Our How I Made It series takes us inside the projects that have inspired our designers, shoppers, and makers. This time, we hear from Wynn Mustin, a 3D printing engineer at Shapeways who has been hacking the jewelry industry and selling her creations at her Shapeways shop, STONEDALONE, and at Free People.

I am part of a new wave of jewelry designers. Every piece I’ve ever made has been 3D printed; I’ve never made jewelry by hand. Though I will always cherish the desktop 3D printer that got me started turning my jewelry ideas into reality, it wasn’t long before I became dissatisfied with flimsy prints. I wanted to create jewelry that felt precious, not like plastic. I was ready to move into the world of 3D printed metals in hopes of competing with the big dogs. That’s when I discovered that Shapeways could create my designs in interlocking metals, no assembly or metalworking skills required. I was immediately inspired.

I set out to create a whimsical dangling charm ring inspired in equal measure by fortune tellers, Sailor Moon, and Teen Witch, and mocked up the following design:

However, a quick review of the material guidelines for interlocking brass revealed that this version wouldn’t meet the design specifications due to insufficient clearance space between the interlocking hoops and the tiny spheres.

With material guidelines in mind, I approached my 3D model by first establishing the sizes and clearances for the rings attached to the dangling stars. I decided to let this critical design constraint determine the scale of the rest of the piece.

ring design rhino 3d modeling software

I created a size 7 ring template in Rhino and built a central orb, a base for my design elements, and a tapered band for comfort. All of this is in Rhino’s wheelhouse, but my approach would have to be different for the crescent moon, stars, and maker’s mark I planned to include on the inner surface of the band.

I knew from past experience that creating complex curves in Rhino is not my strong suit, so I decided to make these in Adobe Illustrator, which is great for drawing curves that play nicely with Rhino and other 3D modeling apps.

3D modeling starts in Adobe Illustrator

Once I softened the points on my stars and crescent moons in Illustrator, I exported them as .dwg files and imported them into Rhino. From there, it was easy to extrude the curves into solid forms.

crescent moon and star extruded into 3D

I then exported each shape as an .stl and brought them into Meshmixer in an attempt to mimic the look of lightly hammered metal.

interlocking pieces for 3D printed ring designed in Meshmixer

The final step was to expand my initials into a 3D maker’s mark

monogram expanded into 3D makers mark

and add that to the model:

makers mark added to 3D printed ring

Well aware of the value of prototyping when it comes to something as intimate as jewelry, I ordered my model in Frosted Ultra Detail plastic, which also supports interlocking parts. This allowed me to double-check the size, comfort, design details, and mobility of the dangling stars for about a tenth of the cost before investing in a brass version.

frosted ultra detail prototype of 3D printed Cassiopeia ring

The Frosted Ultra Detail version played up the childhood nostalgia of my design. I was disappointed with the subtlety of the maker’s mark and the light weight of the ring, but these minor shortcomings were attributable to my prototyping material. The ring passed my test and I placed an order in polished interlocking brass.

woman wearing metal 3D printed Cassiopeia ring

Product photography by Brenden Savi and model/creative direction by Abi Laurel

Receiving the brass version of my design felt like a rite of passage as a jewelry designer. The weight of the metal gave it a sense of value that I’d never felt before with my earlier pieces. This, combined with the durability of the 3D printed interlocking parts, elevated my design to a real consumer-ready product.

And just like that, the Cassiopeia Ring was born.

Do you have any questions for Wynn, or a project you’re proud of that you’d like us to share in a future How I Made It feature? Let us know in the comments!