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How to Make Beautiful 3D Printed Jewelry

Updated: Aug 23, 2022

3D Printed Jewelry is taking over the fashion world! Print-on-demand technology has made it financially possible for anyone to create and sell their own line of beautiful designer jewelry and a wave of new talent is taking full advantage!


In this post, you're going to learn the basics behind creating and selling your own line of 3D printed jewelry, including:

  • The design process, and how to find designers with the necessary CAD skills to bring your vision to life

  • Available materials, including 24k gold and sterling silver

  • How to list your jewelry for sale

  • How to market your new line of jewelry


Table of Contents


 


 

Introduction

Despite what you may think, making and selling designer jewelry doesn't require thousands of dollars worth of machinery, tools, and materials. In fact, you can design your own jewelry digitally, list it for sale online, and use 3D print-on-demand technology to fulfill your orders.


It's that simple!


You can set up your own designer jewelry brand with just a little money and no actual inventory when you use 3D print-on-demand technology. So, if you've got great taste and you're looking for a passive income stream, 3D printing jewelry on demand is a great way to start your next successful business venture.




What is 3D Printing?

3D printing is an additive process to create three-dimensional objects from a digital 3D file. Unlike subtractive manufacturing that starts with a large piece of material and carves or shapes it down, 3D printing builds multiple small layers on top of each other to create an object.


While 3D printing is nothing new, it has become readily available to the masses of creators and entrepreneurs over the years. As 3D printing technologies evolve, 3D printing is expected to grow to a $41 billion industry by 2026. Small businesses and entrepreneurs can also enter into the market since the barriers to entry with 3D printing on demand are relatively low in comparison to traditional manufacturing.


Youilen Echagarruga, the owner of YBY Shop in Austin, sells 3D printed jewelry on Etsy. Youilen has always loved handmade and custom-made jewelry, and she recently decided to open her own jewelry store on Etsy with the help of her designer husband. Her shop features 3D-printed earrings with modern, contemporary, and geometric styles.


Since using 3D printing allows you to take full control over your materials, Youilen looks for materials that are 100% eco-friendly and recyclable. “I feel that this is my way to help nature,” Youilen explains. As 3D printing advances, many manufacturers that make 3D printing materials are introducing eco-friendly and biodegradable material options that allow jewelry makers to offer products that are environmentally friendly. Eco-friendly materials are available in a wide variety of colors and finishes so you can create eco-friendly jewelry without sacrificing the aesthetics or quality of the piece.


Another added bonus of 3D printing that Youilen loves is the lightweight design of the parts. When 3D printing with certain materials such as PLA and ABS plastics, you can choose the infill rate of each piece. Instead of creating a solid and heavy earring charm with an infill rate of 100%, you can set the infill rate as low as 15%. This means that the inside of your charm will be mostly hollow, and as a result, it will be lightweight.


Despite being mostly hollow, 3D-printed charms are surprisingly strong. When printing with a low infill rate, the design will contain a honeycomb or triangle support structure throughout the inside of the object to maintain the strength and structural integrity of the piece. As a result, charms can be lightweight and mostly hollow, yet incredibly durable. Not only does lowering the infill rate save money on material costs, but it also creates a lightweight piece that will be comfortable for the customer to wear throughout the day.


Even though she does not have a background in 3D design, Youilen is able to create designs with the help of her husband. Since her husband is a designer, he helps her bring her ideas to life. She gets her inspiration from Pinterest, social media, and from products that her husband designs for his job.


Youilen’s advice to beginners or anyone who is interested in potentially getting started with 3D printed jewelry is to simply “just do it.” Getting involved with 3D printing may seem overwhelming at first, but you should overcome your worries and focus on bringing your ideas to life. “Don’t wait for the perfect moment,” she says, “you are going to create the perfect moment.” You don’t have to be an expert or have an entire design catalog planned out; simply pick a few designs and get started with those. With the low startup costs for new products and additions, you can build up your product catalog over time as your business grows.


