The CAD Jewellery space
Jewellery occupies a unique space with both consumers and in our culture, no other wearable item is so emotionally linked to the wearers history or to their family in many cases. We love the idea of jewellery being forever, something everlasting. This way of thinking is linked to the way we perceive jewellery being made, typically one would visualise an artisan craftsman hidden away, toiling at his wooden bench, forming gold with tools which haven’t changed in hundreds of years. There is something intrinsically seductive about such an idea, what you wear on your finger or body is the handiwork of a master craftsman, who has done nothing else but make jewellery his entire working life.
Now what if we told you that, while that master’s focus hasn’t changed much over the decades, his tools these days are very different from what we might expect.
It is true that the basic tools in a jeweller’s arsenal have remained more or less unchanged since we first learned to work with metal in ancient times.
Lost wax casting (the process of making a metal alloy object based upon a wax model) which has been in use since Aztec times, and while our materials and machines might look different, the basic process has more or less remained unchanged.
Similarly, the Archimedes drill, a hand drilling tool invented in the 2nd Century BC by the famous mathematician and engineer himself, is still widely used to this day.
In addition to these traditional tools, jewellers now have access to an array of new tools which allow them to make more accurate and sophisticated works of art than ever before. For example, jewellers have inherited from the electronics industry, laser welding technology, allowing jewellers to weld gold and platinum parts at sizes and levels of precision never before seen.
Most interestingly, though I think, is the story of CAD (Computer Aided Design), and how it has caused entire jewellery industry to rethink their approach to modern jewellery design and retail selling aids.
So can anyone just do it now ?
This is a misconception about CAD. Because the software is often designed so users can work quickly, it can look much easier than it really is, and can lead people to believe it is an easy short cut into learning to make jewellery.
Given how many young people work with video games and the like, and how so many people are fascinated with the computer-made scenes and characters we see in movies, it almost looks like a game. Well, in a way, there is a bit of a game-like aspect to it. Master craftsmen who know their trade can use this to try their designs out, seeing how it will look on the screen before the piece is cast. This ability to see a piece before it has even been made is the strongest asset of CAD, and has opened up a whole world of affordable bespoke design to a new generation of customers. At their best, bespoke jewellery designers now can work wonders with a client’s ideas, and agree on the perfect design even before the metal and gemstones have been purchased.
However, this kind of ability requires all the training and skill you would expect from an experienced jewellery designer. To give a parallel example: if you were to order a bespoke shoe, you would expect the shoe designer to know how shoes were made before he ever showed you a design. Jewellery is no different.
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