A specialized area of practice, jewelery Design requires a high level of artistic ability, a deep sense of craftsmanship and an understanding of jewelry making processes. Traditionally this meant wax sculpting, soldering, weaving, bending and stone setting, but now digital transformation allows designers to quickly iterate, test and refine designs before taking them to the shop floor for physical fabrication. 3D printers are also enabling new ways of working such as rapid prototyping, try-on models and investment casting.
The first step to designing a piece of jewelry is to find inspiration. Whether this comes from browsing the internet or shopping at local jewelry stores, take note of the shapes, textures and materials you are drawn to. Once you have a collection of ideas, it is time to start sketching. Try to stick with a basic outline, as this will give you structure while still leaving room for creative expression.
For gemstone-based jewelry, the primary focus is often to showcase the gem itself. The free spirited form of the stone may dictate the styling, but even in these cases, the designer will usually strive for simplicity to allow the gem to take center stage.
Depending on the size and value of a project, a jewelry designer might choose to work with a team or be self-employed. Those who work with a team often have the additional help of a jewelry maker or apprentice to assist in creating a prototype.
While a post-secondary degree isn’t an absolute requirement to enter the field, earning one can open doors and provide entry-level workers with a competitive edge in the job market. Many post-secondary programs specialize in jewelry design and offer a wide variety of course offerings. Community and technical colleges are also an option for students looking to pursue a diploma.
Most jewellery designers work in a workshop at a jewelry store, repair shop or factory. They spend most of their time at a bench surrounded by the tools they need to do their job. Many jewelry designers also have a desk with a computer equipped with CAD software and other programs used in the design process.
A good starting point for beginners is a free in-browser CAD solution like TinkerCAD which provides users with the ability to create, model and modify geometry. More advanced users should look into a commercial 3D design solution like 3Design or Firestorm which come with specific jewelry design wizards and libraries of gems and base models. Alternatively, a plugin-cladded version of Rhinoceros or the generative design tool Grasshopper will also enable sophisticated sculpting and modeling functionality.
For most projects, it is essential to get the initial design right. Using a stereolithography 3D printer such as Formlabs Grey Resin is the perfect way to realize quick iterations and ensure the aesthetics of a design are correct before investing in tooling or production. Having a prototype at hand also enables consultative client sessions where the customer can try on a design and determine if it is “just right.” Once a design has been finalized, 3D printing offers a fast turnaround for prototypes that can be delivered to the consumer in under a week.