What are the options for someone wishing to design 3D jewelry models?
Reader Nicole asks:
“I have been 3D printing for a while, and would like to design my own jewelry items. What software is best for this, and where do I start?”
This is a very good question, as the jewelry industry is one of the foremost applications of 3D printing technology. 3D printing has in many cases revolutionized the workflow of jewelers.
But as for the design tools required to do so, the answer is quite complex. Several dimensions should be considered:
Is this for professional jeweler or casual designs?
What budget do you have for jewelry CAD software?
What is your experience level in 3D designing?
What 3D modeling tools for jewellry do you already have / know?
If you know the answers to these questions, then I can give you some options below. But the answer may not be what you expect.
The Best Jewelry Design Tools
First, the most true answer to this question is simply this:
THE BEST CAD SOFTWARE FOR JEWELRY DESIGN IS THE SOFTWARE YOU ALREADY HAVE AND KNOW HOW TO USE.
I know that is not the answer you were seeking, as you probably expected there would be a magic system that could provide wizardly design assistance to help you rapidly create astonishing jewellry designs. Actually, there are such things, but you probably don’t have them.
The problem is that for practically any 3D modeling tool there is a steep learning curve, often far longer than your project can withstand. Add to that the fact that many of the good options for jewelry design tools are paid products for which you will require budget.
Designing Jewelry in 3D
When you combine those two factors, the best course of action for jeweler’s tools is to simply use what you have. All CAD tools can produce 3D models; it’s just that some of them are a bit more amenable to creating certain types of design. I remember once someone told me that “you can do everything in Microsoft Excel”, meaning not only spreadsheets, but word processing and presentations, if you loosen your standards a bit and are prepared to do a bit of extra work. 3D modeling is somewhat like that too. Any tool will do; they just “do” differently.
Ok, I get it. You really do want a list of jewelry tools. We can start by dividing the options into two broad categories.
Generic Jewelry Tools For Design
The first category could be called “Any CAD Tool”. Yes, it’s true. Jewelry has been successfully designed with Rhinoceros, Blender, SketchUp, SOLIDWORKS, ZBrush, AutoCAD, Fusion 360, Tinkercad and many other commonly used popular general-purpose 3D CAD tools. Again, if you have one of these and know how to use it, that’s where you should start as your jewelry tool for designing amazing items.
This is also where you will find the low-priced options; there does not seem to be any free or even low-priced options specifically for jewelry design.
That said, after some research it appears that Rhinoceros is the most popular tool used by professional Jewelers these days. It’s a general purpose 3D modeling tool that uses NURBS as its fundamental building block, making it ideal for many types of jewelry designs. It is also relatively (emphasis on “relatively to other tools on the list” here) easy to learn, as there are plenty of online resources to assist.
Rhinoceros Plug-Ins For Jewelry Design
Rhinoceros is also a very interesting 3D CAD tool in that it offers an API for third parties to develop “plug-ins” to provide extendable functionality. These optional plug-ins are available for many different purposes, and pricing ranges from free to, well, whatever.
It turns out that vendors have developed Rhinoceros plug-ins specifically as jewelry design tools. One popular such tool, RhinoGold, appears to have been taken off the market by a recent corporate move.
Is a Rhinoceros plug-in that is available for around US$660 from resellers, but requires a prior Rhinoceros installation, which many a jeweler may already have:
“Rhinojewel for Windows 32 bit is Professional Jewelry Design Software which lets you create 3D models of jewelry and other luxury items easily, precisely and quickly.
It is suitable for both novice users as well as experienced CAD designers and features the most comprehensive range of jewelry-specific tools to help you through every stage of the design process. Whether you are making a simple pendant or the most technically challenging and spectacular of jewels, Rhinojewel can help you create your vision faster and more efficiently.”
MatrixGold is another Rhinoceros plug-in providing jewelry design features. These are specifically designed to speed up the process over simply using Rhinoceros “raw”. However, it is quite highly priced near US$7,900, but this also includes the Rhinoceros license itself:
“MatrixGold® 2019 is our newest, most powerful CAD software to date, and it brings a wealth of fresh features and benefits — including all the features fans of MatrixGold Essentials appreciated. If you’re an ambitious designer who wants total creative exploration to build jewelry from a blank slate, MatrixGold 2019 has the features you need.”
We also have a series of standalone services dedicated to 3D CAD for jewelry designs:
Jewelry CAD Dream
This tool seems to have a fully built out solution. It’s priced at US$5,350 or US$195/month:
“Jewelry CAD Dream v.13 is the most powerful, robust, all-in-one jewelry design solution. Built on the ZW3D engine, this professional software has a dynamic history, extensive jewelry tools and and expanding component library.”
3Design is a well-regarded jewelry design tool, priced at US$6-7,000 from resellers:
“3Design CAD is ideal for creating custom jewelry at a fast pace. Its parametric capability and multi-platform compatibility are just a few of the powerful features of this software. With over 20 years of expertise in the jewelry industry, 3Design has established its presence worldwide. Its unparalleled reputation has made 3Design the go-to software for all jewelers.”
“CAD CAM jewelry software have long been dominated by Rhino. Firestorm 3D CAD represents the next level of jewelry design software by using CAD software that can also be used as a sales tool. The jewelry industry is undergoing a profound transformation, driven by technological improvements in production, distribution, branding and marketing. Firestorm 3D CAD for Jewelers was founded by a group of industry veterans to assist retailers and suppliers to benefit from these changes.”
CounterSketch is a jewelry-focused CAD tool that’s offered at US$5,995 for the standalone version and US$250 per month for the web-based version:
“CounterSketch 2019 is an intuitive 3D design software that provides access to a range of customizable styles and manufacturing options. It’s perfect for the full spectrum of designers, whether you’re just diving into CAD software or are a master designer looking for a software to use side by side with customers.”
“JewelCAD is a 3D free-form surface based solid modeler. It provides powerful free-form modeling tools that allow freedom in creating artistic and stylish designs. These tools are flexible and intuitive and they can be easily learned and used. JewelCAD is now widely used in the jewelry manufacturers in Asia region.”
Anarkik3D offers a unique 3D design tool well-suited for jewelry design. Its main feature is a haptic design interface that transforms 3D design into something more akin to physical sculpting. It’s priced at £430 (US$550), but requires a haptic device for full benefits.
Somewhere in this list of options and advice will be found your answer.