Is 3D printing the next big thing in high jewellery?

The thrill of hi-tech tools: luxury jewellery designers like Boucheron, Boghossian and Tiffany & Co. flirt with 3D technology. Photo: Bulgari

The thrill of hi-tech tools: luxury jewellery designers like Boucheron, Boghossian and Tiffany & Co. flirt with 3D technology. Photo: Bulgari

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The luxury jewellery industry may most often celebrate the continued use of time-honoured craftsmanship, but 3D design and printing technologies are becoming commonplace too. Tiffany & Co., LVMH-owned Bulgari, Boucheron and Boghossian have all embraced the new technology in a world where handcraftsmanship is key.

Highlights 

  • The luxury jewellery industry is prized for its time-honoured craftsmanship, but more brands are turning to new technologies – like De Beers’ AR that allows clients to virtually ‘try on’ pieces
  • Boucheron’s latest Contemplation collection features a stunning diamond necklace designed by an algorithm and Bulgari even launched three high jewellery NFTs in 2022

Boucheron’s forward-thinking Contemplation collection, for example, included an extraordinary necklace that used a mathematical algorithm to suspend diamonds in a cloudlike structure. Contemplation was followed by the maison’s rainbow-inspired Holographique line, influenced by Icelandic-Danish artist Olafur Eliasson and Mexican architect Luis Barragan. A hologram technology pioneered by French aeronautics company Saint-Gobain was used to spray slices of rock crystal with a creative material that makes jewels appear to be changing colour.

Boghossian Diaphane mesh earrings. Photo: Boghossian

Boucheron isn’t the only high jeweller to develop digital tools that use sophisticated 3D printing. Tiffany & Co.’s workshop in Manhattan is lined with wooden benches from which artisans peer through magnifying glasses to critique prototypes born out of 3D technology.

Then there’s Boghossian, which has long used cutting-edge craftsmanship to create sparklers that defy convention, and has unveiled its innovative Diaphane Mesh creations for 2022. Family-run for six generations, Boghossian claims its brand new gemstone mesh is the thinnest and most flexible ever created.

A hexagonal shaped diamond ring by Boghossian. Photo: Boghossian

A masterwork of design, an especially spectacular set of earrings is secured to lobes using a pair of otherworldly opals mottled like marble. The woven mesh is miniaturised until it’s so fine it could be mistaken for transparent, yet the silhouette effortlessly supports a stunning selection of coloured gemstones, hundreds of which are laser-soldered together.

Abalone pearl and natural pearl earrings. Photo: Boghossian

A number of fashion houses, including Chanel and Iris van Herpen, have been experimenting with 3D technology for years. Remember Jessica Rosenkrantz’s Kinematics dress? Made in collaboration with computer programmer Jesse Louis-Rosenberg, the garment is now on permanent display at the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

And who could forget the computer-rendered gown worn by burlesque performer Dita Von Teese back in 2013? Fashion heavyweight Francis Bitonti collaborated with costume designer Michael Schmidt for the project, which required layer upon layer of plastic powder that was fused together with lasers.

De Beers Ellesmere treasure high jewellery necklace. Photo: De Beers

Architects and software engineers have been spearheading 3D’s potential, but jewellers have been hesitant to jump on the hi-tech bandwagon. The very term haute joaillerie conjures up old-timey images of meticulous metalwork and delicate settings, all requiring hours of painstakingly detailed hand craftsmanship. There is a real fear that 3D technology will infringe upon these age-old techniques, but brands like Bulgari are already taking steps towards a digitalised customer experience.

The LVMH-owned house has launched three high jewellery NFTs for 2022, including two that come with multimillion-dollar necklaces designed by creative director Lucia Silvestri. De Beers, meanwhile, now allows clients to “virtually try on” pieces using augmented reality.

An ornate ring from the De Beers Natural Works of Art collection. Photo: De Beers

Experimental technology is part of the constant reinvention that has driven high jewellery forward and, with the buzz of Boucheron and Boghossian’s latest masterpieces ringing in our ears, other heritage houses could soon follow suit. But for now, the jury’s still out on whether 3D technology will become a favoured tool of designers or just an occasional gimmick.

The article was originally published in Style by South China Morning Magazines 

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