3D printing is radically disrupting the jewelry industry

Techform insists on using little glass rods for small holes because
their preference is to "coat’ whatever the item is in some form of
ceramic shell, and then invest around that after the shell dries.
The shell material is apparent ly not strong enough on its own to
fill a hole by itself, turn in a miniature column on burnout, and
survive the violent introduction of molten platinum(alloy) which
would shear off those freestanding shell columns. Inserting glass
rods fills the hole presence better, and they add the shell material
after that, and then add the high temp grade platinum investment. The
shell coating yields a finer surface (impression) which translates
into a smoother product in the end. A smoother surface than just
platinum investment can possibly be.

If all the holes are uniform, then inserting glass rods while a
pain, is relatively straight forward. However, if a complicated
design has all sorts of different sized holes(graduating, or
irregular shaped pave, then it is a major PITA for them to process it
through their preferred methods. Major labor increase necessitating
careful small motor skills to prevent damaging delicate wax workups.

For example, if I give them a killer wax that has 100 small
diamonds(with drill holes of various sizes prepped in the wax) it
becomes an issue that tangles them up.

just sayin’

That is an impressive video Larry but as I posted earlier I would
be more convinced if I saw ordinary necklace beads being done in
the final rounding stage by robot instead of laboriously by human

Paf Dvorak

Hi Gang,

CAD in general is a topic I’ve been pondering for years. What’s
struck me about the current discussion is that many of the questions
it brings to mind are the exact same questions I asked Stanley
Lechtzin, 20 years ago. Funny how life becomes circular, isn’t it?
I’m willing to posit my own genius, but somehow, even I don’t think
I was 20 years ahead of the curve. Which means that we haven’t found
answers yet. Or even really figured out the questions.

At the moment, we (jewelers) are the inheritors and continuation of
a living body of knowledge that goes back thousands of years. Not
all of us know all of it, but we all know some of it. More
importantly, we all know how to do the physical tasks required to
design, fabricate and/or manufacture our jewels. We know all the
physical processes required to get something out from behind our
eyes, down onto the table. Which unavoidably influences what we
choose to design. For example: there are some very fine, mesh-like
designs that I’d like to do, but the mechanics don’t work with gold,
and are very marginal (at best) with platinum. So I haven’t done
them. I had designs for welded niobium and titanium vessels 20 years
ago, but I had to wait nearly 15 years for welding technology to
catch up to the point where it was affordable to do those designs.
The point being that I knew the processes and materials enough to
realize that either the process wouldn’t work at all, or it would
have to be radically redesigned to fit within the realm of what was
both possible, and durable. (Or, that it would eventually be
possible, I just had to wait for the gear I needed to do it the way
I wanted to.) All of that knowledge is a product of intimate
familiarity with the processes of metal working. I can do all sorts
of wild and weird things, because I know metal, not data.

What then happens when people who don’t have half a lifetime’s worth
of experience with metal start designing by way of pushing pixels
around? They don’t have that familiarity, which means they’ll have
no sense of what metal can, can’t, or more importantly-shouldn’t
do. The computer doesn’t care, it’s all data as far is it’s
concerned. That’s what I meant about suspecting that the early years
of CAD jewelry will suffer from a reputation for poor quality. A
bunch of people who don’t have the hard-won experience of knowing
what metals will, and won’t take, and how various types of jewelry
get worn (abused), will start pushing pixels around into happy
places, and then wonder why their settings won’t hold.

One of the very first questions I asked Stanley on the old ACMET-L
list, way back when, was almost identical. I don’t remember the
exact phrasing, but the gist of it was that his CAD/CAM pieces
worked because he had an extensive background in manual machining.
He did know how to do it by hand, so he knew how to get the
machines to do it properly, even if they were running (sort of) on
automatic. What then would happen when people who didn’t have that
background took over? Well, the field went sideways, out of direct
material machining, and into RP/casting, so we didn’t get a chance
to discover then answer to that question, but we can’t keep dodging
it forever.

What I can’t get out of my head is all the early cam driven machine
tools. I took a few days vacation after a show last summer, and
visited a couple of machine-tool history museums. What struck me, in
looking at all the early ‘production’ machines was the mechanization
of skill. The early gunsmiths thought they had a permanent sinecure,
because of all the skill it took to do their jobs. They were wrong.

It took a while, and the upfront costs were huge, but eventually,
their skills were broken down and transferred to machines that
anybody could run, not just highly trained craftsmen.