You don’t need to be an expert to get started, and Youilen is the perfect example of this. Despite only getting started in 2021, Youilen is glad that she took the initial leap and is seeing steady growth in her new business. She is enjoying learning more about the 3D process as her business grows, and she continues to slowly add more products to her shop as she creates new earring designs. She loves the creative process behind it and enjoys creating high-quality and unique designs for her customers.



Why Choose 3D printing over traditional manufacturing

You may be wondering why printing your designer jewelry on demand can be better than the traditional manufacturing route. While there is nothing wrong with traditional manufacturing, it is becoming an outdated and ineffective process for small businesses and creative entrepreneurs, especially when it comes to passive income.


Traditional manufacturing typically requires high minimum order quantities. When you are starting your jewelry business, you probably don’t have the cash to invest into buying a thousand units of a single item. Even if you do have the cash, you may not want to invest in a large quantity of a product that may or may not sell. Using 3D printing on demand allows you to invest in multiple products and materials because you do not need to have any inventory on hand.


Not only does traditional manufacturing require high minimum order quantities, these large orders usually have high setup fees and costs. If you would like to create a custom ring, your manufacturer will most likely charge you to set up the custom molds and equipment for your custom jewelry pieces. This can cost you a few hundred to a few thousand dollars depending on the manufacturer and method. You will have to pay for custom molds that the manufacturer retains, and making additional changes to these molds down the line is never free. With 3D printing on demand, there are low setup fees; you are only charged for the item once a customer purchases it.


3D printing on demand is also great for entrepreneurs and creators who would like to have their products made domestically. Large-scale manufacturing is usually expensive in the United States, and therefore many jewelry makers have to go to factories in China and other parts of the world in order to get their items made at a reasonable price. However, there are many affordable 3D printing services in the USA that offer high-end materials. Using a 3D printing service to create your jewelry is an affordable way your entire production process stays in the USA, and having your products made domestically is a major selling point in the jewelry niche.




What is possible with 3D printing?

Simply put, almost anything is possible with 3D printing that is possible with traditional manufacturing. Depending on your desired budget, target price, and material, there are many options available for 3D printing.


Many of these options may seem intimidating at first with complex names, long abbreviations, and complex processes, but don’t let that scare you away! Since you are using a 3D print-on-demand service, you will not need to invest the money and time into buying your own equipment and learning how to properly use it. The experts handle the machinery and the small details while you focus on the look and feel of your product.


A few methods and materials that are possible with 3D printing on-demand include:

  • Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) - This method uses an additive process in which layers are created to build up an object. The material, usually plastic, is melted and pushed through a hot nozzle. Layer by layer, the 3D object is built up as the plastic hardens on contact. If you have ever used a hot glue gun, think of FDM as a similar, yet more complex method. Plastic materials for FDM include:

    • PLA: Polylactic Acid

    • ABS: Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene

    • PETG: Polyethylene Terephthalate or Glycolyzed Polyester

    • HIPS: High Impact Polystyrene


  • Selective Laser Sintering (SLS): This method sinters (transforms) a powder substance into solids to form 3D shapes. SLS material options include:

    • Nylon

    • Thermoplastic Polyurethane (TPU)


  • Stereolithography (SLA): This method uses light to cure liquid materials layer by layer, creating solid structures. SLA material options include:

    • Types of resin/plastics


  • Binder Jetting: This method deposits a binder onto a powder bed to form solid layers. Binder Jetting can create objects from:

    • Steel

    • Stainless Steel

    • Sandstone


  • Multi Jet Fusion: This method combines droplets of fusing and detailing agents on a powder material with thermal energy, to create solid shapes. MJF material options include:

    • MJF Plastic

    • MJF Glass Beads


  • Laser Powder Bed Fusion (LPFM): This method uses a laser to scan and melt metal particles, binding them together to build up layers. Material options include:

    • Aluminum


  • Material Jetting: This method dispenses droplets with a printhead. These droplets are photosensitive and harden into solids under ultraviolet light. This method is somewhat similar to 2D printing and scanning, but layers are solid and are built on top of each other. This method allows for colorful prints, with tens of thousands of possible colors for certain materials. Material options include:

