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Early Articles:

1982 Company Story

The following article was taken from the 1982 Jewellery World magazine:

Apecs - Casting Further Afield

by Margot Pifkin

If success in the face of adversity has to be turned into reality then you need to look no further than Tony Eccles and his wife, Ann. Every family firm (and public company, too) has to have a certain amount of luck to succeed - and Tony is the first to admit this. But luck has to be coupled with damned hard work, a sense of adventure, the ability to persevere and to put in hours of work that verge on Dickensian.

All this Tony admits to. But it was not for nothing that he was dubbed "Tony the Tinker" which gradually evolved into "Tink".

The "Tink" nickname referred not only to his perpetual quest for new ideas and methods, but also to his steadfast purpose to achieve perfection.

Now, 19 years after he founded his own firm, Apecs Investment Castings Pty Ltd, based in the Melbourne suburb of Canterbury Tony and Ann have left the running of the business to Pam Wright and their son-in-law Gary Lunt, who is married to their daughter Christine - a jewellery designer in her own right.

But far from retiring from the business they founded, Tony and Ann are busy opening a branch office for Apecs on Queensland's Sunshine Coast at Caloundra.

Doing the unexpected and experimenting in new fields has been, and still is, Tony's forte.

As with most stories, it helps to start at the beginning. Tony left school and became apprenticed to a jeweller. The relationship did not work out and Tony quit. He had learned enough to realise his potential, but lacked self-confidence.

At this juncture Tony's father stepped in. One day he told his son that there was a telephone message for him from a jeweller who wanted to see him. Elated, Tony turned up for the appointment only to find that the jeweller never heard of him and no appointment existed. But Tony got his foot through the door and once inside he convinced the firm of his ability. He got the "non-existent" work.

This was Tony's first lesson in "knocking on doors". It has stood him in good stead ever since.

In due course, Tony became a partner in the firm of Marcus jewellers in Melbourne. It was during this time that Tony became interested - indeed, fascinated - in the ancient art of casting.

As his second wife, Ann explains "although the process is nearly as old as time it is, nonetheless, understood by very few people. It's an art which has been all but lost in this day of mass production. The art of casting (the technicalities of which we will go into later), involves the perfect reproduction of a particular item."

Personal tragedy struck in the form of the death of his first wife, leaving him a widower, with four children to rear.

Perhaps the tragedy triggered Tony to take a new look at his life. He offered to buy out his other two partners in the business or, alternatively, to sell them his one-third share.

Meanwhile Tony had met Ann - then a nurse in Melbourne. They married and, with a comparatively meagre capital of £3000, Apecs, standing for Anthony Philip Eccles Casting Service was founded.
The year was 1963 and Tony had just said farewell to his 20's.Motivated by the early lessons learned from his father and with the sincere belief that there's no time like the present to embark on a new course of life, Tony plunged into his own business.

Their capital was split three ways. £1000 bought a secondhand casting machine; a further £1000 was used to cover overheads until they had a steady cash flow and the final thousand pounds was banked to cover the family’s living expenses for the initial year of business.

Tony recalls the beginning of the business wry smile. For two years all profits were ploughed back into the business. The premises were scarcely spacious - about 150 square metres (about 500 square feet) - and the hours were long. "For two years I worked 12-16 hours a day" Tony told us. "It was exhausting and it took its toll. I was, to all intents and purposes, a one-man-band. I collected orders, processed them and finished them - and then delivered and invoiced them".

It was at this stage that Ann, started helping out in the business. Accompanied with their baby, she started to do the pickups and deliveries. It took some of the weight off Tony's shoulders.

With these responsibilities removed Tony was able to concentrate on the art of casting. And not only the art, but also experimentation that is now world recognised.

Tony was used to working with silver, but gold was a new ball game for him when he started Apecs. It is at this stage that we should delve into the art of casting by the "lost wax process".

To demonstrate what is involved, Tony suggested that we take a small charm such as those worn on bracelets. The charm has first to be fashioned by a metal craftsman. From this, a mould is made from rubber which is then vulcanised. The metal master is removed from the vulcanised rubber. The "hole" in the mould is then filled with wax, injected under pressure. When it has set, the wax replica of the original metal charm is removed.

This wax replica is then placed on a "tree" - an apt name because basically it's a stalk with branches.

Gradually the branches of the "tree" are loaded with a variety of charms.

The next step is to encase the tree with its wax replicas into a plaster cast. This cast is then placed in a furnace. The plaster hardens and the wax melts to leave a perfect die or mould.

The next step is to place the plaster cast in a centrifugal casting machine fitted with an all-important induction coil for the melting of the precious metal which is held in a crucible.

The metal melts in the rotating centrifuge, which has time controlled casts, and is then injected into the plaster mould.

Following this injection the plaster cast is removed from the centrifuge and plunged into a quenching bath. This action reveals the cast charms which are then ready for cleaning and further finishing by the jeweller for whom the castings have been made.

Aided by contemporary technology - particularly the application of induction melting - a new dimension has been added to the ancient art. Furthermore, it has enabled jewellers to increase their ranges available to customers. This increase has been achieved without the loss of craftsmanship which still demands the artistry of yore.