The same thing could happen to us, if we’re not careful. Now it’s
not mechanical cams that can take over, but software algorithms.
Let’s be honest about it: 90% of all commercial jewelry is as
creative as your average romance novel. There will be some skills
that require hand work for a long time to come (like setting) but
for basic grade work, a ‘build your own jewelry design’ computer
kiosk could obliterate a generic non-repair retail shop. Walk up to
the box, fiddle with the buttons for a while, and then hit ‘buy’,
and they mail it to you in 3-4 days. Scary thought, no? Hell,
never mind the box, just do it right from you computer, while looking
at facebook.

So how do we leverage our history and traditions to avoid this fate?
How do we make that knowledge worth something? I honestly don’t
know, but we need to figure it out.


Hi all

modern bead machines produce stone spheres that just need to be

How other beads are made, such as glass, involve some machine and
hand work.

all the best

What then happens when people who don't have half a lifetime's
worth of experience with metal start designing by way of pushing
pixels around? 

Pixel pushers will take over the jewelry industry.

Surgeons use robotic arms because they have less tremor than any
human and also their pick-and-place capability is superior. I have
some stone eggs here. Quite nice. Made in Pakistan I think and they
cost only a few dollars. If what I am reading here is correct, a
pixel pushing jeweller will soon, if not now, be able to surpass a
Faberge egg, a million dollar piece of non-wearable jewelry, for
precision work. It would be easy to have a contest and test it out.
The concept is what roboticist Moravec calls “human equivalency”
which is a broadening of the Turing Test idea.

I too have been watching the development of CAD/CAM systems since I
got my first computer in 1978. My professional life involved
depending on experienced laboratory technicians who knew much more
than just metals and ceramics. In order to make my life better they
needed to know some occlusion and physiology and anatomy. In the last
4 years with the entrance of major corporations into the competitive
environment of product driven services the need for the master
craftsperson has deminished for many situations. Instead of the need
for the craftsperson to build up the ceramic material, the cnc
milling machine cuts out a block of advanced ceramic. And it does
this far cheaper than the manual build up of ceramic. I know and
understand the deficiencies of the method, but the market has been
price driven and the skilled technician is an endangered species. The
sophisticatedsystems allows the inexperienced operator to venture
into the land of sophisticated treatment led by the guidance of the
"machinist." With many jobshops offering to build 3D models from your
design, you can experiment with your ideas rather inexpensively. This
also cuts short the long learning curve of both the software and
hardware. Breaking the rules may create pieces that do not work, but
the careful adventurer will learn from themistakes and go on to
produce wonderful pieces. I suppose that sculpturefrom large pieces
down to finished smaller pieces was the first in the long line of
creative methods. Now we have additive methods that can work in many
materials and are faster and kinder to the environment. The challenge
is to understand the customer and to deliver more than what is
expected. That builds loyalty.

Charles Friedman DDS Ventura California


Thank you for the videos on bead making and cabochon making

Imagine then a stone-working factory with a sequence of robotic
lapidaries, each specialized to do a particular job from the
cutting/carving/grinding of beads to cabochons to carving the statues
as we have seen in various videos here.

Then along comes the Robots Union and…

Hi Peter,

I’m not worried about mechanical accuracy. That’s what machines
do. They’ll always be more precise than we are, so there’s no way
to win if that’s the game.

What I’m concerned about isn’t so much the precision with which
something is made, I’m much more concerned with what is made, and

I said something to one of my students once, about where she was on
the path. “You’ve gotten to the point where you can say anything you
want with metal. Now your job is to figure out what you need to say”

That’s what I’m worried about: people who don’t know the language,
using a media that doesn’t give them any feedback until they
discover that they’ve spent hours and hours speaking gibberish.

So, what can we humans say that computers can’t?


Hi all

Pixel pushers will take over the jewelry industry. Surgeons use
robotic arms because they have less tremor than any human and also
their pick-and-place capability is superior. 

that said surgeons have years of training in surgery. And now use a
tool to extend their skills. Pushing pixels does not a jeweller

But a bench trained jeweller who learns CAD is a different

all the best

but the market has been price driven and the skilled technician is
an endangered species.

Lucky for Tim and me that the customers we choose to service are
more driven by the “romance” and pride of having a fine piece
skillfully made by seasoned/old fart artisans. Even more so for fine
restoration and repair.

Those are “Trust Driven” as Mr. David Geller likes to say.

Jewelry is not a necessity. It is a luxury and if we choose the
right audience we can do very well without having to compete with

It’s all about perceived value. I have found that as we have become
an “endangered species” our scarce skills are more highly revered.
Just like animals and plants that are endangered. We can be perceived
as special, rare and most desirable.

CAD and any other new technology are not inherently good or bad,
right or wrong. They are tools. It’s just all about what road and
clientele you choose.

Have fun and make lots of jewelry.

