A JEWEL: Michael S. Duffy, president of Time Plating in Cranston, left, and employee Victor Espinal inspect necklaces being treated with a protective covering at the company. The business has been in Duffy’s family since the late 1980s. He purchased it in 2009.
For years, electroplating and jewelry manufacturing were the bread and butter of Providence’s industrial base. Along with textiles, they were the main source of employment for many Rhode Island families.
The two industries fell victim in the 1980s to cheaper labor down South and outsourcing overseas.
Some jewelry companies have survived, however, like Time Plating, Inc. of Cranston.
“Business is pretty steady throughout the year but we see little spurts every now and then, Mothers’ Day and Valentine’s Day, things like that,” said Michael S. Duffy, president of the company. One thing that hasn’t changed is the fluctuation in business at Christmas.
“We run with an average of eight to 10 employees to about 30 to 40 in the busy season, the Christmas season,” he said. “It used to be from July or August through November but now it’s from September to December.”
It’s a family-owned company. Duffy’s uncle purchased the business, which used to be part of a larger company, in the 1980s. Duffy purchased the business in 2009. “I started here working as a teenager for my uncle until I bought it,” he said.
While some electroplaters have survived by focusing on specialty items, everything at Time Plating is based in the jewelry industry. The focus of their business is in the gold and sterling silver “e-coat” market, a process that uses electricity to apply water-based or ceramic-based paint or lacquer to jewelry. They were one of the first companies in the state to use the technology.
“The coating protects the silver from tarnishing and wear,” Duffy said. He declined to give the names of specific clients but said the jewelry he works with can be seen in major department stores across the country.
Most of his work revolves around the e-coat but there are also new materials and finishes always being developed. Black rhodium is used to provide a durable, tarnish-resistant, grey-black finish. There are also black gold, pink gold and yellow gold, which are also popular.
“During the last 10 years we saw a lot of the industry go overseas but now we’re seeing it come back,” he said. “I don’t know what the issues may be, whether they be quality or concerns over improper finishes, but we are starting to see it reverse again.