The following letter was sent in reply to my college co-ordinator.
She asked me why should the school or our class have the need in
teaching the students the use of CAD. She knew that Cad is not new,
but why is it needed in our classes?..the following was my reply.
"Cad is extremely important. The designer must, and has to to know
the basics of stone setting. This is important prior to any form of
construction. I’ve seen too many pieces just ruined because the Cad
fellow/woman had no idea of any setting techniques. Cad designer must
know the need for spacing of stones, depth of the metal prior to
setting. The thickness of the claws. How are the stones going to fit
into the item. Thickness of the metal for Channel Setting. The
placement of “Princess”-square stones and allocating of those stones
in any new pattern. The list just goes on and on. Therefore CAD is an
now an integral form of designing with stone setting. It is a
symbiotic relationship between these two disciplines. Therefore stone
setting is so terribly needed in this new phase in the manufacturing
Have I explained this fully? I rest my case".
The designer must, and has to to know the basics of stone setting.
This is important prior to any form of construction. I've seen too
many pieces just ruined because the Cad fellow/woman had no idea of
any setting techniques. Cad designer must know the need for spacing
of stones, depth of the metal prior to setting. The thickness of
the claws. How are the stones going to fit into the item. Thickness
of the metal for Channel Setting. The placement of
"Princess"-square stones and allocating of those stones in any new
pattern. The list just goes on and on.
This is all true, but unrealistic. It would be very nice if CAD
designers have working knowledge of goldsmith practices, but they do
not and there is no way of teaching them. There is nothing new about
this phenomena. My first job in this country was model maker with
Tiffany and I know for a fact that even famous Tiffany designers are
as ignorant of what it takes to make jewellery as any other neophyte.
They draw a nice picture and it was job of model maker to translate
picture into processes resulted in jewellery, which resemble the
picture. Taking into account all the fabrication requirements of
thicknesses, spacings, and etc. was responsibility of model maker.
That is how it worked before CAD era.
Model maker was a very expensive link in jewellery manufacturing, so
it was replaced with CAD. Since there is nobody to translate designs
into metal, CAD is over-compensates with extra bulk. That is why
modern jewellery look like tractor spare parts. I predict that CAD is
just a fad. There are already signs that public is getting tired of
geometrical corpulence of CAD creations.
I have been teaching jewelry making now for many years. About 10
years ago I started teaching CNC jewelry making as well. In that
time about the only folks I have seen fail are those just like you
explained… those folks with no casting experience, no setting
experience, no bench experience,… NO jewelry making skills. They
just awake one morning and because they can draw a monster in ZBrush
or Rhino, they decide to design jewelry in CAD. It just typically
Without the hands on experience or at the very least base jewelry
making knowledge, there are just too many places to make a mistake
in the process. How thick? How Thin? What percentage of shrinkage?
How deep, how wide? all of those things that in my opinion are “Must
Know” to successfully, repeatedly draw and produce good jewelry
using CAD /CAM CNC methods. It takes all that plus the skill and
design talent normally required. It IS NOT A SHORTCUT! IT IS A TOOL!
Just like a prong pusher or a file at the bench.
I respect your addition to my email, but I beg to differ with your
cad-observation. I once worked many years ago at a charm designing
manufacterer and they had a model-maker on their premises. He spent
about 3 long days making just one exclusive charm. Now that same
charm can be made in about 1 hour. Yes, charms are not in vogue now!
You say that CAD is only a fad, then tell the other metal-mold
disciplines. Smooth textured looking aircraft patterns, metal designs
for automotive parts. Are they going to put CAD on their back shelf?
How about wheel-rims of unusual designs, these were made via CAD. CAD
is having it’s day and past due for retirement?..hardly! A jewellery
company just recently closed it’s massive doors in Toronto. You want
to know why? It never progressed to bother to incorporate Cad into
its new designing program, the owner thought it was too expensive.
