How a Design Comes to Life

Jewelry development process

At Rail 814, we are proud to offer original designs that are truly ours. All jewelry pieces are hand sketched by designers and brought to life through a painstaking process.  By sharing our jewelry development process, you will look beyond the beautiful jewelries and see them as pieces of art that inspire you.

To aspiring designers, I hope this blog post will help you in preparation for working with factories or developing in a team environment.

Let’s walk through the journey of making the Tropicalia collection…

Tropicalia mood board A page from Diana's mood board

Collection Concept
The birth of a collection begins with a core concept.  My first question to the designer when developing a collection is always “what inspires you?”  It is important to be emotionally connected with the designs; the emotion will show through in the end products.  Diana, the designer of the Tropicalia collection, was deeply moved by the beauty of the Amazon rainforest.  With the help of her mood board, she drew 15 sketches.

Aves Del Paraiso Earring sketchOne of Diana’s sketches
First sketch of Aves Del Paraiso Earrings

Design Selection
Every collection should have an assortment of styles and price points.  An ideal collection should have a range of Everyday pieces to Statement pieces, and Low to High price points (We’ll leave the details for another post).  From Diana’s 15 sketches, we selected 10 designs that best represent the collection and fit with the assortment plan.

Sketch & Revise, on repeat
Once the designs are selected, Diana got busy with drawing out the details for each design.  The sketches are used to communicate with the rest of the team.  Diana made sure the information for each design is as thorough and detailed as possible.  A design could go through many revisions.

Apaporis bangle first sketch First sketch for Apaporis Bangle

Apaporis bangle final sketch
Third sketch for Apaporis Bangle
More details on the shape of the bangle
Measurements and Pantone colors added

Paraiso Ring sketch
4thParaiso Ring sketch with production comment
Sometimes a production person (me!) would make additional comments.
Small details such as structural issues or additional measurements are identified at this point.
Attention to details helps with reducing sampling time and cost.

Prototype - 3D Printing vs Wax
Traditionally, designer would take hours to carve out a 3D sample in wax.  Many fine jewelers still make jewelry with this method.  Only until recently that 3D printing had begun to garner more attention.  Many factories have adopted computerized methods years ago in order to shorten develop time and make more accurate samples.  With help from talented local 3D artists, we transformed Diana’s designs into 3D drawings.

apaporis bangle 3D drawing3D drawing of Apapris Bangle

Paraiso Ring 3D image3D image of Paraiso Ring

Aves Del Paraiso earring 3D imageAves Del Paraiso earring 3D image
3D images of Aves Del Paraiso earring

Aves Del Paraiso earring wax mold
Wax sample for Aves Del Paraiso earring
Diana carved this wax prototype to help her through the design process

Printing 3D Prototype
We’ve met many 3D printers in the Bay Area.  After meeting a few of them, I picked Fathom for their price structure and convenience.  Fathom has Smartquote software that allowed users to upload 3D file online and gave an instant quote! Their office is in Oakland so picking up the 3D prototype was no sweat.  They might even give you a tour of the office and the shop.  Using the 3D sample, we can then make a few final tweaks before sending the 3D file to the factory.

Aves Del Paraiso Earring 3D prototype3D prototype of Aves Del Paraiso Earring

3D prototype of Paraiso Ring
3D prototype of Paraiso Ring
Careful, it is super fragile… I broke this one (oops!)

3D prototype of Apaporis Bangle
3D prototype of Apaporis Bangle

 Finally, the 3D file is off to the factory for sample making.

First Sample
Factory usually has a 30 days turnaround or more to make a sample.  But we don’t just sit there anxiously waiting.  Diana and the team kept busy designing the themed pouch that we package every jewelry with.  We checked in with the factory periodically to see if there are any problems.  It is helpful to catch mistakes early on.

apaporis bangle 3D model and first sample
Apaporis Bangle first sample, compared with the 3D prototype
I’d say they look quite identical!

Second Sample or Production
After reviewing the samples, we would send the factory a list of comments and change requests.  Smaller changes might be the length on the chain or angle of a jump ring.  If there major changes that require mold change, we would request a second sample.  The process for a second sample could take another 30 plus days.  By carefully reviewing the drawing and 3D prototype early on, we could avoid major changes with second sample. 

Production time usually take 30 to 45 days, depends on how complicated the piece is.  The process of making fashion jewelry could be complicated… We shall talk about the details of how jewelry is made on a future blog! In the meanwhile, let’s just call it “elf magic.” 

In the meanwhile, the team is busy working on photoshoots and designing look books.  Have you checked out our blog on Tropicalia Photoshoot? Click here to read on!

After almost 5 months of design and development, the final products finally arrived!  Every piece is carefully inspected to make sure that it meets our highest standard.  Inspected pieces are wrapped in tissue paper for protection; and packed in the pouch, which Diana designed.

… and this a story of how Tropicalia jewelry comes alive!

Shop Diana’s Tropicalia collection here


Amy @ [R]



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