Two questions that I often get asked since I embarked on this new adventure of 3D modeling and printing: "What does it mean to digitally design a piece of jewelry?" and my favorite, "Why do you still call your designs handcrafted if you use a 3D printer?"
To digitally design a piece of jewelry is not unlike drawing your design on paper and then finding ways to produce it. Instead, I use software to render my designs in 3 dimensional space on a computer. I don't specifically need a workshop space (I've designed at a cafe once using my laptop) and I can simulate how light reflects off the design without ever melting metal. I wrote a bit more about the process in a previous blog here if you would like to learn more.
In conventional jewelry making, a new design is carved onto wax painstakingly by a skilled artist and then cast into the metal of choice. The carving could take hours and require very steady hands. If the design is intricate, the wax may break and the artist will have to start over from scratch. Therefore, traditional handcrafting really is an art form that is to be respected and praised.
Then can 3D printed jewelry be considered handcrafted still? Well, on average, my designs take over 24 hours to more than 50 hours to create on the computer. It may start as a doodle on paper that transforms into a design or I may go straight into the program and start forming the shape that I am dreaming up in my mind. You can think of it as digital sculpting, but instead of a chisel, I am using a mouse or a tablet. Once the piece is finalized, it is sent to either a 3D printing lab or to a traditional caster. Either a wax model or a castable resin model is then printed before casting into precious metal. Every step afterwards is the same as traditional jewelry making. The piece is still polished by hand to a shiny finish and stones are still set meticulously by a master stone setter.
So to conclude, yes my jewelry designs are definitely handcrafted, it may not be in the traditional sense, but in my opinion it is no less meticulous nor artful.