Associate Jewelers Inc., at 534 S.W. Third Ave., occupies an unassuming downtown sixth-floor space reachable by a rickety elevator and sagging floorboards. But the shop contains technological advances that give the Old World craft of jewelry making a decidedly 21st-century twist. A laser microwelder, for instance, allows Associate's detailers to perform intricate metal spot welding without removing stones Ñ a huge challenge for jewelry workers. Associate also employs a computer-aided design program that, in much the same manner a computer is connected to a laser printer, is linked to a wax molder. The device creates wax dies that allow for easy design Ñ and production Ñ of intricate pieces. The device, jeweler Kim Klementis said, slashes turnaround time on highly detailed pieces from weeks to days. 'The lettering on these is incredible,' he said. 'There's no way you could hand cut it or make it any other way.'

Ñ Andy Giegerich

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