Instead of having 6 design members on his staff, he could have had
only 1. The $45,000.00 cost of the machine could have been paid off
in 5 months. I have made some wirery smooth, fine, “unboxy” expensive
patterns by using a Cad program. No wax-carver could sit at the bench
and duplicate what my client wanted. Remember, that the cad operator
has a choice either to make tractor-parts, or fine jewellry. If he
hasn’t the finess in him, he will continually make square-looking,
tractor-parts till his dieing days. ! I have found a fellow who makes
the most easy to look at patterns! He has made a butterfly brooch for
me. I’d like to show you his rendition of a clients’ drawing with
such precision it’s a wonder how he did this! This was not a
Leonid, I still appreciate your input on this topic, and I suppose
we are both right. :>)
Since there is nobody to translate designs into metal, CAD is
over-compensates with extra bulk. That is why modern jewellery look
like tractor spare parts. I predict that CAD is just a fad. There
are already signs that public is getting tired of geometrical
corpulence of CAD creations.
Again CAD is just a tool, with experience stunning designs can be
made. Extra bulk, nah, that again is only people that have no clue
what they’re doing.
It’s an interesting opinion that CAD is a fad, unfortunately I don’t
think you’re right. There’s too much money to be made, to call it a
What signs are you referring to, I’ve seen nothing, but would be
interested to see how you came to this conclusion.
Here in Australia, CAD is booming, so much so that apprenticeships
are very rare.
Is it easier to draw a picture, and ship it off to China, or hire a
first year apprentice? That’s the issue here in Australia.
Even though CAD is just a tool and not good or bad in itself, it
differs from other tools in that it has a disproportionate impact on
the merchandise that is available to the jewelry buying public. The
work produced by any tool is only as good as it’s operator, but
never before has a single tool poured so much poor quality work into
the worlds jewelry inventory that the jewelry buying public lost its
sense of what good quality work is. Instead of finely crafted pave’
or bead setting, many want what they have seen in the bridal
magazines, cast shared prongs that stick up like warts on a witches
nose. Tractor parts is right. it’s a very bad thing. But it’s also
an opportunity to educate your customer and show them what
beautifully made jewelry can look like, whether it’s modeled using
CAD or made by hand. The best CAD operators are those who first learn
to make jewelry the old fashioned way. Although those people are the
minority, they are out there for sure. Yes, I personally think it
should be incorporated into the training of the modern, well rounded
metalsmith. But only at the end of their training, after they have
proven they can make it by hand.
Yep Dan well put…and that is what we teach at the jewelry cad
institute…35 years manufacturing experience, developing cad
programs in Rhino, Matrix and RhinoGold and teaching what these
infants really need to know in two very needed aspects…dimensional
building and workflow…without them you will not be successful in
Best to all this Christmas from The Jewelry CAD Institute and Russ
leonid, again, where do you get your sttistics. many goldsmiths do
know CAD designing and are learning it, if not teaching it. It is
definitely NOT A FAD!!! it is here to stay as are desk top laser
machines for producing models and component patterns, etc., and 3D
printers which can be made in one’s workshop. if not purchased
inexpensively that allow anyone to make their own tools, and tooling.
 I myself prefer to do things without electrical tools when
reasonable, but that is becuase I spent years learning to do
everything by hand without powered anything and that was the “right
way” back then- i also lived off the grid for 25 years + and made my
own hydro and solar power but wanted to be able to keep working if
there was snow on the solar array or the stream dried up in a drought
or in the rainy season when power had to be conserved when it was
dark and stormy for weeks on end- but a flex shaft is a great tool,
and i love a power assisted rolling mill (though choose to repeatedly
buy non electric ones).I also fought technological advances like
using a gravermax, preferring the feel of a graver and knowing how to
prepare the gravers myself- and would use a blowpipe over tanks of O2
fuel anyday, but now i can do jobs and teach in half the time with
oxy acetylene torches and the blowpipe sits there, the bellows kept
soaped, though unused. and. I can cut steel indoors if I want (that
is if i allowed any iron contaminants in my studio area)…point is
you should perhaps read what you write before posting and check some
of your “facts”, and perhaps peruse some goldsmithing and
metalsmithing courses worldwide to see the curriculum and what is
being taught NOW- not 40 or more years ago. and while at it take a
peek at jewelery related jobs and the call for CAD/CAM experienced
jewellers as it is far more in demand than a bench jeweler job or
stone setter job anywhere on the planet. particularly in 3rd and 4th
world countries where the work is being outsourced by major retail
jewellery concerns. I agree that a jeweler or metalsmith should know
the basics of hand fabrication but then, to be able to translate that
to modern fabrication methods if not in business for oneself, or if
entering the market with a new education /degree/certification. and
if the CAD esign is too bulky for a given stone its either a design
choice or a person just learning to manipulate axis’ in a particular
programme. as I’m betting the final output wouldn’t be proofed 9
signed off on) if the design isn’t exactly s specified- and what do
you possibly mean by "there is no way of teaching them "…i simply
must end there as its just too silly to continue when i know changing
your view to something more correct, if not at least-realistic is so
very unrealistic. …rer
I have been using for the last five years and I also teach it. I
sorry, I disagree with those who think you can only design geometric
tractor like pieces with CAD. When you get the proper training and
have jewelry designing and fabricating skills you can design and
create organic forms likeflowers and even animals. You also need to
know which program to use.
