With the growing introduction and use of 3D printing, the jewelry industry has seized the opportunity to produce quality and customizable designs at more affordable prices. According to the National Jeweler, 956 retail jewelers, wholesalers, and manufacturers closed in 2015. This number increased to 1,564 in 2016, marking a 64% decline in jewelers throughout North America. 3D printing can benefit the changing industry, since the technology enables jewelers, manufacturers, and designers to test with patterns, colors, and designs, which, in the past, was a more timely process. 3D printing offers a new way to produce jewelry that is not as expensive or time-consuming, but that still maintains a high level of quality. With substantially reduced retail distributors, new 3D printer-based jewelry can sell directly to consumers via the internet.
The Research & Development Tax Credit
Enacted in 1981, the federal Research and Development (R&D) Tax Credit allows a credit of up to 13 percent of eligible spending for new and improved products and processes. Qualified research must meet the following four criteria:
- New or improved products, processes, or software
- Technological in nature
- Elimination of uncertainty
- Process of experimentation
Eligible costs include employee wages, cost of supplies, cost of testing, contract research expenses, and costs associated with developing a patent. On December 18, 2015 President Obama signed the bill making the R&D Tax Credit permanent. Beginning in 2016, the R&D credit can be used to offset Alternative Minimum Tax and startup businesses can utilize the credit against $250,000 per year in payroll taxes.
Despite some intense skepticism, artistic integrity is not compromised when using 3D printing to produce more precise jewelry. Customer benefits are evident as shoppers can design their jewelry and have it delivered within a week, according to Forbes.com.
According to The New York Times, Marie Boltenstern creates intricate metal jewelry with 3D printing for the family company, Boltenstern. Maria prints the designs in the company’s Vienna location. 18-karat gold bracelets that normally sell for upwards of $29,000 are now printed in 20 hours or less.
American Pearl permits shoppers to fully customize designs for engagement rings. Consumers are empowered to make their own jewelry in real-time by using AmericanPearl.com. Limitless options are available, and as CEO Eddie Bakhash remarks, “There are thousands of designs, millions of combinations and billions of permutations. We have more jewelry for sale than Tiffany’s.” As a result of 3D printing, American Pearl reduces manufacturing expenses by 75%.
Trove was a NYC-based company that let consumers personalize jewelry. It offered 30 jewelry designs that can be customized into thousands of unique pieces, starting as cheap as $50 for bronze, and upwards of thousands of dollars for gold. Trove offered a unique feature in which customers can first request a free, plastic version of their creation. Any additional changes could be made to the design before it was molded into the final, expensive version.
Hypatia Studio is owned by a husband and wife who are mechanical engineers. The company began when the husband needed an engagement ring for his wife but did not want to buy one. He created a computer program and home 3D printer to design and produce the ring he had in mind. Since then, the couple relies only on their home 3D printing to create jewelry derived from mathematical functions and geometry. All designs are completely customizable with a central focus on geometric shapes found in nature.
With 3D printing, the industry will experience savings in cost and labor, without compromising on jewelers’ jobs. Expertise in the field is required, and now jewelers have the opportunity to expand their artistic abilities through 3D printing. Furthermore, during the production process and post-processing, manual labor is still required, which means the human element of creating jewelry remains intact despite adoption of cutting-edge technology. 3D printing technology brings the world of design to our fingertips, giving jewelers and customers the opportunity to produce almost any jewelry faster, at less cost, and with quality.
Charles R. Goulding and Chloé Margulis of R&D Tax Savers discuss 3D printing of jewelry as it relates to tax credits.