Jewelry innovation has changed over the centuries; from hand cut diamonds in the 15th century to laser precision symmetry in the past decades, every generation of jewelry experts witnesses a mini-revolution in the way precious pieces are designed and created.

The latest new to market idea is linked with 3-D printing and those developing the new method predict it will change the way the industry works in the very near future. Called sintering, it’s being heralded as a ‘shape-changer’ by trade experts.

What is sintering?

Laser sintering isn’t a new phenomenon to some industries. Looking like a piece of office equipment and having a sound reminiscent of a photocopier, it’s a technology which has only just entered the edges of the jewelry production industry.

Sintering is basically a way to produce any piece of jewelry from a computer design using powdered precious metals which are laser-fused together as they are laid down by a robot arm. Placed in complex three dimensional shapes at speed, it is hoped it will eventually be available to small jewelry stores and designers who can take hand drawn ideas from customers and produce exact results in solid gold or silver. There’s also the opportunity to create lightweight pieces where currently the solid version is heavy to wear as sintering can produce hollow shapes which look weighty but use much less metal.

Development still required

Whilst sintering is an exciting direction for jewelry technology, there’s a way to go before you can take a drawing of a ring you like into a store and watch it appear before your eyes. Pieces will still need finishing; polishing and the addition of gemstones for example and it’s currently a very expensive way to produce a ring or pendant. As expected, the ‘toner’ in the printer isn’t the traditional kind seen in office inkjets; instead it is filled with gold powder which has a price tag of around $25,000 per kilo.

Traditional skills will still be used

When it comes to engagement rings, Houston jewelry specialists have seen the addition of skill-enhancing tools and machinery over the years but know that bench work and hand crafted creation will still be an integral part of making one-off pieces of heirloom jewelry. Computer aided technology is seen as an addition to the hands-on work carried out each day and there’s no suggestion that 3-D laser printed gold jewelry will ever overtake the expertise learned as an apprentice.

Lasers in the jewelry workshop are not new, although sintering is certainly a futuristic leap forward. The Japanese introduced the Hearts and Arrows cut for diamonds in the 1980s which uses laser cutters to create a unique kaleidoscope look. When viewed from above, the precision machinery creates eight symmetrical and precisely laid out hearts but when the gemstone is turned over, the hearts are replaced by eight arrows. Now a popular diamond cut with those wanting contemporary ideas for their jewelry, technology created Hearts and Arrows diamonds sit comfortably alongside more traditionally produced items and it is predicted that pieces produced in the future with sintering will look and feel as classically sympathetic.