3D printing jewelry adds color & and complexity

BackFlip 3D printed earrings - Kevin CaronOne of the many things 3D printing has allowed me to do is make jewelry.

I’ve always loved jewelry – my wife likes to brag that I had her favorite jewelry store on my speed dial (which is true) – but I could never work that small in metal.

But suddenly, with 3D printing, I am able to create beautiful jewelry – and open a whole new side of my business.

Some of my designs are smaller reproductions of large sculptures – more on that in a moment – while others are original designs for the jewelry that I just may create in full-size metal sculptures someday.

Like most things, though, creating a jewelry line is not as simple as it may seem, and certainly not as simple as I thought it’d be!

For instance, none of my three 3D printers is able to print in small enough resolution to reproduce my designs as earrings or necklaces. There are other aspects of the learning curve to create jewelry, too ….

Creating jewelry was one of the first things I thought about when I got involved with 3D printing, but it became apparent pretty quickly that I wouldn’t be able to print my own jewelry. That sent me to Shapeways, likely the largest provider of 3D-printing services in the world.

Not only can Shapeways create those small forms, they can do it in multiple colors and precious (and not so precious) metals. That enables me to offer the same designs in a variety of colors and materials.

3D printed Campfire earrings - Kevin CaronThe other huge advantage is that Shapeways uses wax in its printing process. That allows them to create designs that my printers would have to print supports for without those pesky nibs left when the supports are removed. I don’t care how good someone gets at removing supports, it’s hard to get them all and leave a smooth surface, much less do it on a teensy scale!

Interestingly enough, that’s also apparently how they are creating their metal designs. Rather than printing in metal, which is already possible, they are printing in wax and using the Lost Wax Process. So making metal necklaces and earrings through Shapeways involves the newest manufacturing process, 3D printing, and one of the oldest. Now that’s cool!

The other thing I discovered is that I had to learn about an entirely new business segment, the jewelry world. Additionally, I had to find vendors for findings, display and packaging.

Now, though, I’ve got it going on, with seven designs. BackFlip (on opening page), Mobius and Torus are all based on existing sculptures. The original BackFlip is seven feet tall, and I’ve created a 9 foot diameter version of Torus, giving these jewelry designs a highly sculptural feel. (Makes sense: I’m a sculptor!)

Campfire (right) and Sand Dollar are based on designs I proposed for a big commercial project, while Totem and Orbits are both designs that would look great in metal but were original jewelry designs.

I now have a great Jewelry Project Manager who oversees inventory, creation and sales, and makes sure the retailers who carry my jewelry – Vision Gallery in Chandler, Arizona; Shemer Art Center in Phoenix, Arizona; Tucson Museum of Art Store in Tucson, Arizona; and Art HQ in Surprise, Arizona – always have enough on hand. Of course, I sell my jewelry online, too, and at  events.

People love how bright and rich the colors are, how light the jewelry is – which is great for people who like to wear big earrings! – and how amazingly flexible and durable it is. That’s all good for me, and to prove the value and viability of 3D printing.

See the jewelry for yourself.

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