Laser welder a gold nugget

Filed under: Focus |

All that matters at All that Glitters is design – creating one-of-a-kind jewelry pieces that reflect nature’s casting of the gems.

To further enhance artistic possibilities at the 25-year-old Old Colorado Avenue jewelry store, owner Crettee Nemmer purchased the latest high-tech equipment for designing, restoring and repairing jewelry. To Nemmer and her staff of award-winning designers and goldsmiths, the new tool, the Lasarstar Laser Welder, is a gem all its own. The $29,000 price tag suggests a precious stone.

However, the price tag is worth its weight in gold – literally. Carol Willis, a consultant and the store’s jack-of-all-trades, said the laser tool is “worth the expense, opening a whole new world of design possibilities. Here, anything is possible.”

The laser welder sits desk high from the floor and is about the size of an incubator that holds premature babies. The goldsmith inserts the jewelry or metal pieces inside the machine and the laser beam – a quick flash of flame – does the rest. Through the glass or eyepiece the goldsmith can observe the molding together process.

The quick flash of the laser beam is easy on the gemstones.

Many gemstones, such as emeralds, coral and tanzanite, can be damaged by the heat of welding or soldering, so the stones have to be removed from the metals prior to the repair or manufacture of the design, Willis said.

Not so with the laser process.

The laser tool is “like a welding machine that uses laser instead of a torch,” said goldsmith Mark Covington, who has been with All that Glitters for about three years. “The laser allows us to move fast with lower or no heat at all,” Willis said. “It allows us to work closely with pearls and fragile gems and also allows us to do things we’ve never been able to do.”

Allowing the designers carte blanche with their creative genius has prompted a unique line of All that Glitters’ jewelry pieces, like the Serengeti Sunrise, designed by Carol Fall and created by goldsmith Ward Stogdill.

Fall, who has been designing jewelry pieces at the store for 11 years, looked at the Serengeti Sunrise stone (an Idaho plume agate), and decided that nature shaped it to look like the savannah. She then sketched a design reminiscent of an African safari. As with any of the store’s original designs, the Serengeti was first carved in wax, and then brought to fruition by the goldsmith and the laser.

Although welding and soldering are still used at the store (Covington said the laser will never take over the manufacturing of all jewelry), Fall said she didn’t think the Serengeti could have been created without the laser. Stogdill said manufacturing the Serengeti would have been “much more difficult. The final product would not have been so detailed.”

While the cut of the stones suggest the design, the designing details are put in place by laser technology, Willis said. “We are stepping out of the realm of jewelry into the realm of art,” Willis said.

Whatever the realm, the use of technology in the jewelry business is set in stone.

Covington said the laser machine became available “six or seven years ago,” and, at that time, it cost about $35,000. Willis said the laser is “truly space-age technology” – the first of its kind in Colorado Springs.

“You have to anticipate where the industry is headed,” Nemmer said. She has solely owned the business for the past eight years, and, as a woman in business, she has had to anticipate the joys and the challenges that are a part of owning a business.

“One of the hardest things to learn was how to manage cash flow,” Nemmer said. “I like to pay ahead. I paid things too quickly and then had to dip into savings to make payroll. I think I’ve mastered it now – I just hate owing money.”

She credits friends she met through a divorce recovery workshop with helping her understand the business side of owning a jewelry store. And she credits her six employees, also including Michael “Buzz” Steenrod, gemologist, and the vice-president of the store, a Maltese named Cheney, with helping to create a rock-solid business gem.

- Marylou.doehrman@csbj.com