I agree that CAD is just another tool that helps the impossible
I have many students in Australia. thank you. and if you follow the
guidelines for thicknesses and percentages on shrinking you can
become quite proficient in making the end result. What we see most
are the individuals who want to show a finished piece vs. a
manufactured piece. Two totally different objects. if you will. You
have a choice. model for the finished for pictures or the web or
model for the manufacturing which looks a little bulky before the
casting, stone setting and finishing. If you don’t allow for the
finishing of the piece then you will be caught up in pieces which
shouldn’t be made. So it begs the question. what do you allow in
percentages in your cad designs for manufacture? I know what we teach
our students from what we have learned over 12 years in this side of
I Like Gerry’s input on this and I would also like to emphasize that
having studied drafting and design before computers took over. CAD,
in the manner in which it is used today is NOT about design It seems
to be about developing the skills needed in manipulating the program.
A CAD operator is just that an operator a key board tapper. In my
experience dealingwith CAD operators, the skills to communicate with
other people in order to successfully execute the designers vision
for their creation seemed tohave been non-existent. I have gone as
far as to produce xerox copiesof pre computer drafting & design books
with was perceived as an insult rather than appreciated for the
knowledge contained. Operating a complexset of commands does not an
artist or designer make. - goo
What signs are you referring to, I've seen nothing, but would be
interested to see how you came to this conclusion.
Without making things overly complicated, just take a look at
Tiffany financials. They are the strongest jewellery brand, the most
widely known, and the most desirable. Nevertheless, they exhibiting
decline in revenue and increase in cost of revenue. It is like
burning candle from both ends. And the reason for this is their new
lines are all CAD designs. Nothing else has changed.
There is a proverb about a farmer who wanted to save money, decided
to teach his horse eat less. So every day he would give her less and
less hay. It worked well for awhile and farmer was very happy that he
was saving money (just like a manufacturer using CAD). But one
morning he walked into his stables and found his horse dead on the
floor. When I look at the jewellery horse, all signs are there and
morning of retribution is just around the corner.
Without making things overly complicated, just take a look at
Tiffany financials. They are the strongest jewellery brand, the
most widely known, and the most desirable. Nevertheless, they
exhibiting decline in revenue and increase in cost of revenue. It
is like burning candle from both ends. And the reason for this is
their new lines are all CAD designs. Nothing else has changed.
Thanks for replying.
If Tiffanys is having sales problems, maybe there are other factors
apart from CAD
Maybe the people using the CAD are translating the designs poorly,
or are CAD operators, and not jewellers.
Or maybe it’s a problem with the economy, and not CAD at all.
If it’s the economy, then sales will pick up when the economy
improves, and the US reduces its debt with China.
If the economy improves and Tiffany’s sales don’t then it could well
be a problem with the uptake of CAD.
Maybe the people using the CAD are translating the designs poorly,
or are CAD operators, and not jewellers. Or maybe it's a problem
with the economy, and not CAD at all.
Decline in revenue can be explained by bad economy. However increase
in cost of revenue indicates internal issues. It means that for every
dollar of revenue they have to spend more and more resources. You can
read their financials for detailed figures.
As far as translating designs poorly. All computer based graphic
systems (CAD included) have difficulties in handling curves. Claims
of ability to produce organic shapes are only true if aesthetics are
removed from judging consideration. Yes, it is possible to make
organic shapes in CAD, and yes these shapes are ugly. The fault is
not necessarily with operators, but with software itself. CAD was not
designed for that and no matter how long one shall torture it, CAD
cannot produce required artistry. Go to Tiffany website and look at
Elsa Peretti Open Heart bracelet. I remember these hears very well.
They gain a lot of weight recently and there are no elegance in
If you want another example, take a look at Picasso Palm pendent.
