Frequently Asked Questions Part 1 – Jewellery CAD Software Comparisons (Updated)

18 July, 2012

Information and Jewellery CAD software comparison list last updated and verified July 2022

(This marks the first of a series of Frequently Asked Questions posts. See the rest of the FAQ pages.)

Which Jewellery CAD Software is the Best?

Over the years, the students in my jewellery CAD courses as well as my private clients have asked me a lot of questions about CAD as it relates to jewellery manufacturing. Many of these questions were often the same. As I thought it better to tailor my answer to each student’s needs, I resisted writing a single standard answer for quite a long time. Then it occurred to me that I could probably answer at least some of the questions all at once, and just fill in the gaps if people wanted to know more.

This is how my series of Frequently Asked Questions began.

On this and subsequent articles in my FAQ series, I will break down the most commonly asked questions from my own particular fields of expertise. If anyone has any more specific questions or is not clear about something mentioned here, just leave a comment below and I’ll add an answer to the entry.

For part 1, we’ll start off with the most common question of them all: “Which jewellery CAD software is the best for me?” This gives us the chance to discuss the different types of CAD software out there, how they are used, and also provide a jewellery CAD software comparison list for specific tasks.


  1. Why are There So Many Different Kinds of CAD Software?
  2. What is 2D Design Software?
  3. Is 2D CAD Software different from 2D Design?
  4. What is 3D CAD Software?
  5. What are the Comparative Advantages Of Each Jewellery CAD Software Package (“The Jewellery CAD Software Comparison List”)?
  6. What happened to Matrix, RhinoGold, and Other Discontinued Software?
  7. Do You Have Any Examples of What These CAD Programs are Like to Use?
  8. Where Can I Purchase These CAD Programs?

I Want To Learn Jewellery CAD. Where Do I Start?

The first thing you should do is figure out how you want to use design software. There are actually several different kinds of computer-aided design software available, each one designed for a different purpose:

  • 2D Design Software such as Photoshop
  • 2D CAD Software such as TypeEdit, Adobe Illustrator, Corel Draw, and Inkscape
  • 3D CAD Software such as 3Design, Rhino 3D, MatrixGold Essentials (the merging of Matrix and RhinoGold), and JewelCAD Pro
  • Customer-Facing CAD Software such as Countersketch
  • 3D Sculpture Software such as Geomagic Freeform and ZBrush (and its various versions)

In addition, several of these software packages have plug-ins of their own which help jewellers model and visualise their jewellery:

  • Rhino 3D has many plugins, such as deluxe ones like Panther 3D and 2Shapes for making it more jewellery specific, or rendering tools like Maverick, Keyshot, Thea, or V-Ray.
  • 3Design has an extension called Shaper for SubD modelling, as well as a rendering plug-in called DeepImage.
  • Zbrush has several smaller plug-ins and downloadable toolsets which help make them more jewellery friendly, such as the creations by Thomas Wittelsbach and Nacho Riesco.

Why So Many Different Kinds?

You could be cynical and say that it’s different companies competing for a piece of the same market, but in truth the tools are all rather different. Even for tools which serve the same purpose (such as 3Design, Matrix, and Firestorm), they behave in different ways and were built starting from different design philosophies. It’s not uncommon for certain specialists or design houses to use more than one software package in conjunction. Adobe Illustrator and Rhino, for example.

Okay, So There Are Different Kinds of Jewellery CAD. What is 2D Design Software?

Adobe Photoshop CC on Microsoft Surface Pro
An example of 2D design software with a digital pen

2D Design software is a bit like working with a set of paintbrushes and a palette of colours. It’s designed purely for working with bitmap images (such as photographs or illustrations) composed of pixels. Tools like these have been around since the early 80’s, so they’ve had plenty of time to come up with clever ways to paint, manipulate, and apply special effects to images. Pretty much everything you could think of doing with a paintbrush or a photography studio can be done with 2D Design software.