    • Full-color high-definition objects

    • Multicolor polyjet

    • Plastic with fine and small details


  • Wax Casting: This method creates a smooth wax pattern that is used to cast precious metals. This method is great for high-end and designer jewelry. High-end material options include:

    • Gold

    • Silver

    • Bronze

    • Brass

    • Copper

    • Platinum

    • Gold Plated Brass

    • Rhodium Plated Brass


Starting your 3D Printed Jewelry Business

One of the most important things about your jewelry business is, of course, the jewelry itself. Even if you don’t have any design or jewelry-making experience, you can create bring your idea to life by following the design and prototyping steps.



The Design Process

The design process for 3D modeling and printing may seem overwhelming at first, but taking it step by step or getting professional help can make it easier. Once you have an idea in your mind, the first step of the design process is to put it on paper. Sketch out your design using paper or a digital tool.


Once your idea is on paper, you can start the 3D modeling process in CAD (computer-aided design) software. If you have experience in CAD or would like to learn, this may be something you can do yourself. If you don’t have experience, you'll want to get some professional help.


One of the more common 3D printing software platforms is called SolidWorks but it comes with a hefty price tag of around $6,000 USD; plus it requires real CAD experience in order to operate. If you're new to the industry, we highly recommend hiring a professional 3D designer who already has access to software like SolidWorks and who also has the experience to help bring your idea to life.


You can connect with experienced 3D designers through various websites and platforms:

  • CG Trader: A website to purchase 3D files. Search through existing jewelry files to find a style you like, then reach out through the platform to hire the designer.

  • Fiverr: A website connecting freelancers to clients. This website has the option to filter for USA talent if you would like to keep the design process in the USA, or you can search for freelancers worldwide.

  • Independent Services: If you already know which print-on-demand service you would like to use, you may be able to get help from their design team. Most 3D printing services have an in-house team of experienced designers and experts, and many of these companies offer their services to their clients.

When hiring a designer, ensure that you are working with someone who you can trust. This person will be handling your proprietary designs and intellectual property, so be sure to use a reputable company or search through your freelancer’s previous reviews. Work closely with your designer to create your design and don’t hesitate to ask for revisions.


If you prefer to create the designs yourself, you can learn the necessary skills through Coursera. They offer a number of different courses on 3D printing and CAD, including "3D Printing and Additive Manufacturing" as well as "CAD and Digital Manufacturing."


The Prototyping Process

Once you have your design complete, you may want to get a physical prototype before you proceed to sell your item. The CAD design and 3D renderings of your jewelry item may look great, but there may be some details you want to adjust once you are able to evaluate a physical object.


Prototyping can be done in cheaper materials, or you can choose to make your prototype in the materials that you intend to use for the finished product. This will help you get a good idea of what your product will look and feel like, and you can wear it to test its strength and functionality.


If your prototype needs some slight adjustments, work with your designer or make the changes on your own if you can. Some jewelry pieces may not need any adjustments, while others may need a few prototype versions until you are satisfied with the result.


The Sourcing Process

Once you have your design down, it is time to select a reliable print-on-demand (POD) company that can create your jewelry items as you sell them. Many of these companies have their own teams that can help you decide on which material will work best for your design if you haven’t already nailed down the material for your design.


Some popular 3D print-on-demand services include:

  • Shapeways

  • Shop3D

  • CraftCloud

  • Xometry

  • 3D Systems

  • Sculpteo

  • Protolabs

These services enable you to upload your file and select a material type. They are also available to make recommendations, answer questions, or work with you on your project. In addition to online services, consider researching any local businesses that you can work with.


Intellectual property and Digital Assets

During the entire 3D design process, it is important that you maintain control over your digital property. Be careful who you share your design files with and ensure that you don’t post the 3D files online.


While there are laws protecting your digital designs, they sometimes are hard to enforce, especially if someone outside of your country uses, modifies, or sells your file without your permission.


Branding & eCommerce

Once you are happy with your jewelry product or collection, it is ready to launch online! With 3D printing on-demand, you can easily streamline your business, have no on-hand inventory, and make passive income.