Jo Haemer

Richard that is exactly why I chose the route of instructing CAD

After 40 years on the bench making and repairing jewelry I wanted to
be sure we trained the student population in the correct manner. The
problem sometime is exactly what we have been talking about. I have
had students making designs with the programs that are beautiful
whether engineered or organic but have no concept of putting it
together properly. The dimensions needed to set stones properly.

The dimensions you use to cast a piece taking into account
shrinkage, rubber molds, etc. on and on. So of course there is a huge
advantage to have a CAD designer/engineer who has had a full jewelry
manufacturing background.

Kind regards to all.

The Jewelry CAD Institute

Pixel pushers will take over the jewelry industry. Surgeons use
robotic arms because they have less tremor than any human and also
their pick-and-place capability is superior.

But for some reason they keep calling my 75-year-old Orthopedic
surgeon dad in to do delicate and complicated trauma surgery all
times of night when they should let him retire. Why? Because in
trauma surgery things don’t go like it’s in the manual and you have
to come up with ingenious fixes on the fly.computers aren’t always
so good at that. But my dad with his years of experience and talent
is. And the more I learn about metalsmithing the more I know metal
doesn’t always go where you think it will. And a computer won’t
figure out how to make that metal behave on it’s own. It won’t even
acknowledge if there’s mistake. Or much less decide that the
construction idea you first came up with didn’t end up as good
looking as you thought it would, then come up with a way to make it
look and work better. Only a human can do that. Only a human will
fiddle with a piece of jewelry until it looks amazing.

And bless his heart, my dad’s hands do shake when he’s got nothing
in them. But put a surgical tool in one of them and I’ve never seen
anything become so steady and skilled.

Brian said, “So, what can we humans say that computers can’t?”

We can say quite a lot. And that’s why there will always be a place
for thing s made by the human hand.

Yes, Bri,

Alfred Adler said, “Someday soon it will be realized that the artist
is the leader of mankind on the path to absolute truth.” That may
not be exactly what you mean, but speaking the truth in and through
our work is what can distinguish that work from that of the work of

Linda K-M

But a bench trained jeweller who learns CAD is a different

Yes, and there we have it in a nutshell.

Forget all the long-winded hype and negativity, Richard puts it
plain and simple. Well done that boy! Another skill-set in the tool

Excess of 10 years using Matrix.

Also, CAD has medicinal properties. The hands don’t cramp up when
working with small pieces.

Hi, I am bench jeweler, designer and a business person. During the
last 2years I have tried to learn CAD. I have also worked with CAD
designers that were not up to my expectations. I needed to fine a CAD
person that would have the patience to do, re-do and do it over and
over again until it was correct.

I finally found a person who I could work with. Now I can do things
that are original, unique and well designed. This is a great tool. I
can now achieve with accuracy that has eluded me for 45 years.


Alberic quoth wisely, in part: “It took a while, and the upfront
costs werehuge, but eventually, their skills were broken down and
transferred to machines that anybody could run, not just highly
trained craftsmen… The same thing could happen to us, if we’re
not careful. Now it’s not mechanical cams that can take over, but
software algorithms.”

The differencein what I believe to be happening can be summed up by
inverting one of thestatements made above: The upfront costs
[factory tooling] for 3D printing, even in it’s infancy, are
minimal. As Tyrion said on Game of Thrones, “If it were easy,
everyone would do it”. 3D is EASY(ish), cheap(ish),and immediately

3D printing is more than the “TRS 80” of our day because it allows
the immediate and direct creation of personal wealth and there is a
clear financial personal motivation. I believe 3D printing is the
harbinger of chaotic change to basic economic process theory.
Moore’s Law may be left in the slow lane once the two barriers of
speed and limited materials are hacked.

Cam-driven machines could be run by anyone – but the visualization
and actual creation of the product was still very limited. Took tons
of money to tool up those factories, andultimately choices rested
with the ‘shot callers’ in the established powerstructures of
manufacturing, government, etc.

The change is that soon the power of creation and manufacture will
reside in the smallest village in the poorest country with an
treadmill electric source, a UNICEF 3D printer and computer, an
internet connection and a dedicated, motivated creator. Food, body
parts(into living bodies), howitzer parts on the fly as an army
moves, anything may be possible. All it takes is an idea and some
rudimentary tools; advanced ideas may take a team of folks across
the globe to produce.

Hopefully, however, there will always be a place in the world for
the craftsman’s art, the one of, the individual visualization of an
idea. It would be sad if that were no more. but it ain’t gonna be
easy. Of course, it never has been - or everyone would do it. :slight_smile:


Good point, Richard that surgeons have years of experience in
surgery and therefore know how to use their telerobotic “pixel
pushing power”. But as Alberic said, if precision is the game there
is no way to win.

