Is 3-D Printing the Future of the Jewelry Industry?

Although Kimberly Ovitz debuted her 3-D printed jewelry at this winter’s New York Fashion Week, you don’t have to be a famous designer to use the inventive technology.

“As the models were going down the runway, Kimberly Ovitz’s jewelry pieces were instantly launched on Shapeways,” Elisa Richardson, PR manager of Shapeways, says.

Founded in the Netherlands in 2007, Shapeways is a 3-D printing company with more than 350,000 community members, consisting of designers, architects, and various artists. The company has since relocated its headquarters to New York City.

“A lot of designers don’t have a means of production to create their vision,” Richardson says. “With Shapeways we handle the printing, shipping, and customer service.”

The platform allows individuals to upload their design to the web. Within minutes, they will receive a price quote for their design, and if they choose to place an order it will be available within 10-20 days.  

Nervous System, a Boston-based design studio began using Shapeways in 2009. “We were interested in making complex forms of jewelry, which we couldn’t do with other methods,” Jessica Rosenkrantz, creative director of the company, says. “3-D printing has allowed us to expand our designs.”

Radiolaria necklace by Jessica Rosenkrantz and Jesse Louis-Rosenberg (photos by Jessica Rosenkrantz and courtesy of Nervous System)

Prior to using Shapeways printing, Nervous System utilized water-jet cutting and laser-cutting, but has found 3-D printing to be more economical.

“Using Shapeways 3-D printing enables designers to take a product to market with no financial risk,” Richardson says. “Everything is 3-D printed on demand so designers don’t need to invest in inventory or sell their IP to a manufacturer to get a product to market.”

The company, which offers some 30 different materials to choose from, ranging from metals to plastic, has produced more than 1 million products since its 2007 launch. Shapeways has also recently debuted premium silver, and will offer a six-week trial of the metal until May 14 to assess its popularity.

“We primarily use nylon because it’s lightweight and durable, but have recently tried silver,” Rosenkrantz says. 

Cellular pendant by Jessica Rosenkrantz and Jesse Louis-Rosenberg

Shapeways utilizes various forms of technology, including selective laser sintering and UV cured acrylic resin printing to bring designs to life.  

“In the future, I think more designers are going to turn to 3-D printing when creating jewelry,” Rosenkrantz says. “Before, you had to be a skilled sculptor to design intricate pieces, but now computer technology makes it easier.”

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