Precious metals manufacturer Curteis’ bespoke production service, ‘Curteis Creates’, was set up to support growing requests for complex assembly of whole ranges ready for sale and to give the trade a single partner to go to in order to turn their designs into reality.
That was 15 years ago, but today the service remains as relevant as ever.
Managing director Henry Curteis reveals how the operation is working with customers to bring their collections to market and become profitable much more quickly.
One of the biggest challenges for jewellers and wholesalers is turning marketing and design ideas into reality. How can Curteis Creates help customers to get products manufactured on time and at the right price and quality?
We have been manufacturing for more than 45 years and have the experience and knowledge it takes to create high-quality pieces that meet our customers’ needs and expectations.
We can save designers an age of time. We pride ourselves on being in a position to provide excellent customer service, combining our extensive on-site manufacturing and other services, along with a well-established computer system.
The informational aspect of manufacturing jewellery is a major challenge and in this area we feel we have one of the best systems, which we built ourselves from scratch, beginning way back in 1982.
Taking advantage of all this back-up and long term investment in effect gives our customers time to focus on the equally crucial marketing and distribution side of their businesses, keeping their operating costs low, enabling them to generate sales volume and allowing them to become profitable much more quickly.
How does the service work – can you outline what sort of engagement takes place and the typical timeframe for bringing an idea to fruition?
Our team initially liaises with customers to get an understanding of their project and desired wants and needs.
We are on hand to guide customers through the whole sampling process, giving customers the ability to make changes and amendments throughout.
The sampling process can take a minimum of three weeks depending on the individual project, but guidance will be given from the offset.
Presumably some customers will want guiding through the entire process from design and creation, whereas others might have a clear idea of what they want but require expertise on a very specific part of the project…
Yes, and that’s something we pride ourselves on. If a client has little experience of manufacturing that is not necessarily a problem although our service works best with people who’ve gone down the track of trying to do everything themselves and realise it’s a massive undertaking and can see why they need us.
Also, they will by then have some idea as to the marketing success of the product ranges they wish us to focus on, and not be simply running a trial, although we always try to assist start-ups where we can.
What do you think the lockdowns that the market has experienced have done to the process?
Lockdown has given the ‘creatives’ an opportunity to develop ideas for new businesses and we’ve been fortunate enough to guide many non-jewellers through the process of bringing collections to market, and be rewarded with good sales volume.
“If a client has little experience of manufacturing that is not necessarily a problem”
Some of our larger accounts channel existing lines through our facility but once established rely on us to develop further ranges. The level of control under one roof is our advantage. How far a client wishes to go is down to them.
Some jewellery designers typically fly off to the Far East to source their product ranges. Would it be fair to say you are promoting a ‘buy British’ approach, and, if so, what are the key benefits of this?
The main benefit of producing products on-site with us is that we can guarantee the quality, and of course reduce timeframes.
We can move quickly if sales grow, which means our clients’ profitability can grow faster. Ordering from the Far East used to be the fashion 20 years ago.
In the 1990s, British manufacturing was thought to be a thing of the past, and we had to listen to people at trade fairs telling us our days were numbered!
But all over the developed world many now regret losing their local suppliers. There is a trend back the other way especially for products that are tailored to suit a particular market sector, and timeframe.
We have the ability to make any alterations quickly, and in turn create a product that we, and most importantly our customers, are happy with.
We can address issues for clients who are interested in, for example, green aspects of business or ethical metal sourcing which may prove difficult with some Far East suppliers.
Tell us about the facilities you have to support the Curteis Creates service. What role does automated computer-controlled machinery and other technology have to play in this?
Alongside traditional methods, we use a range of modern equipment to bring the clients’ ideas to fruition.
Jewelcad software teamed up with 3D printers gives us the control and the onsite flexibility to produce masters, resulting in quicker delivery times.
We are always looking out for up-to-date equipment to improve our customer service and quality of product.
“we use a range of modern equipment to bring the clients’ ideas to fruition.”
Every year we are buying new equipment and notice how electronic controls such as temperature and speed controllers are so much better than they used to be 30 years ago.
We use laser welders where that is better than soldering. We have master-producing facilities onsite so we can create a castable or moldable model from your drawings or ideas.
To further support this we have CNC machinery to produce multiple flat designs that aren’t suited to being cast.
We have some clients who have developed silhouettes by hand piercing. That can be very time-consuming and when business has advanced to a level where automation is required, we can help.
There is obviously a high degree of sensitivity for customers when creating new designs. How do you guarantee confidentiality from client to client?
We have worked with some very high profile accounts over the years and we’d hope that our clients would understand that there is a high level of trust.
On some occasions we will be happy to sign a non-disclosure agreement if this fits with our business.
For example, if we are using corporate logos on behalf of clients. We never show any clients’ work to prospective clients and if clients visit us all departments are briefed not to disclose information.
We would love to shout about what we do but if our client is happy then that’s good enough for us!
What are your plans for Curteis Creates this year? Can customers expect to see it evolve further?
Our aim as always is to bring the clients’ ideas to life using up-to-date technology and quality product.
Improving skill level and knowledge is also a priority in making sure we achieve this. Every year provides experience to build on.
We recently acquired a metal stamping business which was closing down in Birmingham due to the retirement of the owner and we’re excited to have moved that business up to our factory.
There will be great potential to find as this project develops. Our range of bespoke tags and components is already growing from this, and will continue doing so.
There are hundreds of patterns tucked away in boxes, and it will take a year to work through them all and see what can be made of it all.
We are also increasing our laser welders because we find designs are getting neater and more intricate needing smaller links, making soldering impractical.