Jewelry has traditionally been either expensive, well crafted items sold by large companies or crafty objects made by individuals. With the advent of rapid prototyping I think that may change. Instead of needing the sophisticated skills required to do metal-work, casual knowledge of a 3d graphics or CAD program is now sufficient to make sophisticated objects in stainless steel; even silver and gold!
After learning about the site shapeways.com and their capability to print a three dimensional object that you designed, I decided to attempt the process myself.
What I came up with was a stylized sunflower with a loop in the back for a chain so that it could be worn as a necklace pendant. The Gallery above shows both the digital and real life physical product.
I used the open source, 3d modeling software blender to create the digital model. However, any software that can output an .stl file is probably suitable. There are other tools that can help with this process as well, mesh doctor is one that shapeways recommends. Designing a model that will be printed as a 3d object is a very different and has different limitations and restrictions than a model that is destined to be a character in a game or a film. Models must be ‘water tight’ for instance, meaning there can’t holes in the final object. (A hole in a digital model means there are unconnected edges or no ‘faces’) This was a fun project and wasn’t difficult, if you’re interested in trying it out yourself, blender is a free (as in beer) program and shapeways will print your design for a very reasonable price in many different types of material, like glass, plastic and even metals.