I haven't used any CAD/CAM programs before, I am in the market, but
don't have a Ton of money to spend
I definitely hear what you're saying...I felt exactly the same way
about 7 years ago.
While jewelry specific CAD programs are great and will give you a
jump up in terms of training and tech support, not everyone has the
financial resources to follow that path or is ready to make that sort
of commitment of time and effort to an unfamiliar process.
Whether you start out with a high-end jewelry design program or an
affordable CAD/CAM solution which may or may not be jewelry specific,
the key word in getting involved in CAD really is commitment.
There are plenty of people who have invested in expensive software,
gone for training and failed to become productive, for one reason or
another, A certain amount of dedication and perseverance is required
and it helps if you have an affinity for technology because it's a
whole different mindset in terms of designing jewelry.
For me, it's been very exciting in a creative sense and has opened me
up to many wonderful opportunities, professionally.
I've traveled the USA, making many good friends in the business and
I've even been to Honk Kong, China and Bali as a CAD trainer and
consultant to other jewelry business people and artists.
For a garden variety bench jeweler who sat in the back of a little
retail jewelry store for 15 years, setting stones, sizing rings and
fixing chains, it blows my mind that this has even happened to me!
Now I spend my days doing 3 D model making and CNC Milling as well
as other related services for other jewelers and I can honestly say,
I love my work.
When I saw your post it reminded me of another post I read yesterday
from a jeweler who had no computer experience up until 2 years ago
when he decided to explore CAD/CAM as a design option.
If you go to http://moi3d.com/forum/ and do a search on "jewelry" a
post will come up called "Recent Work". I'd urge you to read his
thoughts on how he got started with CAD and take a look at the
beautiful wax models that he's created.
I hope this is helpful.