Online Articles

CAD Tricks for Models That Cast Well
September 2nd, 2022

The More You Know A thoughtful and patient approach is crucial for successfully creating castable models By Gary Dawson When I was initially approached about pulling together an article on my “top 10 CAD tricks,” I was a little leery, as I’m not the biggest fan of top 10 lists unless they’re part of a […]

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The More You Know
July 28th, 2022

The More You Know A thoughtful and patient approach is crucial for successfully creating castable models By Gary Dawson When I was initially approached about pulling together an article on my “top 10 CAD tricks,” I was a little leery, as I’m not the biggest fanof top 10 lists unless they’re part of a comedy […]

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A Jeweler’s Guide to CAD Plugins
July 5th, 2022

Plugged Into Design Understanding CAD programs By Shawna Kulpa Quick Links: Intro/What Are Plugins? • MatrixGold • Grasshopper • Grasshopper Gold • Panther • SubD • Peacock • V-Ray • Vectorize • Plugin Logistics • Stick With It Rhino. Matrix. Grasshopper. V-Ray. Whether you’ve already dipped your toes into computer-aided design (CAD) or have just […]

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Tips for Improving CAD Design Presentation
July 5th, 2022

Render Remodel How to improve render images to effectively communicate your designs By Darla Alvarez, GIA Jewelry Design & Technology Instructor Renders are all about communication. More and more, we sell jewelry using photorealistic renderings, not actual jewelry photographs, especially with the rise of 3-D modeling in tandem with online shopping and social media. Clients […]

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A Guide to Getting Started with CAM
June 17th, 2022

So…You Want to Get into CAM A guide to taking the plunge into computer aided manufacturing By Sharon Elaine Thompson Computer-aided design (CAD) and computer-aided manufacturing (CAM) are so closely aligned that you hear them spoken of in the same breath: CAD/CAM. Many jewelers have made the jump to CAD, but there are those who […]

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A Guide to Getting Started in CAD
June 14th, 2022

So…You Want to Work with CAD Taking the plunge into computer-aided design By Sharon Elaine Thompson You’ve been looking at computer-aided design (CAD) programs for years, hesitating to make the commitment or wondering what all the hoopla is about. The past year, with so much business going online during the pandemic, might have made you […]

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Recovering Data from Corrupt 3DM Files
June 10th, 2022

Rescue Me How to use a file recovery tool to salvage corrupt CAD files By Darla Alvarez, GIA Jewelry Design & Technology Instructor CAD files, lacking tangible qualities, are not always thought of as being real, per se, until something goes wrong with them. Many conditions can corrupt files, such as a failing hard disk […]

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Evaluating CAD Surface Transitions and Smoothness
April 3rd, 2022

Rhinos and Zebras and CAD, Oh My! Using Zebra for visual surface analysis By Darla Alvarez, GIA Jewelry Design & Technology Instructor Smooth transitions are a must in jewelry design, but sometimes it is difficult to discern where continuity and surface anomalies exist. We will look at a Rhino tool that is up for this […]

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Tipping the Scale
August 2nd, 2021

Taking the guesswork out of real-world 3-D model dimensions By Darla Alvarez, GIA Jewelry Design & Technology Instructor CAD modelers are constantly balancing the size of a model as it appears on a 2-D computer monitor with the size of its 3-D real-world counterpart. We will discuss three ways to help tip the scale in […]

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So… You Want to Get into CAM
May 11th, 2021

A guide to taking the plunge into computer-aided manufacturing Sponsored by By Sharon Elaine Thompson Computer-aided design (CAD) and computer-aided manufacturing (CAM) are so closely aligned that you hear them spoken of in the same breath: CAD/CAM. Many jewelers have made the jump to CAD, but there are those who have not chosen to use […]

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Applying Digital Textures in CAD/CAM
September 23rd, 2020

Digital Texture, Part 2 Applying texture to CAD models for 3-D printing By Darla Alvarez, GIA Jewelry Design & Technology Instructor Applying a texture to a finished jewelry piece is a nice alternative to the high polish status quo. It’s usually done as a final step, but some textures are achievable in the initial CAD […]

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CAD/CAM Window Shopping
September 15th, 2020