The advantages' of ' induction melting are numerous:

  • It produces a better product because the power input can be precisely controlled to achieve an equal melt;
  • Production cleanliness is very high;
  • There are no smoke or fumes which could mar the melt and surrounding environment;
  • Electric furnaces, using induction melting, are highly versatile and can be incorporated very easily into existing production lines;
  • Using electricity reduces the labour previously needed and it also gives faster melts due to the higher power/weight ratio;
  • Energy is conserved to a greater degree.

Technology is a well appreciated aid in Tony's work, but skill and dedication are also vital allies. "We're striving for perfect castings; that's our main aim", says Tony. And to bear this out the Apecs' motto is "The Peak of Perfection" and the company logo reflects this image.

Apecs does casting for all sizes of manufacturing jewellers. The firm also does one-off items for hobbyists and craftsmen. Orders also come from technical schools that are holding jewellery design courses.

One-off pieces present a challenge which Tony finds stimulating. Often one-off pieces require new technology and new thinking and, for Tony, this relieves the boredom of routine.

Because one-off pieces is cash only they generate an immediate cash flow which is all important for a comparatively small firm. The staff today numbers 25, but that's still comparatively small in corporate terms.

Unlike many manufacturing jewellers, Christmas is still a busy time for Apecs. The demand for one-off pieces comes from hobbyists and craftsmen who are either making, Christmas gifts on their own behalf or at the request of friends who are aware of their hobby.

But Tony proved that he had the Midas touch when he started experimenting in casting gold.

As already noted, Tony's initial expertise lay with silver and it was not until he set up Apecs that he started to work with gold. It was a case of trial and error. needless to say rival firms were not prepared to impart their knowledge. Tony had to learn about handling gold alloys on a self-taught basis.

In Tony's own words "to be able to get the extra quid out of it for myself I learnt to go and buy the fine gold, make my own alloys, trying to find whatever was going to give the best results. I was experimenting all the time."

During this period a friend suggested that he should use silicon to make the alloys he needed. Tony continued his experimentations until he had mastered the technique. He claims that one of his proudest moments was when he perfected a new alloy using silicon for 9 carat yellow gold and became the first person to use "silcalloy", the name registered by Tony.

During these years of experimenting, Tony travelled overseas to gain both knowledge and to compare his craftsmanship with those of world-wide repute.

It was during his first overseas trip that Tony met Peter Gainsbury the technical director and a metallurgist with the Worshipful Company of Goldsmiths in the U.K.

"Peter was a great asset at this time. He had knowledge of the trade gained from his extensive travels to fairs, shows and exhibitions throughout the world, particularly in the United States and Europe".

It was to Peter Gainsbury that Tony first confided his success in using silicon. Today, silcalloy is widely used throughout England and South Africa.

Another example of Tony's flair for achieving the apparently impossible was when he was asked to devise a mould for closed cluster heads. Another firm had tried but failed. After long hours of experimenting, Tony achieved the desired result and could chalk up yet another new technique.

Throughout all this, Tony never let Apecs swerve from its objectives - quality, consistency and service. The firm survived the boom and bust situation of gold price fluctuations which have been experienced over the last few years. They have a loyal staff - son-in-law Gary Lunt, has been with company for six years and is now technical director and Pamela Wright has been with them for seven years and is the company's administrative manager.

It was this year that Tony and Ann decided to make yet another decisive step by moving to Queensland and open a branch office on the Sunshine Coast. Initially they will forward orders to Apecs in Melbourne. "But", says Tony, "if we get sufficient backing from local manufacturers we may set up a wax production department in Queensland. First, however, we need to prove that there is a sufficient market here before we start investing capital".

Together, Tony and Ann have reared a close-knit family. It's not surprising to learn that Christine, his eldest daughter, has her own jewellery business, that Peter - the eldest son - has his own jewellery business specialising in sculptures in precious metals. Rodney works for Apecs in Melbourne and their youngest son is an apprentice jeweller with firm in Queensland. Only one of the children has broken the mould – Barbara who is a booking agent for entertainers.

Looking back over the past 19 years, Tony and Ann admit that it's been a hard slog - at one point Tony was so immersed in work that Ann and the rest of the family persuaded him to take up a hobby. True to form, "Tink" lived up to his nickname and the whole family found themselves immersed in restoring vintage cars. They've sold them now, but at the time they served as an ideal release from business pressures.

With his move to Queensland, Tony can look back at a business that started as an acorn and grew into an oak. Apecs now has the latest equipment and is constantly keeping abreast with new technology - technology which, in some cases, Tony has personally developed.

When asked what motivated him, Tony promptly answers "the family. The harder I worked, the easier it was to keep them financially secure". That well may have been his motivation, but curiosity, the love of experimenting, commercial boldness, the desire to please his customers and his never failing attention to quality and detail paid the dividends that have led to the success of his 19 year old business.

If Tony and Ann run true to form, the Sunshine Coast will soon have a touch of gold about it.


14ct Green Gold
On Monday 14th November we will be casting 14ct GREEN GOLD. Try it for something a little different!!!
8 Nov 2011
JAA Australian Jewellery Fair - Brisbane
Brisbane Convention & Exhibition Centre, Brisbane, Australia Mar 12 - 13, 2011
10 Mar 2011
Melbourne Showroom Opens
Visit Apecs on the 3rd floor of the Manchester Unity Building, 220 Collins Street Melbourne
29 Sep 2005