Products and Design

Hacking the Jewelry Industry

Maybe you have some ideas for a jewelry collection, but you’re not a trained bench jeweler or metalsmith. Fortunately, you no longer need to be an artisan — or even that great with your hands — to start creating gorgeous jewelry. These days robust 3D modeling software can be downloaded for free and mastered with video tutorials, and Shapeways can fabricate your 3D models in a range of metals.

So why haven’t you gotten around to making your jewelry ideas into a successful side hustle, or start working toward a full-time career? If you’ve thought about creating your own jewelry, you’re well on your way, and Shapeways is ready to meet you halfway with its portfolio of materials and its jewelry marketplace.

Here are some tips to keep in mind as you acquaint yourself with your inner jewelry designer:

Off the Drawing Board

Deciding what to make can be overwhelming. Don’t feel pressured to incorporate every idea you’ve ever admired into your very first design.

Try placing some constraints on yourself. Choose a design element: a moon, a star, another geometric shape. Begin by sketching on paper. Experiment, noting connections between visual motifs that inspire you. Then move into 3D modeling software. I like to create basic forms in Rhino and add digitally sculpted detail in Meshmixer.

I find it helpful to brainstorm in a sketchbook and refine my ideas in Photoshop before bringing them into 3D software.

Be your own muse, and design the jewelry you would want to wear. Chances are others will want to wear it too.

Establishing Your Aesthetic

Imagine that your piece will be featured at your favorite retailer. Are you drawn to jewelry there that is on the minimal side, or does it tends to be ornate? Is it flashy and glamorous, or a bit more bohemian? Would you wear this piece every day, or save it for the right occasion? You can always deviate from your answers, but this exercise establishes a framework to guide your creative process.

You can also use Pinterest or Instagram to research trends, but make sure you choose narrow search terms that reflect your interests. Otherwise you might find your initial vision is muddled by the abundance of results.

A mood board is a helpful tool for aesthetic decision-making.

It’s always a good idea to play to your strengths, so don’t be afraid to account for your 3D modeling skill level as you consider the complexity of your aesthetic, especially when you’re just getting started.

Getting Through to Your Customer

It’s great to think about potential customers right off the bat, but you’ll find your customer is easier to imagine when you have a first draft of your jewelry design. What type of person would wear the piece you’re creating? What’s their current go-to jewelry brand? How much are they willing to spend? What about your jewelry will resonate with them? Once you have developed a customer persona, you can play up elements of your pieces that are likely to spark a connection.

Aspirational imagery can have a huge impact.

Think about what what makes you buy the things you do. People tend to buy jewelry aspirationally, choosing items they believe will bring them closer to the person they want to be. They also gravitate toward items that remind them in some way of something from the past.

Naming Your Price

You may be selling jewelry as a hobby, but if you’re hoping to eventually cover your rent, it’s essential to consider the cost of production from the get-go. One way to reduce costs is to thin or hollow out heftier parts of your 3D models. Keeping costs low allows you to mark up your designs without scaring away customers.

New jewelry sellers tend to undervalue their designs in hopes of attracting more customers. Keep in mind that pricing is subjective. An amount that seems high to you might feel totally reasonable to your customers. Also, remember that prices send a strong message about the quality and value of your work, and they influence how customers perceive your brand.

Instagram Was Made for #jewelry

With its highly engaged community of users and their endless appetite for new eye candy, Instagram functions like an interactive fashion magazine where you can get to know your customers and they can get to know you. Your personality is the backbone of your brand. Make sure it comes through in your photography and your captions.

Don’t be afraid to let your brand have a distinct personality. People connect strongly with a brand that feels personal.

Instagram allows up to 30 hashtags per post. (If 30 feels excessive, keep in mind that each hashtag is an opportunity to attract another potential customer.) Well-chosen hashtags will result in more engagement, so do some research. Start with a popular hashtag like #showmeyourrings and let Instagram suggest other relevant ones. Organize hashtag combinations in a text document on your phone, so you can quickly copy and paste them into your posts.

Onward and Upward

Having more merchandise in your shop helps you cast a wider net, and gives you more designs to promote. No one is holding you to the traditional fashion season cycle or to the notion that everything you create must be part of a larger collection.  Embrace one-offs. If you have an inkling of an idea, explore and test it right away. You might even start your own trend.

3D printing affords you the freedom to release new pieces as often as you’re able to design them. The quick production cycle makes you agile and competitive.

Video Tutorials for Making Jewelry

There are many different pathways to success in the jewelry business. Beginning with 3D printing is the ultimate jewelry hack.

Wynn Mustin (Instagram: yung_crowley) is a Shapeways 3D printing engineer. She sells her jewelry designs at her Shapeways shop, STONEDALONE.

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