Comparing the industry’s options for computer-aided design and 3-D printing. Compiled by Shawna Kulpa First Published March 2017. There’s no denying that computer-aided design (CAD) and computer-aided machining (CAM) are technologies that are here to stay (at least until a new technology eventually supplants them). So whether you’re a CAD/CAM newbie begrudgingly exploring this new […]

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This Piece Is a Beast
July 15th, 2020

Casters identify the issues with CAD models that keep them up at night, and offer solutions that won’t give designers nightmares By Shawna Kulpa Computer-aided design (CAD) has revolutionized the way jewelry is made these days. No longer do jewelers have to spend hours carving a wax for casting (and then potentially hours more re-carving […]

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Material Evidence
July 2nd, 2020

Comparing 3-D printer materials Compiled by Shawna Kulpa Originally published August 2017 A casting is only as good as its model, and today many models are being built by 3-D printers. However, shopping for a printer can be an overwhelming experience. Given all the technical data you need to absorb (build speeds, achievable accuracies, build […]

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Digital Detailing
July 2nd, 2020

Applying texture to CAD models for 3-D printing By Darla Alvarez (Originally Published August 2019) Most bench jewelers would agree that applying texture to a piece is best done post-process once the piece is cast, but sometimes that is neither practical nor desired. In part one of this article series, we will look at how […]

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The Power of Powder
July 2nd, 2020

Overcoming obstacles in 3-D metal printing By Shawna Kulpa (Originally Published May 2019) Three-dimensional metal printing offers users the ability to take CAD files and print them directly in metal—no resin to cure or burn out, no casting necessary. It’s been around for nearly 30 years and has gained traction in various industries, including aerospace, […]

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Calibrated Clay (Part 2)
July 2nd, 2020

Integrating ZBrush into CAD jewelry design By Darla Alvarez, GIA Jewelry Design & Technology Instructor Click here for Part One of this tutorial. ZBrush, a digital clay sculpting software, is being pulled more and more from its original movie and gaming roots into use as a product development tool, including in jewelry design. In part […]

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Calibrated Clay (Part 1)
July 2nd, 2020

Integrating ZBrush into CAD jewelry design By Darla Alvarez, GIA Jewelry Design & Technology Instructor ZBrush, a digital clay sculpting software, is making its way into jewelry design more and more, but traditional CAD modeling is not going away anytime soon. While on the surface these two methodologies seem conflicting, they are actually quite complementary, […]

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Selection Struggle
July 2nd, 2020

Command tips for selecting objects in Rhino and Matrix By Darla Alvarez, GIA Jewelry Design & Technology Instructor Some of the challenge of CAD modeling lies solely in being able to work on a specific object. As your model be-comes more complex, with more curves, surfaces, gems, and the like, it is difficult to only […]

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A Cross-Sectional Critique
July 2nd, 2020

Applying clipping planes to model manufacturability By Darla Alvarez One of the potentially overlooked advantages of using CAD for jewelry design is the ability to examine a piece for manufacturing issues well before prototyping. By dissecting a model prior to 3-D printing or milling, various defects can be caught and rectified before any tangible resources […]

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The Fix Is In
July 2nd, 2020

Using CAD repair programs to save unprintable files By John Shanahan You spend hours creating a custom piece in CAD for one of your favorite clients. The metal she loves, the colored stones she’s been wanting, a unique expression of her style. Now the file is up on screen, the 3-D printer is ready to […]

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Melee Matters
July 2nd, 2020

Looking beyond standard melee sizes for better layouts By Charlie Herner In modern-day fine jewelry, the most commonly used stone material is round, brilliant-cut (RBC) diamond melee. Widely available in a multitude of sizes, the application of RBC melee in a jewelry computer-aided design (CAD) model is limited only by the creativity of and communication […]

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Subdivision Modeling in Action
July 2nd, 2020

Mike Magee demonstrates how he creates freeform custom designs By Peggy Jo Donahue Custom designers who use CAD love its precision, which produces final models that manufacture well. However, many of these programs rely on 3-D surface modeling, which is typically based on NURBS (Non-Uniform Rational B-Splines). Creating a NURBS surface is, in a way, […]

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Solid Visuals
July 2nd, 2020

