Jewelry's brilliant breakthrough

Jewelers usually work in three dimensions by a method called lost-wax casting. Now, computer technology has enabled an entirely new way of working, through the use of metal 3D printing. If you are wondering, "How can they do that?" see this brief article.

Today, the Passage's windows are dressed with the new fabrication form.

3D printing uses an additive manufacturing process which allows unusual designs; some geometric pieces would be extremely difficult to make by conventional methods. The method also allows you to choose metals or other materials, with short production time, from one to several weeks, for most items. And, would you like some heavy cred with your younger family members or friends? Imagine any of these as a gift for holidays or milestone. They'll love the edginess, and you will be happy with the price.

Shapeways, a leader in 3D printing (and an incubator company of Royal Philips Electronics) have a marketplace site where you can fall into a wonderland of products, all made with their technology: housewares, toys, games and gadgets.

But hey, the Passage likes baubles, so that's what's in the windows.  (Note: Some of these pieces are also produced in plastic, but I liked them so much in metals that I'm showing those versions.)

3D printing can create designs that are as eloquent as a piece crafted by hand.

The Ora pendant, shown in 14k rose gold plate, is from Bathsheba, and just one of several intriguing pendant styles. Nothing 'machiney' about its sinous curves. Price, $100.

Rings made with 3D printing are handsome and sculptural, but also graceful. Note how the printing technique results in a finish that looks hand-wrought.

Michael Meuller's Muster Ring, shown in raw silver, $71.

Some pieces are so new that they are still in development, which means you can order them in limited materials. baushkin's Dragonfly Bracelet, designed by sculptor Paul Liaw, shows what can be achieved. This would be much more labour-intensive to make using traditional casting. (Below, the 19mm size in polished brass; price, $100.)

As you'd imagine, designers drawn to this technology are making imaginative pieces, some classic, some cool.

The Playground earwrap: the look of multiple piercings without the problems. If you want to be the most awesome auntie ever, or rock your next girls' night out, here is your earring. From lexadazy; price in matte gold steel (shown above), $60.

For yourself, how about 14k rose gold, because you are not going to lose it. (Price, $400.)

The 3D process supports customization of jewelry, such as the signet ring. By working with designer Harry Burger of Lightbringer Designs, a one-of-a-kind ring will meld the ancient with the contemporary. (The designer also produces wax seals and cufflinks.) 

The pure brass signet ring with Elvish writing, shown, is $190.

While there will always be a place for traditional benchwork (setting stones is not happening yet with 3D), the technology has opened a universe of creative capability. I believe that 3D fabrication should be a disclosed feature, provided in any description. 

The last item in today's window is an accessory, not jewelry, but I wanted to show how 3D supports ingenuity.

It's the Pod-a-porter by Michiel Cornelissen: an iPod Shuffle holder that adds style to a stroll; only $27.50. What a smart gift for your music-loving friends!

3D does for jewelry what the Mac did for personal computing: in the hands of designers, a fast, fresh approach to noble metals is theirs, in a flash.


Young at Heart said…
ooh beautiful... I still can't quite get my head around 3D printing... modern magic!!
une femme said…
My mind is still blown over the concept of 3D printing in general. These are wonderful pieces, and a very intriguing use of the medium.
Janice Riggs said…
Beautiful, and SO tempting... I love how the most geeky technical advances take on a whole new life and merit in the hands of true artists! Thanks so much for finding these sources, and for sharing them with us.
materfamilias said…
Some really exciting 3D-printing things happening with prosthetic pieces for the disabled as well. I must admit to having some reservations about what will happen to centuries of craft knowledge, but I won't need to be around to see. . . oh Brave New World! ;-)
Frugal Scholar said…
My daughter is swooning over many of these designs. Thanks so much for the resource.
Beth said…
So cool! I love the earpiece, and the intricate top pendant -- how big is it, out of curiosity?
Beth said…
So cool! I love the earpiece, and the intricate top pendant -- how big is it, out of curiosity?
LPC said…
Fascinating. This technology is also used in biotech and medicine in all kinds of interesting ways!
emma said…
I'd love that pendant in silver.
And that butterfly bracelet...I'll definitely be visiting their site. Thanks for the post!
Duchesse said…
Beth: If you click the link provided to the site, the maker says it is 1 inch, and also provides a link to a smaller version, and earrings.
Duchesse said…
Frugal: You were asking what you might do with a few spare dollars?
Kai Jones said…
I remember when Bathsheba was first sculpting and casting her intricate mathematical designs, back in the 1990s, and they were very expensive. How nice that technology has advanced and she can be rewarded for her efforts at a price more people can afford!
Duchesse said…
Kai Jones: Thank you for bringing us another positive aspect of this technology. And I am also grateful to the artists who see this as a way to reach new audiences, and make their work accessible.
My son has access to a 3-D printer and has made us some unusual gifts. I never knew that jewelry was an option! Must have him figure it out. The two rings are my favorites.
Duchesse said…
Loretta aka Mrs Pom: If you click on the link "additive manufacturing process" in this post you will note that the machines used are specialized industrial ones. (Shapeways is the manufacturer for the designers.) But who knows, one day they may be in the home, making the same transition that computers did.

The posts with the most