Setting up Your eCommerce Store

Once you have your product down, it is time to create a website for your new jewelry business. Creating a website and online storefront is something that anyone can do with Shopify. You don’t need to be an expert or have any prior experience.


Shopify is one of the most robust and versatile platforms for creating an e-commerce store. You can use Shopify to create a website, manage a store, collect customer emails, and much more. Shopify also has an App Store with over three thousand apps from independent developers and companies, including 3D print-on-demand businesses. These apps can be integrated into your website to perform tasks and enhance your site.


Once you have opened up your Shopify account, you can start adding categories and products to your website. When creating each product listing, you will want to consider:


Product Images

One of the most important aspects of e-commerce is the presentation. When someone is scrolling through search results, how are you going to get them to stop scrolling and click on your product?

There are a few different options for product images of your jewelry. Some 3D renderings can be edited to look very realistic. If your designer can create a realistic 3D image of your product, consider using this as a product image.


You may also want to take the traditional route and have product images taken of your physical product. You can order your jewelry from your 3D printer and photograph your item the old-fashioned way. There are many online tutorials that can walk you through the basics of product photography, or you can hire a professional to take the pictures for you. Even though real product photography may be expensive, displaying your products in a professional and attractive way may pay off in the long term.


In addition to standard product images, lifestyle photography is popular in the jewelry industry. You may want to take photos of your jewelry being worn so your customers can see what it will look like when they buy and wear it.


Be sure that your lifestyle images match your jewelry style and appeal to your demographic. For example, if you are selling high-end rings, you probably don’t want to take photos with kids in them. On the other hand, if you are selling bracelets for kids, having product photos with kids would work well. Understand who your target audience is and cater the lifestyle photos to them.


Product Title

Your product title tells the buyer what they are looking at. Titles need to tell the customer what they will be getting and should entice them to click on the product to learn more. Even though product titles are short, they should be informative and accurate. It's also a good idea to include the important product details in the title.


For example:


Bad product title: “Simple Gold Ring”


Improved product title: “14K Gold Ring with Minimalist Design”


While mentioning the type of material in the title is not essential for all jewelry, it can be helpful for designer jewelry and high-quality precious metals.


When writing your product titles, keep in mind that if the title is too long, some information may be cut off. Depending on your web builder and store settings, always double-check what your product titles will look like on both desktop and mobile versions of your website.


Product Description

The product description is the place to get into the details. Unlike your limited title, you will have more room to write about your product here. Include information such as sizing, material, finish, and any other information you think will be helpful for the buyer. Specifying that the item is made to order will also be helpful to the customer.


Order Fulfilment

Once a customer places an order and the payment clears, the item will need to be printed. You can either automate the printing and shipping processes in Shopify through one of their apps or you can order the product manually from a 3D printing company and have the item shipped to the customer's address.


Ordering inventory on your own may be an acceptable tactic when you first open your business, but this method can be difficult to scale.


That's why we recommend using Shopify to create your website and automate the order process to create a passive income stream. To do this, you will need to use Shapeways or Shop3D as your print-on-demand service. Shapeways and Shop3D have free apps that you can integrate into your Shopify store. These apps will connect your 3D products to their printing service, and both of these companies have locations in the USA.


Once a customer makes a purchase from your online store, the order will be sent to Shapeways or Shop3D to fulfill. They will create the item and ship it directly to your customer. You will be charged a set fee per product and the difference between the amount paid by the customer and the printing fee is your profit.


You don’t have to worry about the shipping logistics or the overhead costs associated with running a jewelry store; just focus on marketing... and then sit back and count your money!


Helpful website features

In addition to creating a beautiful online storefront, Shopify has many more features that you can utilize to create a unique brand identity, engage with your customers, market your new products, and make sales. Some of these options include:


  • Affiliate Programs: Offer commissions to other websites that refer paying customers to your store. This can help incentivize social influencers to promote your products by offering them a piece of the sale when a customer whom they have referred makes a purchase.