CAD design at it’s best and ugly as sin. No balance, no composition,
no unity, total and complete dearth of any artistic qualities. One
can only get away with something like this selling jewellery on flee
market, next to a pretzel stand. Used to such shapes were refined and
graceful, but now they are boorish and gauche.
No reason to leave Frank Gehry out of our discussion. His Leaves
look like someone lost his breakfast and tried to cover it up with
paper napkins. No wonder that they have decline in revenue. I am
amazed that they have any revenue at all.
I am not the one to look at jewellery as some claim “the work of
Art”. Some pieces are, most are not. But there is implied aesthetics
like silhouette refinement, proportionality, compositional balance,
and etc., which are part and parcel of the basic jewellery craft.
CAD cannot produce it. It is like asking someone to carve a grain of
rice with woodsman axe.
For those thinking CAD jewelry can. or must only look geometric. . I
say… Learn to use it. CAD can produce any design you can think up
as long as the operator knows how to get the design out of the
I’ll say it once more… Anyone can put a stone in a mounting and
smash a prong down over it. Anyone. But, not everyone has the skills
required to… “Set” a stone as it should be.
It is no different with CAD. IF you take the time to develop the
skill set. CAD will draw anything you desire to draw.
I think we have some folks that don’t want, or can’t develop the CAD
skills. so, they hunt the down side of the process in place of
opening their closed mind and giving themselves a chance to learn to
use this tool. Nothing wrong with not wanting to… but it is sad
when we flood untrue ideas out just because we don’t like or fear a
process. I suppose the same problem was prevalent when folks started
casting, using a steel file verses a rock. . or even polishing with
a wheel verses their shirt tail. I’m sure there was some hard head
that was determined turning metal to liquid, throwing it into a
cavity, & cooling it off would only produce the same looking puddle
of metal every time. Think where we would be if everyone just
believed all of that and hadn’t moved forward. Think of the beauty
we ALL would have missed. Open your mind and learn.
OK, here’s the deal about CAD. It has always been so that high level
designers can’t bend a piece of wire and high-level jewelry makers of
all sorts (goldsmiths, setters, enamelists) can’t design their way
out of a paper bag. Now, before people squawk at that, I, myself, am
a halfway decent designer ~slash~ goldsmith. Yes, such people do
exist. It’s still a fact that the best designers only design, and the
best goldsmiths execute those designs. I’m talking Cartier/Van Cleef
and even Stuller, here, not university. Yesterday I delivered a
little pendant to a designer. Her design was a meticulously drawn
picture of a stone with two diamonds stuck on top of the setting.
What I gave her was something much more fully realized than that.
That’s because there are actually TWO designs: One is the rendering
of the look and feel of it, the other is about execution. Just what
wire and just how it’s bent and just how it’s soldered and the
proportions and everything that the goldsmith does at the bench to
make it gorgeous. I have a picture in a book (that I’ve never found
online or I’d link it) of an amethyst with rubies and pearls around
it. Just a basic surround setting but the craftsmanship is so
wonderful that it’s something else entirely.A seriously beautiful
ring because of the goldsmith’s ability. And it has always been so
and those of us who do special order work know this. The render is a
center stone with a little flair to it but it’s just a flat drawing
on paper. Almost always it’s the goldsmith’s job to make the
undergallery work and make it all blend into a ring shank in some
elegant way. Designers never seem to want to do orthoscopic
views… So, to a large degree what we have now is a tool that
lets those designers who can’t bend a wire just pop their product
into theCAM file and off it goes, for better or worse. And yes, it’s
a travesty because jewelry as a whole suffers for it. But CAD isn’t
going anywhere - the industry will just become what it will become,
it’s progress, like it or not. I would strongly add my own sentiment
that if one wants to learn CAD that they get a job in a jewelry store
doing benchwork first. One of my own biggest complaints about
computer work is stone settings designed by someone who knows not the
first thing about setting, much less setting design. Cream will rise
to the top, as in allthings.
I’m tapping this out on my phone in an airport lounge, so no time
for our usual jousting.
However, Tiffany’s is a bad example: they gutted the shops about 10
years ago. I heard stories about guilloche machines being chucked
out third floor windows to save the effort of moving them, and guys
being pulled off the loading dock, handed a hammer, and suddenly
they’re silversmiths. They’re making cast crap because they can’t
make anything else now.