I recently designed a ring for a client and took photos of different stages of the process. The ring was made with 18 karat gold (the yellow metal) and 14 karat gold. It had a 2 ct center with 2 .85 pt sides and 13 25 pt diamonds around the remainder of the ring. I worked on this diamond ring from start to finish and took photos so you could see some of the aspects of the process.
When designing jewelry, the difference between CAD design and traditional methods is really in the beginning phases of the process: creating the design and the wax mold.
CAD Jewelry Design
Instead of using sketches and pictures to come to an understanding of what the jewelry should look like, jewelry design software is used to flesh out the design. Usually, the jeweler creating the design will work with a client to create the piece and then render a photo-realistic image of the item. During the design process, what appears on the computer screen is a wire-frame such as the one pictured below.
At various stages of the design process, you can render a 3D image of the jewelry being designed. This photo-realistic image will then serve as a running proof of the design. Changes are simple and straight forward. You can try many variations and options during the design process. If you don’t like it, you just go back to an earlier stage in the design and try something else.
Below is the final render of the ring that was created. Compare to the images of the final ring at the bottom of the post.
CNC Wax Mold Milling
From this point, the process moves to the wax mold milling. The old fashioned approach to mold making is to carve, saw, and polish a jewelry wax (a hard and flexible wax made specifically for jewelry).
The old-fashioned approach is prone to human error and can be very time consuming and expensive. Also, very complex designs are difficult to product by hand.
On the other hand, when you design using CAD software, the final approved design is send to a highly-specialized CNC mill that uses a file produced by the design software to create the wax mold. You get exactly what you created! The process is quick and exact. It vastly reduces the time to create the wax mold from the old-fashioned process and allows for more intricate designs.
The casting and final preparation is the same regardless of the tools used for designing the jewelry and making the wax mold. The wax mold is covered with plaster and the wax is melted away to produce the final piece. Molten metal is poured into the void when the piece is cast. This is called lost wax casting.
Setting The Stones And The Final Touches
At this point, the jewels are set and and the ring, in this case, is polished and prepared for the final client presentation.
Where CAD Jewelry Design Shines
The real beauty of using the CAD software system to design jewelry is that you are not limited in your creativity. It is easy to work out different design ideas and see how they would look using the 3D rendering feature. There are no surprises when you see the final result. You can see here the final ring that we created. Compare to the render above.
Computer-aided design is the future of jewelry design. The old-fashioned methods still used today by many jewelers will die out as a new generation of jewelers take over from the old.
I hope this post and images have given you a good idea of what the process is about and why it is so impressive.