A Bejeweled Science Experiment by Hubert Duprat

Hubert Duprat

Hubert Duprat’s Caddis Fly Larvae Art

I was alerted to the very interesting artist Hubert Duprat via jeweler Frances Wadsworth-Jones (whom I will be posting about in the near future). Duprat has been experimenting with caddis fly larvae, a small winged insect related to the butterfly, who build protective cases out of found objects such as grains of sand, plant material and bits of shell that are held together by the silk it spins. Working with the insect since the 1980s, an encounter with people panning for gold led him to trying to put the larvae into a controlled environment where their found objects would be pieces of gold, precious and semi-precious stones. Sure enough, the items were used to build the cases, and you can see a video below of the action. I’m not sure of the long term viability of it as jewelry, given that the silk is likely to break down over time, but it’s a very neat concept nonetheless.

Here is another video of Duprat speaking about his work, including the caddis fly larvae.

3D Printing and Jewelry

Sterling Silver Necklace from Nervous System.

Sterling Silver Necklace from Nervous System.

Though it may sound way out-there for an industry with a long history of handicraft, 3D printing is becoming a major reality in the world of jewelry and it’s only going to grow in significance.

Sterling Silver Nervous System ring.

Sterling Silver Nervous System ring.

The very basics of how 3D printing works is that you start with a digital image of the final product, which is broken down into very thin layers and sent to the printer. The fully automated machine then builds up minuscule layer by minuscule layer of, for example, stainless steel particles, which are bound together to create a solid object (watch a metal demo here and a plastic demo here). It used to take many hours and a huge machine to do this, but just like with PCs, the printers are becoming much smaller and cheaper. You can now buy a desktop model for around US$2,000 from MakerBot that will produce plastic objects. Base metals and plastics were the first materials used, but now sterling silver is widely available and gold is just starting to emerge.

Nylon Kimberly Ovitz with Shapeways Collar.

Nylon Kimberly Ovitz with Shapeways Collar.

The advantages of 3D printing are that you can cost-effectively make custom items, but also easily mass produce them too with no models and no waste. You don’t even need your own machine, as companies like Shapeways and Kraftwurx allow you to send in CAD images and they will print the item for you. A new line called Kimberly Ovitz with Shapeways will debut at the designer’s runway show on February 7 at New York Fashion Week. The quick turnaround time that 3D printing allows will be taken advantage of as customers can order the pieces straight from the runway. Expect to see more of it this coming year and in the future.

Nylon Kimberly Ovitz with Shapeways rings.

Nylon Kimberly Ovitz with Shapeways rings.