Knight Dreams Article2
By Jeff Prine
"If I can imagine it, I can make it"- and when Zoltan David says it, you can bet it’s not some quixotic dream.
The Austin, Texas-based designer, recipient of just about every major fine jewelry award, is some-thing of a knight-errant. And it's not just for his chivalrous character or even for the fact he was bestowed knighthood in honor of his father, Sir Zoltan David I, a highly esteemed hero of Hungary.
Instead, David is a crusader whose mission is to bring innovation and imagination to precious metals- first with his use of gold inlay in platinum and now with his latest endeavor, cobalt chromium, sometimes known as cobalt chrome or steel.
Although versions of cobalt chromium exist in the fine jewelry industry and have been widely accepted alternatives as gold prices soar, nothing looks quite like David's cobalt chromium, nor will anyone else have a material like David's cobalt chromium found in his latest collection, Knight Dreams.
What started as a concept he devised in mid-2007 and took nearly three years of trials and tribulations have come to fruition. David said he knew what kind of metal he wanted, by accomplishing it sometimes resulted in fighting with windmills.
"I knew what I wanted: a black wear- and scratch-resistant finish, durable, shiny and able to use my trademark platinum and gold inlay details," he says. It wasn't easy either, David admits. "Many of the techniques being used rub or wear off; I needed something that would endure." His research and development led him to Physical Vapor Deposition (PVD), a technique that bonds layers of metal compounds to metals, which has been used for decades, primarily in military applications to decrease friction.
Although a form of electroplating, PVD is a process that produces a metal vapor that can be deposited on electrically conductive materials as a thin, highly adhered, pure metal or alloy coating. the process is carried out in an air-tight vacuum chamber where atom by atom, a coating adheres on the metal surface. unlike rhodium finishes or electroplating, the surface is durable and long lasting. Most recently, PVD has been used in fine watches, where rose or yellow gold tones can be applied to stainless steel. the "black steel" stealth watch looks so popular in watches also are achieved through PVD.
But not all PVD coatings are alike- as many watch collectors can tell you. And none is like David's dense, dark PVD, achieved through his own proprietary techniques, covered by one patent, with another patent pending.
David's black cobalt chromium isn't just black, it's a deep, intense, shiny black, resembling fine Japanese lacquer. Moreover, "it's more scratch resistant and highly polished than anything out there," David adds. "I wanted to make sure that if it's black, it's going to be black forever. The finish had to be tough to stand up to years of wear, especially in rings."
Complicating his invention was the need to apply his signature platinum and gold inlay into the black cobalt chromium, but David's perseverance paid off. His Knight Dreams collection - a double entendre with "black as night" and David's own knight heritage - has it's own "wow" factor.
When David put pieces from the collection in his store in Austin, passers-by were indeed wowed, stopping in to ask, "What in the world is that metal?" "They literally are stopped in their tracks," David said. His initial collection, which was launched prior to the holidays, sold better than even David imagined. "We had our best Christmas season in 30 years."
Besides its distinctive glossy shine, Knight Dreams its a key price point that many retail jewelers are increasingly hard pressed to address in gold jewelry: $1,000 to $5,000 retail. David adds his 24k gold or platinum inlay into lacquer-like finish leaving no doubt that this is a new "precious" metal. David also experimented with various gems finding rich saturated colors that pop against his black cobalt chromium.
Clients - both past and new ones - remark on the details David gives his rings, bracelets, earrings, etc. They are even more enthralled when he explains the Knight Dreams properties: hypoallergenic, non-corrosive, non-reactive to other metals, it doesn't tarnish or require polishing, and the durable finish is virtually scratch proof. One of David's best customers can attest to that fact. She went mountain climbing, forgetting to remove her Knight Dreams ring ahead of time. "When she returned, we examined the ring - there wasn't a scratch on it!" David says.
Now that Knight Dreams has proven itself in his own store, David is expanding the collection with new styles including earrings, pendants and bracelets, and is rolling it out wholesale this year. Men's rings and jewelry are also included since the appeal really is unisex.
"Knight Dreams couldn't have come out at a better time. This jewelry really differentiates a store at a time when differentiation is so crucial. To be successful these days requires both innovation and originality - just ask Apple," adds David.
Perhaps the ad he placed in his hometown newspaper sums the collections up best. A dramatic photo of his Knight Dreams jewelry was accompanied with the tagline: "Welcome to the Revolution."