Dawn Muscio celebrates CAD By Peggy Jo Donahue When custom designer Dawn Muscio and her business partner (and computer tech expert) Jackie Williams went searching for CAD software at MJSA Expo New York in 2006, they had a bounty of programs from which to choose. Set up before them were five different programs, all demonstrating […]

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Slice and Dice
July 2nd, 2020

Saving CAD time by repurposing cutting tools By Darla Alvarez, The Gilded Artisan Just as you find new uses for worn burs or files at the bench, you can also breathe new life into virtual CAD tool staples. Using traditional surface modeling techniques can be time consuming, especially on what is otherwise a simple design. […]

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Shadow Magic
July 2nd, 2020

Creating a matching wedding band with CAD By Darla Alvarez The perfect wedding band to match the perfect engagement ring remains perennially popular with brides, even when said band does not yet exist. For those of us who rely heavily on CAD/CAM, creating a matching shadow band can present the difficult challenge of melding the […]

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Seeing Is Believing
July 2nd, 2020

Exploring CAD’s sculptural possibilities By Shawna Kulpa A complaint still heard about computer-aided design (CAD) software programs is that they’re capable of creating only blocky, cookie-cutter designs that lack any organic feel. And perhaps that was true of the earliest CAD programs that were put to use in the industry. But technology has come a […]

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The Redrawing Board
July 2nd, 2020

Sometimes even the best CAD designs can use a little help By John Shanahan Making jewelry is the perfect confluence of art and science. It’s where aesthetic and inspiration meet application and practicality. Computer-aided design (CAD) software is one of the tools that helps brings these two sides of the equation together. But although CAD’s […]

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Old Vs. New
July 2nd, 2020

Using a traditional approach and CAD to set a uniquely set stone Recently, third-generation jewelry store owner Lee Krombholz of Krombholz Jewelers (krombholzjewelers.com) in Cincinnati set out to compare the pros and cons of CAD/CAM and a traditional handmade wax approach. Here you’ll read a summary of his findings, as well as the approaches that […]

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Take Two
July 2nd, 2020

Modifying Award-Winning CAD Designs for Optimal Manufacturing By Tina Wojtkielo Snyder What do you do when you realize your virtual inventory is virtually impossible to manufacture? With so many jewelry designers turning to CAD to realize their visions, such predicaments are becoming more and more common. Those thin edges, tight settings, and tiny details look […]

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Set to Go
July 2nd, 2020

Tips for modeling prong settings in CAD By Charlie Herner If you’re designing jewelry using CAD, understanding how the piece will be cast and then set and finished at the bench can mean the difference between failure and success. When modeling prong settings, there are a few tricks you can use to ensure the best […]

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A Little Something Extra
July 2nd, 2020

Building additional setting material into your CAD files By Charlie Herner When setting gemstones into castings that started life as CAD files, jewelers often complain that they don’t have quite enough metal with which to work. Building a little extra setting material into your CAD files is simple, and it can make a big difference […]

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Leaving Your Mark
July 2nd, 2020

Custom jeweler Tom Linenberger’s Wabi Sabi approach Editor’s Note: See the article Quest for Imperfection, by Lee Krombholz, referenced in this artlce, for more information about the Wabi Sabi design apprach.  By Tom Linenberger I took my retail business into the custom jewelry arena in 1984. When I received the casting equipment that I had […]

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Hand in Hand (Part 1)
July 2nd, 2020

Old World craftsmanship meets new technology in this engraved band By Charlie Herner and Jason Marchiafava Editor’s Note: This is the first in a two-part series on melding old world techniques and new technology to efficiently create an engraved man’s band with a handcrafted feel. For beginner and intermediate engravers, layout work for engraving can […]

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Get in Control
July 2nd, 2020

Using control points to refine CAD designs By Darla Alvarez Many CAD programs feature integrated, jewelry specific tools to make modeling more efficient. For example, using profiles along a rail is the most common approach to forming the primary shape of a design, and, most of the time, a CAD program effortlessly blends these shapes […]

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The Future of CAD?
July 2nd, 2020

A look ahead to the use of generative design technology If you’ve already been doing CAD for a few years, you may be more interested in learning about what’s next for the technology. Ask the experts that keep track of new technology, and they’ll tell you to keep an eye on generative design; it’s the […]

