What the heck is CAD?

April 24, 2021

What the heck is CAD?

How CAD Technology is Influencing Jewelry Designs and Designers

CAD is a game-changer. This topic gets a unified resounding “YES” among custom jewelry designers, but it might mean nothing to the average jewelry lover. So what is it?

Computer-Aided Design (CAD) has been around for many years across multiple industries, including architects, engineers, interior designers… 

Early use of CAD can be traced back to 1957, but in the early 2000s,  jewelry designers began to start to use the tool. Many companies produce CAD software for jewelry designers, including the more popular Rhino and Matrix brands. 

I purchased the Matrix software back in 2002, at a time when other jewelers were not yet using it. I’d been fortunate to study architectural auto-CAD while in college at the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) before most designers knew what it was. Today, many jewelry designers are not trained as bench jewelers first. They skip right over to CAD. I have the advantage of 19-years of experience both in CAD and as a bench jeweler, which I believe enhances my original designs.

CAD enables the jeweler to build complex designs that might be more challenging when done by hand. The software allows for more detail, accuracy, and easy design modifications. These are all the steps that are very time-consuming when done by hand. 


After a client approves the CAD design, I use 3D printing technology to make a wax model for casting. Additionally, I can produce a resin model so a client can try on a piece that feels similar in size to the finished product. The model is then used to cast the piece in gold or platinum. 

That’s all the techy stuff. Below is what I love most about CAD and 3D printing:  

  • My clients get to see a near-perfect replication of their piece in the CAD rendering. I can easily show the metal, the stones, and all of the tiniest intricate details. 
  • If my client wants to see a variation on the design, I can show this without starting from the beginning, like I would if I was sketching by hand.
  • After a design was approved in the “old” days, I’d make a wax model of the piece for casting by hand. This can be very time-consuming to get the proper preciseness for casting. When the design is approved, I get a 3D model made right from the software. 
  • I also love that I can try different ideas. Many times I’ve deviated from my original idea to come up with a more beautiful, original design that my clients love. 
  • My clients get to try on their piece, see how it fits and how the stones will look. This is a game-changer to ensure the finished piece is exactly as we envisioned. It also allows making last-minute changes before we get to the final casting.


Computer software does not replace the creative brain; it’s just a tool...

The computer can’t listen to my clients’ stories of their proposals, engagements, weddings, heirlooms, and anniversaries and translate those things into a beautiful piece of jewelry. My process is dependent on listening to my clients, fostering relationships, and years of training and industry knowledge, all things a computer cannot replace.

Ready to get started on your custom piece and experience the beauty of CAD? Contact me today to get started!