Machines replaced human hands in the manufacturing of gold jewellery a few decades back. The need, back then, was to cut costs, and cater to the rising popularity of machine designs in chains, earrings and bangles. Handcrafted designs were blended with machine-made ones. And soon, machine-made ornaments expanded their share in the overall jewellery sales to 25-30 per cent, from less than 5 per cent.
However, after revolutionising the jewellery industry through machine-made designs, jewellers are going back to their roots of traditional handcrafted manufacturing of gold and diamond ornaments to appease customers for premiums.
This move can be seen as a result of combination of factors. One, most jewellers are voluntarily opting for hallmark jewellery. Second, the retail gold price is in sync with the indicative price announced daily by the Indian Bullion and Jewellers Associationfor retailers.
Therefore, the major differentiation is the design. And without designs, the brand value, which otherwise is a guarantee for purity, is diminishing.
Adding to this, the shift from hand-crafted to machine-made ornaments did not serve the purpose. Neither the cost of machine-made jewellery declined, nor did the jewellers find innovative designs.
“The industry is going back to ‘hand-crafted’ ornaments for both domestic and overseas buyers. Thus, such jewellery will be the future in India,” said N Anantha Padmanaban, managing director, NAC Jewellers, a leading jewellery manufacturer in Chennai, and chairman of the All India Gems & Jewellery Domestic Council (GJC).
In fact, the GJC plans to re-introduce ‘Lucky Lakshmi’ — its famous marketing campaign — to encourage jewellery manufacturers to work with intricate hand-crafted designs.
“Installment of a machine calls for a massive investment. Hence, small jewellery orders cannot be fulfilled using machines. For every small order, a dye needs to be made, which costs a lot to jewellers. Since the consumers’ mindset in India keeps changing, the machine-made ornaments become outdated after a small period. In case of handcrafted ones, the consumers hold onto the ornaments for long because of their emotional attachments,” said Shaankar Sen, chairman and managing director, Senco Gold, a Kolkata–based jewellery manufacturer.
Availability of options and flexibility with errors and omissions are some of the major drawbacks of machine-made jewellery. Also, machine-made jewellery tends to break during the finishing process. They are then connected using laser technology, which has short durability and further adds onto the woes.