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Digital Dive
July 2nd, 2020

Tips for taking the plunge into CAD By Shawna Kulpa Computer-aided design (CAD) has been around for a while, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t a lot of people for whom it’s still new. They range from fresh-faced students dreaming of careers in jewelry design to grizzled veterans interested in improving production, but all share […]

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Sensible Sparkle
July 2nd, 2020

Tips for setting halos and side diamonds using CAD By Lee Krombholz Halo and micro-pavé engagement rings and wedding bands are very popular with young consumers today. Historically, these styles have been created using what jewelers call “plate setting,” which is a process of setting diamonds into a plate of metal by laying them out […]

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Design Simplified
July 2nd, 2020

Randy Erickson celebrates CAD By Peggy Jo Donahue When Randy Erickson of Erickson Jewelers in Iron Mountain, Michigan, went to a trade show seven years ago, he was a man on a mission. He was in the market for a rapid prototyping machine and a CAD program to go with it. “I looked at one […]

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Curves with Intentions
July 2nd, 2020

The benefits of well-considered curves in CAD By Charlie Herner Well-considered curves in a jewelry piece are not only important for aesthetic reasons but also practical aspects of manufacture. Curve continuity, which is key to guiding the viewer’s eye as he or she looks at a piece, can be one of the most overlooked design […]

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3-D Printing
July 2nd, 2020

Is 3-D Printing Right for You? Most of the 3-D printers currently on the market work by growing models layer by layer. Many of these printers use a photopolymer resin material that hardens when exposed to light. Other machines use a jetting process of wax-based material, which can help avoid the casting issues many users […]

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CNC Milling
July 2nd, 2020

Is CNC Milling for You? Milling machines use rotary cutting tools to carve a jewelry model from a block of wax; jewelers can then touch up or refine their models before casting. The number of axes in the machine can vary, with three- and four-axis machines the most common in the industry. Five-axis machines are […]

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CNC Milling vs. 3-D Printing
July 2nd, 2020

CNC Milling or 3-D Printing? Which is the right choice for your design? By Shawna Kulpa For someone new to the jewelry industry, the sheer assortment of tools and equipment in the typical workshop can be overwhelming. That’s especially true when it comes to technology, which changes so rapidly. If you’ve invested in your own […]

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Tips of the Techy Trade
July 2nd, 2020

CAD Modelers Share Their Favorite Tips Compiled by Steven Adler, A3DM.com Every CAD modeler has more than a few tricks up his or her sleeve. I reached out to my peers in the jewelry CAD community to compile a series of helpful tips that anyone who designs on-screen can use in their daily work. • Whether […]

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Quest for Imperfection
July 2nd, 2020

Building flaws into CAD designs—on purpose By Lee Krombholz Jewelry makers who handcraft their pieces leave an indelible mark on the work for eternity. Physically interacting with metal and gemstones to shape and transform them into a wearable piece of art is a very personal process, and the resulting work reflects that. When CAD/CAM hit […]

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Hand in Hand (Part 2)
July 1st, 2020

Adding a handcrafted touch to a casting By Charlie Herner and Jason Marchiafava Editor’s Note: This is the second in a two-part series on melding old world techniques and new technology to efficiently create an engraved man’s band with a handcrafted feel. For beginner and intermediate engravers, layout work for engraving can be a tedious […]

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The Sculptural Jewelry of Othmar Wicke
January 3rd, 2017

Seeing Is Believing: Case Study 1 By Shawna Kulpa The wonderful thing about working with 3-D CAD programs…is that formal restrictions don’t exist, or at least I haven’t found them yet,” says Othmar Wicke of Wien, Austria. One look at his designs—particularly his lifelike and occasionally surrealistic depictions of sea creatures, insects, and other natural […]

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Freeform Jewelry by Tomas Wittelsbach
January 3rd, 2017

Seeing Is Believing: Case Study 2 By Shawna Kulpa Tomas Wittelsbach of Seattle will be the first to tell you that he’s not a jeweler: He’s a sculptor. And perhaps it’s because he was trained in sculpture that he doesn’t believe there are any limitations to the types of designs he can create with the […]

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