Located at the end of an 18-mile, single track road in Carradale, on the west coast of Scotland, sits Jewellery Casting Scotland, a specialist in jewellery manufacture, casting and CAD design. It has been serving the jewellery industry for over 45 years, and its remote location has not stopped the company from seeing strong sales growth each month and an “ever-increasing” customer base.
Managing director Mike Hurst has been with the company since its inception, when the company used to offer its own jewellery collection under the name Wallace Hunter. The manufacturer always offered a casting service on the side, but Hurst says that around six years ago it decided to focus solely on casting, as it suited its business plan better. “It was the best thing we ever did,” he remarks.
“We call ourselves micro-casters because about 80% of what we do is jewellery,” says Hurst, “And we do all the precious metals, all of the high-temperature ones – over 800°c – but we don’t do any of the low melting point metals.”
The other 20% of the work that Jewellery Casting Scotland undertakes can range from model engineering to bits for musical instruments and electronic parts, and Hurst says there is always a “nice steady flow” to the output. It also offers a CAD/CAM service, and although it doesn’t do it in-house Hurst says it has two “amazingly reliable” companies which do the CAD and the printing for them.
In terms of more traditional manufacturing techniques the company also offers a finishing service. Hurst says that it isn’t used a lot as many of the clients it works with are traditional jewellers, who want to finish the item off themselves. Instead the company will occasionally offer this service for reasonably large volume orders.
“We also do bench work and have bench skills, and also if masters get damaged we have the skills to be able to repair if the customer wants us to do that. We’re a pretty skilled bunch in traditional terms,” he beams.
Jewellery Casting Scotland has a customer base of around 500, largely made up of one off orders from jewellers, wax carvers and “quite a few fairly big clients”. Hurst details that one of the reasons why they have such a successful client base is that they try and be “fun and nice with everybody”. “There are eight of us in the workshop, and we are kind of a pretty light hearted bunch, and we do try and enjoy life and I think it reflects in our work”.
“When we people phone us up we don’t get aggressive people, everybodies nice and we have a nice easy going service. The proof of the pudding is that when everything is running smoothly, people have their items back in their workshop in seven days. Which is very fast,” he adds. Most of the manufacturer’s deliveries and collections are handled by Royal Mail. “They are our biggest transporters who really are amazingly reliable, and offer a first class service,” he adds.
Hurst goes on to say the company tries to offer “as good a service as we possibly can”, and if anything ever does go wrong with the casting the company will just take it back and redo it, “no questions asked”. “We never make an issue, because so often when you send castings out, the flaws might be below the surface of the metal,” he explains.
Despite all of the jewellery being inspected before it leaves the workshop, certain flaws might be hidden inside the casting which cannot be seen and will only appear when the client starts working on them. This forms one of the main challenges of the business, as all of the materials need to be “perfect”, according to Hurst. “I think we have got a reasonable reputation for quality and if everything isn’t perfect then we really need to get to the manufacturers and rattle their cages.”
Hurst says over the coming year the company wants to develop and learn as many new skills as it can. “We are very conscious that there are things we don’t know,” he says, “and we have a continuous improvement plan in place.” This year the company attended the Goldsmiths’ Company Jewellery Materials Congress event, which Hurst says was “fantastic”. He thinks that every manufacturer in Britain “should have been there”, as the company was able to “learn so much about so many things”.
“There were some things that the lecturers said that either went over our heads or didn’t pertain to our activities, but everybody would learn something from the event,” he says adamantly, “If that have another one next year we shall certainly be there and we only hope that there are a lot more manufacturers there.”
Hurst also hopes the company can physically expand in the near future, as he feels the manufacturer is “hemmed in where we are and desperately short of space”. “We are always on the eye open for new opportunities and maybe if we’re lucky we might do it by acquisition”.
Hurst concludes by recalling a story on how a few years ago Jewellery Casting Scotland were tasked with making pieces of jewellery for Tim Peake, the first British astronaut to conduct a space walk. One of the company’s previous customers was a relation of Peake, and tasked Hurst if his team could make some pieces to accompany him into space.
“We did around 20 pieces, and he distributed it to family and friends. So we made the pieces that went up onto the International Space Station. It was nice the way it all tied together.”