A Beginner's Guide to 3D Printed Jewelry
3D printing is everywhere, but it still feels a bit like science fiction.
You’ve likely heard of 3D printing or seen it used on TV (3D printed organs on Grey’s Anatomy, anyone?). Maybe you even have access to a 3D printer at school or work. But have you considered 3D printed jewelry?
Many designers and jewelers have adopted this technology and are taking jewelry design to a whole new level.
How 3D Printing Works
3D printing isn't as futuristic and complex as it sounds. In the most basic terms, to print something in 3D, you simply layer whatever material you're working with over and over until it creates the shape you desire.
Designing 3D Printed Jewelry
Before 3D printing, designers created wax molds by hand - like this.
While some designers prefer this hands-on approach, others have taken to digital design for their creative outlet.
Jewelry designers like Nervous System are using 3D printing to create truly custom jewelry pieces.
Here's how it works:
1. Designers create a 3D model out of wax.
2. The wax mold is then encased in a plaster-like substance called investment.
3. The investment is then heated to extreme temperatures, creating an impression.
4. The impression is then filled with liquid precious metal to create the jewelry item.
The end result is something like this:
Photo courtesy: Nervous System
How You Can Take Advantage of 3D Printed Jewelry
Whether the cost savings or the customization possibilities appeal to you, there are several ways you can utilize 3D printing in your next jewelry shopping endeavor.
Buy Ready-to-Wear Jewelry
Several designers sell 3D printed jewelry, such as these found on Etsy and i.materialise. These items are printed in finished material, like silver or gold, and are ready to wear, usually at a great price.
Photo courtesy: i.materialise
Design Your Own and Have it Printed
Companies like Hot Pop Factory and Shapeways allow you to design your own piece of art, or work with one of their talented designers to do so. They then use their 3D printers to create your custom piece.
With unlimited resources, what would you choose to create?
Use 3D Printing to Design Traditional Jewelry
Maybe 3D printed jewelry feels too inauthentic. You still want a traditional ring with handmade craftsmanship, but you want it to be unique. Why not use 3D printing as part of your custom design process?
Your local jeweler may already be equipped with 3D printing technology that can create a wax mold you can actually try on.
This way, you may realize you don’t like how the ring looks on your hand, or perhaps the band is too thick. By seeing the item beforehand, you may be able to make important changes to your design before it is set in stone (pun intended).
Ask your jeweler if 3D printing can be part of your custom design process.
Do you have jewelry printed in 3D? Tell us about it in the comments section below!