In the olden days, jewellery had a meaning beyond its beautiful shape and form. For the nobility, it was a tangible representation of wealth— a way of carrying their assets with them in a wearable shape. The imprint of a ring pressed into a dab of wax formed a seal, a unique signature that carried its own kind of power. Today, jewellery is once again taking on a more intense meaning. Instead of adorning themselves with accessories that only have aesthetic value, people are searching for jewellery that involves a digital aspect. It is the era of the Internet of Things, in which even a ring or a brooch has hidden powers of connectivity and digital payment options. How does this new trend of wearable technology affect the jewellery industry?
Longer Development Periods
The development process for such intricate, beautiful pieces takes time. The question is, are customers willing to wait for months or years for a specific piece of wearable tech to become available? In the case of the Bellabeat LEAF, a piece of jewellery that is also a health monitor, the design of the product and the manufacture of the hardware took well over 15 months. Supporters of the startup wanted to know what was taking so long, so the Bellabeat team opened a window into the design process and revealed some of the phases they went through to create their sleek, beautiful piece of wearable tech. They explained the effort it takes to create a truly original device, one that tracks a woman’s reproductive health, including ovulation and contraception intake. The very elements that took so long to program are the elements that set the LEAF apart, taking it beyond the realm of the typical fitness tracker and making it a tech treasure.
Developers must be willing to take the time to get it right. Settling for less is essentially yielding the market niche that you’ve discovered to someone else, someone who is willing to try, and try again, until the product is perfect.
At the same time, the timetable needs to be controlled. Jewellery trends come and go, and the speed of technology development seems to move faster with each passing year. If companies or startups take too long to produce the promised piece of wearable tech, they will shorten its lifespan. Technology will move on, providing new bits of hardware and programming methods that outstrip the device’s capabilities. Jewellery fashions will change, rendering the design unusable for fashion-conscious wearers. It’s a delicate balance between the perfection of a product and the movement of the market.
A Meeting of Minds
In order to produce wearable tech in the form of beautiful accessories, jewellers and programmers must to learn to work together, melding the elements of form and function. In the past, fine jewellery was a piece of art, limited only by the maker’s imagination and tools. However, in the case of wearable technology, the jewellery must be art, and it must also leverage high quality and efficient circuit design and embedded programming. In the case of the Bellabeat LEAF, the production took place entirely in-house, with over 30 programmers working tirelessly to design, test, revise, and re-test the product until it worked seamlessly. The result, after tens of thousands of hours of labour, is a pristine product that blends cutting-edge technology (like motion sensors, a multi-layer PCB, and haptic vibration motors) with a lovely wood and stainless steel design that women enjoy wearing as a brooch, necklace or bracelet.
As the jewellery industry and the technology industry continue to intertwine, developers and makers can expect to see a new overlap in their careers. Technology experts may need to take a few art appreciation classes or do some research into complex process of creating fine jewellery. Jewellery artists may be well-served by exploring the workings of the tiny, intricate computers that live inside the jewellery. In the end, the two industries may find that they are not so different, after all.