3D printing technology is growing by leaps and bounds, and what seemed like a far-fetched idea only a decade ago – the printing of a variety of solid objects at home – is gradually becoming a reality. A piece in The Jewellery Editor maps the latest technological advances and explains how 3D printing of gold jewelry may soon revolutionize the way jewelry is designed.
According to the article, fine jewelry is no stranger to 3D technology. Many pieces are created using CAD (computer-aided design), which allows jewelers to make sketches using computer programs, then feed it into 3D printing machines that will use lasers to build 3D models of the jewel. These models are then cast in precious metals, and the piece is complete.
Mapping & Webb, for example, creators of royal jewels since 1775 – from Marie-Antoinette to the present day Queen Elizabeth II – has recently celebrated its 240th anniversary with Wildfell, a sculptural collection of fine jewelry created using 3D technology. Lately, it even bought its own 3D printing machinery.
According to Mappin & Webb creative director Elizabeth Galton, who is interviewed in the piece, the new 3D models “challenge the boundaries of design, form and function”, and the new house collections can now have complex curves, undulations and shapes – designs that would not have been possible through more traditional jewelry-making methods.
And the next stage? Wax models and casting will be set aside to print directly in precious metals, now possible thanks to direct metal laser sintering machines. Thankfully, the future is far from being robotized completely, as each piece still needs to be finished by a loving, and expert, hand.