  • External Sales Channels: Shopify includes free apps that allow you to list your products for sale on major eCommerce websites like Amazon.com, Walmart.com, eBay.com, Etsy.com, Facebook Marketplace, and a myriad of overseas marketplaces.


  • Customer Service: Keeping your customers happy is easy with Shopify's customer service apps; some of which feature virtual assistants that can answer customer concerns 24/7 like "Where is my order?" Or "I need to change my address."


  • Loyalty Programs: If you have a loyal customer base (or would like to build one) then a referral program is a great way to encourage repeat buyers and referrals. With a referral program like Loyalty Lion on Shopify, customers can earn points by making purchases, signing up for email newsletters, referring friends, and more. Once they have collected enough points, they can redeem their points for coupons, special perks, or free items.


Social Media Marketing

Social media is a great tool to use when growing your business, especially in the jewelry market. Once your store has been created, you can use social media as a tool to organically grow your business through making posts, creating stories, and interacting with customers. In some cases, (i.e. Facebook) you can use the platform to sell your products directly to your customers. Some social media platforms that are popular in the jewelry niche include:

  • Instagram

  • Pinterest

  • Facebook

  • YouTube

Influencer Marketing

Influencer marketing is an effective way to get new product photos, grow your exposure, and make sales. With influencer marketing, you reach out to the owner of a popular social media account and send them a product (usually for free).


Once they receive the product, they will create content with it, and (hopefully) send people to your site to buy the product. If you decide to go this route, make sure to only work with reputable influencers and write up a contract that outlines your expectations prior to sending them anything valuable.


Common influencer content could include an unboxing video, a video review, or photos of the influencer wearing your product. You can also create a discount code for the influencer to advertise to their audience.


To learn more about how to use influencers in your marketing, consider taking Coursera's "Influencer Marketing Strategy" class.


Creating a Name and a Logo

Finally, you will need a great name and logo to match your great designer jewelry products.

  • A Great Name: The name of your online jewelry store is one of the most important parts of your brand identity. Try to pick a name that will resonate with your target audience. If you need some inspiration, check out Shopify's free Business Name Generator tool.


  • An Eye-Catching Logo: Your logo should be a visual representation of your jewelry brand. Your logo should be appealing to your customers, and it should conceptualize your brand. Ensure that all parts of your logo are easy to read. This includes any fonts, high-quality images or icons, and a clean color scheme. Since your logo is a vital part of your branding, you may want to consider getting professional design assistance for the centerpiece of your brand. You can find professional logo designers on Fiverr.


  • Color Scheme: Try to decide on a general color scheme that you would like to stick to. This will help with consistent and professional branding on your website, emails, packaging, and more. While this is not necessary, it can help you build your brand identity.


Creating Your Brand Identity

Your jewelry brand is more than simply a name, logo, and product list. What makes your brand that makes it stand out? What about your brand that you would like customers to know?


Vanessa, a 3D printing jewelry business owner in Massachusetts, crafts her brand identity by highlighting the unique features of her brand. She advertises that her brand is woman-owned and operated, and she also lets customers know that her jewelry selection is eco-friendly.


Another key point in your brand identity could include where the jewelry is designed and made. If you are using a 3D designer or 3D printing company that is located in the USA, you should make a point of saying so.


Is 3D Print-on-demand right for you?

If you are looking for a new business venture with little to no startup costs, or you are passionate about creating beautiful jewelry, then creating a designer 3D printed jewelry brand may be for you. You can create your own customized high-end products and build a designer brand, all from your home computer.


By far, the most useful software platform for accomplishing this is Shopify. If you're unfamiliar with the finer points of using Shopify, we highly recommend reading The Complete Shopify Tool Kit. This volume takes you through the process of building a successful Shopify store, step-by-step. It includes detailed instructions on how to design your store, build your brand, find and market your products, and create a reliable means of income for you and your family.


It also specifically covers print-on-demand businesses so it's particularly helpful if you plan on starting your own jewelry business according to the model discussed in this article.


For more information on starting a Print-on-Demand business, check out this free webinar from Shopify.


Good luck in your endeavors!




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