The most obvious 2D design software tool available would be Adobe Photoshop, but it is not the only one. There is also Corel Paint and Sketchbook Pro, among others. There is even a jewellery specific 2D Design software package– Gemvision Design Studio (previously known as Digital Goldsmith). While perhaps not as flashy as 3D design software, these 2D tools are vital in their own right for illustrators and draftsmen, allowing them to make paint-ups and renderings of designs in methods as close to the traditional methods as possible. They also serve a vital role in post-production of photography and CAD renders, preparing and sizing the images for use in print or on websites.

As it happens, I usually recommend that absolute newcomers to any sort of computer based design start with a 2D design software like Photoshop or Corel. Compared to other types of software, their learning curve can be much easier, and can help provide a gateway into more complex ways of working.

Is 2D CAD Software Different From 2D Design Software?

Examples of 2D (above) and 3D (below) Jewellery CAD
Examples of 2D (above) and 3D (below) Jewellery CAD

Yes. While both allow users to create designs in 2D, 2D CAD (or vector graphics) works in entirely different way than 2D Design software (or pixel graphics).

Think of 2D CAD software as a technical draftsman’s table, compared to 2D Design software’s paintbrushes and palette. Both can draw a picture, but the purpose of each picture is very different.

The purpose of 2D CAD is precision, usually for the purposes of design communication. Rather than working with bitmaps and pixels, 2D CAD uses vector lines. Whereas pixels are colours at locations on an image, vectors use points on a page with lines connecting them. There are three big advantages to using vectors for technical drawings:

  • The lines are not fixed. They can be adjusted, moved, twisted, scaled, bent, even redrawn in sections.
  • No matter how big or how small you scale the lines, they will always be redrawn with perfect resolution.
  • Vector lines are also used by 3D CAD as well as laser engraving and industrial cutting tools. This means you can export your designs into formats directly useable by both applications, potentially saving the designers or service bureaus time.

What is 3D CAD Software?

Jewellery CAD Software Comparisons, sample image from 3D CAD - CAD Model render by Jack Meyer3D CAD is what most people think of when they are talking about CAD. Conceptually, it’s the digital equivalent of fabrication tools and a wax carving kit. Rather than just simply making designs on a screen, the user is actually building his design to exact tolerances and specifications. The end result of CAD can be either rendering (producing a photorealistic image) or rapid prototyping (producing a physical model for use in manufacturing).

CAD models are often (and incorrectly) referred to as “drawings”. Since they are still technically 3D even if they’re only stored on a computer, it’s better to call them “3D models”. Using 3D CAD for product design is not a new thing. The first military applications of CAD/CAM appeared in the 1960’s, and the first commercial product design with CAD started happening in the late 1980’s. But it wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that there is no field of product design which doesn’t use some form of CAD for manufacturing. 3D CAD’s advantages include:

  • You can view a conceptual design in 3 dimensions, from any angle
  • Measurements and dimensions of objects can be specified down to insane levels of precision.
  • Since the piece hasn’t been made yet, it’s possible to modify or rebuild part or all of it, or visualise it in any colour or material you like.

What Are Some of the Advantages of Each Kind of 3D CAD?

Jewellery CAD Software Overviews
Click here to read general overviews of each jewellery CAD program

While each of the different 2D and 3D jewellery CAD software packages were built based upon a different design philosophy,  they are all capable of creating the same sorts of basic jewellery forms (eternity rings, solitaire wedding rings, etc.). You can only see real differences and advantages to individual programs when you get to more advanced types of design work.

For this reason, I’ve set up two features in this site:

  1. I’ve written descriptions for each of the most commonly used jewellery CAD software programs in industry, and included summaries of each jewellery CAD program’s strengths and weaknesses.
  2. For those wanting to know for what uses and circumstances the program is at its most powerful, I created a list below summarising specific design tasks and which particular jewellery CAD programs are best suited to solve them. (I call it the Jewellery CAD Software Comparison List.)
  3. Regarding Rhino, there have been many jewellery-specific plugins created to make the program more efficient. They aren’t necessary to make jewellery in Rhino, but they do make some tasks faster. In particular, I’ve included Panther 3D in this list.