Perhaps precision IS the game now. I was taken aback as I watched
educational tv and was told that Michelangelo did the Sistine Chapel
ceiling ‘paint by numbers’. He first drew the outline (which any
apprentice might have done for him) and then lay back with a bottle
of Valpolicella on one side and bacon and pineapple pizza on the
other and enjoyed spotching in the paint. Perhaps though, Giacomo can
elaborate on that story as he does CAD (and robotic replica’s?) of
priceless Michelangelo work for Vatican.

Do we know that all of the outlines were hand-done by Micheangelo
and that all the paint by numbers work after that was done by him? I
don’t think so. Also, what if he had robotic helpers? Might they have
done a BETTER job that all the human painters? How much pixel pushing
precision can you have doing art work on your back a hundred feet up
on a scaffolding which may be flawed?

Suppose I have the pixel pushing power to do a replica of a million
$ faberge egg? What if the experts say it is BETTER than the human
product … but worth only a thousand $ instead of a million?

Hi Bob,

I don’t dispute that 3D printing is going to change many things, but
every time I hear (read) another pean to the coming democratization
of production, I have one word that screams through my head “!BUT!”

But none of the 3D printing folks seem to understand that material

You can’t just print howitzer parts, or cars, or whatever, out of
ABS or other thermoplastics. Even the sintered metal systems aren’t
perfect, and they’re vastly more expensive.

The only way it works for jewelry is that the 3D printed part is an
intermediate step on the way to the finished part by way of
traditional lost wax casting. (which takes reasonably expensive
gear, and non-trivial skill.)

Going back to the howitzer parts for a second, I’ve actually made
recoil buffer springs for a tank cannon. I got the gig because I
knew how to temper them right. (or, more to the point, I knew how to
take what was left of the old ones, figure out how hard they were,
and make the new ones to match.) You can’t print tempered steel.
Just look at that poor kid in Texas who keeps trying to print
himself a gun. The body? No problem, but the barrel? Not for more
than one or two shots, and frankly a piece of black iron gas pipe
would work better. Because material matters.

I guess my whole point in all of this is that the material matters,
and no one seems to be talking about that, or even to understand it.

You can’t print satin sheets, or spring hard white gold for a catch,
or any one of a number of other things that require more than just
an object of a certain shape in space, they require materials that
can stand up to whatever job the thing does. There’s a reason that
epochs of civilization are referred to by their primary material: eg
"stone age", “bronze age” “iron age”. Because materials have
different potentials.

Figuring that out is what takes the skill and understanding of the
materials, and that’s what I’m worried about with CAD jewelry.

Given a choice, would you set a 2ct solitaire in a die struck 14K
nickel white head, or an integrally cast 14Ky head? Assuming
identical size/shape.

Those are the kinds of choices that wouldn’t be obvious if you’ve
never done it, and it was all just ‘click here for yellow" or
’clickhere for white’. Personally, I don’t like white heads on
yellow rings, (and I hate nickel white) but I know why people use
it. If I didn’t, I’d go for a yellow head, and that would cause

I’m not saying that it’ll never work, but the current systems
aren’teven close, and there’s nothing that I know of on the horizon
that seems to offer much hope, in terms of output systems for
everyday use.

That doesn’t mean people won’t design for the current systems,
especially as those work pretty well for jewelry scale output.

What I meant about ‘going uphill’ into things that the CAD systems
can’t do is to get into areas where you’re exploiting the nature of
the materials, things like foldforming, or using hardened and formed
materials to give strength with light weight. Or use materials like
Nitinol or the reactives that have unique properties. Go into areas
where it’s obvious that the material matters, and exploit it.


Hi Peter,

your reference to a Faberge egg in your reply interests me and it
was in 1968 that i chose enamelling as a new career and decided I
wanted to match the results Faberge had on his easter eggs.

This meant I researched the eggs as well, how they were made and
even studied an actual egg here in the UK at Swartski’s in London.

So with the best will in the world to all the 3D printer
enthusiasts, the last paragraph reference to An egg by Faberge, made
exactly like an original by 3D printing regettably is just not

1 you will need the identical yellow translucent enamel, made by
Schauer in Vienna. Based on a uranium salt. No longer available.

  1. all the computiung power in the world cannot replicate a hinge,
    nor the engine turning on the egg body under the enamel nor the kiln
    enamelling process.

  2. Where is the 3D printer going to get the exact gold alloy
    specification? Faberge used?.

Such an egg involved a team of specialists, and most probably took
several months to make.

Hope this clarifies how such an egg was made.