A New Take on an Old Technique

Polly Weinstein combines 3-D printing and hand-finishing to create unique jewelry

Polly Weinstein’s family has been in the jewelry business for 53 years, with her dad, Jack Weinstein, at the helm of legendary Las Vegas bauble shop Tower of Jewels. And while her pops may be retiring this year, Weinstein will be carrying on the family legacy in new forms, one of which is 3-D printing.

“I work in a 3-D CAD [computer-aided design and drafting] program that is jewelry-specific. It’s a very advanced math program, creating geometrically perfect things that a jeweler couldn’t [create] by hand,” Weinstein says. While she had thought of deploying 3-D printing as part of her jewelry design in the past, she hesitated. Then a turn of bad luck helped change her mind. “It came out of tragedy. I had a house fire and everything burned to the ground,” she says. “I decided to take the insurance money and use it to further my education. For me, it was the perfect investment: It enriched my life and my practice as a jeweler.”

Of course, Weinstein has not entirely abandoned the old ways of creating jewelry: two hands and a lot of patience. “My pieces were about the hand touch. Now, I see that you can have the best of both worlds,” she says. “The human hand is still a part of the process: It still goes through an ancient casting method; you still have to sit down at the bench and finish it, polish it, set the stones in it. My collection [will be] a mix of CAD designs with hand touches.”

The use of 3-D printing allows Weinstein to work with clients to create more unique pieces. “Custom jewelry, nameplate necklaces—I can scan your thumbprint and put that in a ring,” she says. It also means that options can be examined and experimented with before the piece is made. “If someone says they don’t like it in yellow gold, they can see it in white gold. I can show them a rendering and, with a mouse click, change the metal type and the stone,” she says. “It’s not extra work at all to show someone 10 different varieties.

“This type of jewelry and the digital space is the next generation of the personal jeweler,” she says. And while her family’s business may be changing, Weinstein’s innovations definitely up her game. “I imagine a shop with a large screen showing the CAD designs, and then a jeweler with a camera over his shoulder so you can see him work on the piece. [It will] blend this old-world art form with technology and how people are processing information today.”