A Couple of Comments (and Disclaimers) Before We Begin

  • All of the information in the jewellery CAD software comparison list is based on my own experiences of each of the software packages through a combination of testing, demos, tutorial videos, and working with others who know their tools. Ultimately, these are opinions, but I’ve tried (and will continue to try) my level best to keep this list as informed and representative as possible.
  • Besides a comparative rating of level, I’ve listed each software program in alphabetical order. If there are three different programs in a section labelled Best, they’re of more or less similar strength to each other in that category.
  • Since this comparison is focused on jewellery-specific CAD software, I’ve not included any of the low-cost general product design CAD programs on purpose (such as Fusion 360 or Blender). I will be discussing them specifically in a later post. But for the purposes of this comparison, you can consider them on the level with generic Rhino, only with somewhat less refined and efficient interfaces.
  • There is no Jewellery CAD software out there which is good at everything. Indeed, in many cases I’ve had to recommend users combine the strengths of two different CAD software packages together to achieve the complex tasks they’re trying to do. See my FAQ page on ideal CAD software combinations.
  • I’ve tried to keep this list up to date with the latest versions of the software, but it seems new software comes out every season. If my list is looking dated, or if a new version of the software has come out which changes how well it performs in various categories (which does happen), please let me know and I’ll take a look and adjust accordingly.
  • To those people who have been sending me rude or pushy posts- I teach most of these software packages, and I do not have any vested interest in selling any of these. If you feel I’ve missed something in my lists below, I’m happy to take another look and do another demo. But I daresay bullying someone is not the way to change their experiences and opinions on a piece of software.
  • For the full disclaimer, see the bottom of this page.

The Jewellery CAD Software Comparison List

In alphabetical order in each category and level. I’ve recently removed discontinued software, and added a note below:

Fast Modifications and Reworking of Existing Models

  • Fastest (either due to parametric history, direct modelling, or working with libraries): 3Design, Countersketch, Firestorm CAD, MatrixGold Essentials
  • Fast (with limited history features or a quick interface): JewelCAD
  • Reasonably Quick: Any of the others

Making a Size Range From a Single Ring

  • Best: 3Design, Firestorm, MatrixGold
  • Good: Rhino with 2Shapes or Panther 3D
  • Can do it, but not really designed for it: Rhino, Carveco
  • Cannot do it: Zbrush

Precision Modelling (ie fitted components, hinges, etc.)

  • Best: MatrixGold Essentials, Rhino, Rhino with 2Shapes or Panther 3D
  • Good: JewelCAD
  • Okay: 3Design
  • Can do it, but not really designed for it: Geomagic Freeform, Zbrush

Organic Character Modelling (ie flowers, vines, scrollwork, filigree, etc.)

  • Best: Rhino SubD tools, Zbrush
  • Good: 3Design with 3Shaper, MatrixGold Essentials
  • Okay: Carveco, Geomagic Freeform, JewelCAD, Mudbox,
  • Can do it, but not really designed for it: Countersketch

Relief Carving and Sculpting (such as coins, medallions, or family crests):

  • Best: Carveco (ArtCAM Jewelsmiths’ successor)
  • Good: Mudbox, ZBrush (with appropriate techniques), 3Design, MatrixGold Essentials (with appropriate techniques)
  • Can do it, but not really designed for it: Rhino, JewelCAD, Firestorm

Full 3D Carving onto a 3D Surface

  • Best: Geomagic Freeform, Mudbox, Zbrush
  • Can do it, but not really designed for it: Any of the others

Applying Texture or Inlay With Shapes Onto a 3D Surface

  • Best: Geomagic Freeform, Mudbox, Zbrush
  • Good (due to parametric history): 3Design, Firestorm, MatrixGold Essentials
  • Okay: Rhino

Creating and Managing Pave Setting

  • Best: 3Design, MatrixGold Essentials
  • Good: Firestorm, Rhino with 2Shapes or Panther 3D
  • Can do it, but not really designed for it: Rhino
  • Cannot do it at all: Carveco, Geomagic Freeform, Mudbox, Zbrush (there is a way of synthesizing pave in Zbrush, but it’s not usable for production)

Rendering Images

I’ve run a series of Rhino rendering plug-in tests to compare the quality of each of those rendering tools. As it stands now, there is pretty tight competition on quality between these top contenders.

