Over the past three years, Bakhash has quietly put together a team of 3-D engineers in Silicon Valley to build an end-to-end 3-D platform. It handles design of the printing process and provides a browser and customization engine for the consumer to view renderings of their concoction.
The company designs its rings, necklaces, bracelets and earrings using proprietary software that makes it relatively easy to create multiple views of a piece. Together, this 3-D rendering and printing platform is proving popular in boosting sales: In November alone, Bakhash says sales doubled year-over-year, an impact directly attributable to the 3D printing process.
While there was once cachet to the idea that a skilled jeweler had hand-tooled a piece, 3-D printing means precise lines and symmetry, he said.
“In the old way, jewelers had to spend a lot of hours carving [by hand]. It would take me two weeks to create that piece. We can do it in a day now,” Bakhash said. “There's no way we could have all of these pieces if it weren't for technology. The jeweler has been replaced by software.” Depending upon the piece, creation can take just a few hours.
Another benefit: All of American Pearls' 3D-printed products are made in the USA. This stands in contrast with other jewelry, which often came in from overseas where labor costs are lower.
A third benefit is the efficiency. Not only does American Pearl save time on designing its catalog, but it also cut down the process by 90 percent because 3-D printing is so much faster. “Typically the savings are passed off to the consumers,” Bakhash said, noting that his prices tend to cost one-quarter of standard retail prices.
“No one else is doing what we are, though a lot [of makers] quietly use 3-D for the creation of designs behind the scenes. But no one else has an online interactive system.”
With that head start on the industry, American Pearl is looking to the future. “ we'll allow you to virtualize your hand on the product, and we'll allow you to create your own designs from existing objects. That will be coming next year,” he said.