By Mary Ware
3D printers are already creating everything from toys to medical implants. But what about jewelry? Well, a whole slew of new software products are gradually being adopted by jewelry designers, Celtic and otherwise, to create amazing new pieces. The good news for designers: they don’t have to be “techies” to create a ring, pendant or other bauble through a 3D printer.

Celtic jewelry made with 3D printersMore Intricate Than Ever
At London’s International Jewelry Design Exhibition this past September, one company called Delcam showcased an innovation that pushes the envelope on creativity and efficiency in jewelry design. It’s latest version of ArtCAM JewelSmith CAD/CAM software, created for “designers not engineers,” allows jewelry designers to craft intricate pieces on a computer screen and then manufacture them in gold, silver and just about any other traditional material via 3D printing. The level of intricacy it allows is actually greater than that with traditional casting techniques, and in many cases, a completely unique new piece can be designed and manufactured in less than an hour.

How Does 3D Printing Work?
3D printing requires a draftsman or designer to draw up a new creation in a computer aided design or “CAD” program. A physical model of the piece is then output from a 3D printer, which builds it up one thin layer at a time. It’s also possible to create a perfect copy of an object – a vintage piece of jewelry, for example – by putting it through a 3D scanner.

3D printers that make jewelryPrinting Celtic Jewelry In 3D
3D printing has touched Celtic Jewelry both old and new. When an extremely fragile Celtic cross was found in the Devonshire Hoard, Birmingham City University was able to create an exact replica of the artifact using 3D imaging and printing. The idea was to “back up” the extremely fragile artifact just as one backs up a document on a computer. Modern jeweler D&O Celtic Jewelry has found a niche with an unusual line of Celtic necklaces, pendants, rings and earrings all created via 3D printing.

Customization has been a popular option with 3D printed jewelry. Last year the company Sertae was launched to allow individuals to create their own versions of Celtic knot work for pendants, all of which are executed on a 3D printer. In the U.S., American Pearl now allows customers to use this technology to create unique pieces to their exact specifications — some costing hundreds of thousands of dollars.

unique Celtic jewelry from 3D printersThe most prominent Celtic jewelry companies are proud of their handcrafted works of art. But 3D printing does not need to diminish that craftsmanship in any way. Delcam’s software aims to expand the repertoire of the jewelry designer, and make it easier and faster to produce one of a kind pieces. The weave tool it includes has been particularly useful to designers who want to expand on and reinvent traditional Celtic knot motifs. With so many amazing 3D printed objects making the news lately, it seems likely that it will become more and more a standard tool in the kits of top Celtic jewelry designers.

For an overview of how 3D printing works, check out this video:

About the author: Mary Ware writes about Celtic symbolism and all things about Ireland for Irish Celtic Jewels.

Photo #1: 3D printed design, photo by fdecomite.
Photo #2: Zortrax M200 3D Printer, photo by Creative Tools.
Photo #3: Celtic themed jewelry, photo by Corey Taratuta.

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