  • Best: Maxwell
  • Very Good: 3Design with DeepImage, Maverick, Keyshot, MatrixGold Essentials with Rhino Cycles, Rhino with Rhino Cycles, Thea, V-Ray
  • Good: Zbrush on its own
  • Okay: 3Design without DeepImage, Carveco, JewelCAD

Working in Front of a Client

  • Best: Countersketch, Firestorm
  • Good: 3Design, MatrixGold Essentials
  • Can do it, but not really designed for it: Carveco, JewelCAD, Rhino (with or without 2Shapes or Panther 3D), Zbrush

Size of User Base

While nearly all of the above CAD software solutions offer great user support, where that support comes from also depends on the size of the user base. Generally the wider the user base, the more places you can go to get your questions answered. However, with small user bases, you’re able to get quick answers directly from the developer, and it also means they’re more likely to listen to your feedback on how to make the software better. So it’s a trade-off.

  • Widest User Base (i.e. most people to ask for help, least chance of your feedback being heard)all Adobe software, Rhino
  • Big: Zbrush
  • Fairly Big: 3Design, MatrixGold Essentials, Keyshot plug-in,
  • Smaller User Bases (i.e. fewest people to ask for help, greatest chance of your feedback being heard): Carveco, Rhino with 2Shapes or Panther 3D, Geomagic Freeform, Firestorm, JewelCAD (yes, even now)

What Happened to Matrix, RhinoGold and Other Discontinued Software?

Over the years, several interesting programs have come and gone from this list. Since people still come to this blog looking for information about them, I’m happy to provide info on them (just contact me and ask). I even still teach these programs whenever I’m asked. However, this article was always written for people looking for new software to purchase, so it’s more helpful I point you in the direction of their replacements:

Replacements for Discontinued Jewellery CAD Software

  • RhinoGold and Matrix were both replaced by MatrixGold Essentials
  • T-Splines has migrated from Rhino to Fusion 360, and has been replaced by Rhino 7’s own SubD toolset
  • Clayoo was absorbed into MatrixGold, and has also been replaced by Rhino 7’s own SubD toolset
  • The name ArtCAM Jewelsmith and the last version of its software were purchased by 3D Systems, but the developers struck out on their own, and built and continue to develop an identical twin of the software called Carveco.
  • The Sensable Phantom Omni haptic device (now known as the 3DSystems Touch) has been passed around between many owners and developer agreements over the past 20 years. Gemvision partnered with them to make Claytrix which lasted for about 5 years. 3Dsystems bought out the device and setup the Geomagic Sculpt, changing the device’s market away from jewellery and action figure design to medical and dental. More recently, they partnered with Oqton to use their software. (I may write an article later about the device’s history…)

Why Are Certain Programs Missing?

You will notice my jewellery CAD software comparsion list doesn’t include all types of CAD software used for 3D printing. I’ve tried to keep the focus on CAD software used explicitly by jewellers for making jewellery. I do regularly review the contents of the list, so if you think I’m missing something, contact me and I’ll look at adding it in.

Do You Have Any Examples of What These Jewellery CAD Programs are Like to Use?

You have two options if you want to see what most of these software packages are like. The first would be to look at some of the tutorial videos for each jewellery CAD program. The second would be to ask for a demonstration from any of the sales representatives of each software packages (contact links below). With a few exceptions, nearly every one of these software providers has sales representatives keen to show off the features of the software to you.

Where Can I Purchase Them, and How Much Do They Cost?

With the exceptions of Adobe and Rhino, I’m afraid you will have to go directly to the software developers to purchase any of these pieces of software. Fortunately, nearly all of them have sales reps, so they’ll be more than happy to help you out. With regards to costs, they range anywhere from £1200 (for Rhino 3D standalone with no plug-ins) to £7000 (For MatrixGold Essentials), including tax. The problem is these costs change somewhat from country to country, and also depending on promotions and other factors. It’s always best to ask them directly. To this end, I’ve provided links to every single jewellery CAD manufacturer’s website below:

If affording software is an issue, I wrote an article about managing the cost of software for the FAQ series.

