Digital Imaging System creates the perfect environment to take consistent, professional-level, high-resolution digital photographs of jewelry.

When a client is interviewed for a custom-designed piece, Philip Voetsch begins by asking questions, showing photographs and taking notes on his or her answers and preferences in such areas as furniture, architecture, fashion and 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.

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

Gives the designer the capability to deliver 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 for customers, making cost a secondary issue. Even so, “Customers are willing to spend more on a piece when they have invested their time in the design process,” he says.

The customer seated at the consultation showcase has brought in two pieces requiring repair. Philip Voetsch places one item 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.

2. The Design Process

Philip Voetsch is the store’s chief designer and Matrix expert. An accomplished designer and master bench jeweler, he began using Matrix 31/2 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.

Philip Voetsch creates designs based on his clients’ parameters. Here he’s completing a design for a 6-ct. pink sapphire ring with diamond accents using Gemvision’s Matrix 3D software.

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.

3. The Estimate

Tamara Voetsch prepares the estimates for each design by:

Using the Jewelry By Design price chart to determine the amount of time for the manufacturing labor required. The couple developed the chart by benchmarking time required for specific labor categories over 20 years ago and updating it regularly. The chart has over 150 categories of labor.

Reviewing the stones required and metal reports generated by the Matrix software.

When she prepares the estimates, she calculates the total time and materials for the work then adds a markup.

The couple believe that sending the designs and estimates via e-mail gives the customer 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, then the customer returns in a few days to review details of his or her final selection. The store closes over 85% of these deals. The customer pays a 50% deposit upon the selection and the balance upon completion of the piece.

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 actual size.

4. The Manufacturing Process

Next the store sends a design file out for production of the model. The method and production of the model depend on the structure and features of the design. When the model is delivered, a mold is made and a wax copy is generated for casting and finishing.

Kent Haub, a master bench jeweler with a bachelor of fine arts degree in design from Kansas University, is the driving force behind production at the in-store facility. He collaborates with Philip 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 Philip Voetsch, Jewelry By Design collections displayed in the store and distributed to other retail stores for resale.
Dan Saeger is shown prefinishing the top of a pendant from the “Reflection” collection. Philip 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 skills under the direction of Kent Haub and Philip Voetsch.

“Dan is eager and quick to learn, has good attention of detail and a desire to achieve quality” says Haub.

5. Delivery of the Finished Piece

At Jewelry By Design, delivery of the finished piece is intended to be an experience. The customer is notified the piece is ready and, when he or she arrives, the celebration begins.

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.

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

Customer Marsha Herman arrives to pick up her pink sapphire and diamond ring. Philip Voetsch greets her and brings up the image of the final design on the computer monitor as he presents her jewelry.

Marcia 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, customer Marsha Herman says the ring is exactly as she envisioned it and credits Philip Voetsch for the 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.”

For information about Philip Voetsch, Jewelry By Design, e-mail or call (913) 341-7100.

This installment of Design Focus was sponsored by Gemvision Corp. For information on Gemvision products and services, call (800) 357-6272, e-mail or visit

Illustration by Lainie Mann
Photographs by Mark B. Mann
Visual Communications, Inc. © 2005

Copyright © 2005 by Bond Communications