Did I Miss Something?

If you have any thoughts or questions on the jewellery CAD software comparison list, don’t hesitate to comment below, or contact me. This list was and continues to be updated as new information comes in and the landscape changes.


Jack Meyer

Bespoke jewellery designer, and specialist in jewellery CAD/CAM and emergent technologies that affect jewellery.

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134 Comments Frequently Asked Questions Part 1 – Jewellery CAD Software Comparisons (Updated)

  1. Hi there just thought I would say great comparisons and break downs! Really enjoyed your detail! For items such as signed rings with relief family crests – would you file them also under \”Relief Sculpting\” and \”
    Best: ArtCAM Jewelsmith
    Good: Mudbox, ZBrush, Matrix, 3Design
    Not really designed for it: Rhino, JewelCAD, Firestorm\”

    Still in the same order?

    Thanks again for your work!

    J. Christopher

  2. Interesting article. I recently went the headquarters of Firestorm for a demo/open house. I was intrigued by the softwate having sorked with MAtrix for the last year. It seems more intuitive. Is it my imagination or is it a comparable softwarte to Matrix ? Also looking into Rhino Gold. I took training at GIA and got Matrix for $300 for a year. Good way to start in my opinion, but now I must buy something in the next few months as the software will not work past a certain date. Thanks for your time.

    1. Dear Mo:

      Firestorm and Matrix are both good, but they are also two very different packages. From what I’ve seen, Firestorm is at its best when you are modifying existing files. When it comes to that, it performs in a way few others can (perhaps Rhino 5’s new surface manipulation tools start to approach it, but not to the same extent). Firestorm (especially newer versions) is also good for making new designs from scratch, but it is not quite as elegant a nuts and bolts modelling tool as Rhino or Matrix.

      RhinoGold is quite good if you all you need is a modest selection of jewellery tools rather than a full compliment of fine jewellery tools. Matrix, and RhinoGold are all built upon the platform of Rhino 3D CAD software, and they all have similar workflow up to a point. The big difference comes down more than anything else to how much stone setting you’ll reckon you’ll need to do. If you only do a little bit of pave here and there, then Rhino will work. The more stone setting or pave you’ll need, the more you’ll probably want to consider Rhino Gold at least, if not Matrix.

      I hope that helps. If you have any more questions let me know.

  3. i am a jeweller… i have most of the customers having there designs on snaps or from jewelery books…. i am to create same models… which software is best for me… as import a snap and do some work on it and to ger a. stl file…..

  4. Hi, I am currently working in JewelCad, self taught and I just wanted to know if I want to work In Gemvision Matrix, how difficult will it be compared with JewelCad.

    1. Dear Simone:

      I reckon learning Matrix is about the same level of difficulty as JewelCAD. There are more commands, but the commands and the interface are a bit easier to use generally. Having said that, once you get the core strategy down in JewelCAD, I’ve seen people become astonishingly fast with this software.

      Maybe ultimately the tool isn’t as important as the user…

  5. Hi – I’ve purchased Matrix after doing a 4 day training course to assess the software, and am very impressed with it. I have been asked to teach Jewellery CAD but using 3Design, and want to learn this program also. What a frustrating exercise. I have downloaded Beginner level tutorials (pdf format) but cannot get them to work, beyond a certain level of steps. Seems there’s key instructions left out. Am happy to send an example to you to see if you can get it to work, exactly as laid out, as a beginner accessing this for the first time. I believe the program is excellent.
    Thanks in advance.

    1. Dear Paul:

      Thank you for an interesting testimonial.

      I do wonder who was teaching you each piece of respective software, though. In the hands of a competent teacher, 3Design is every bit as easy to learn and use as Matrix. However, both programs can be an absolute beast if you’re trying to learn them all by yourself.

      Have you tried my video tutorial for the 3 stone ring in 3Design?

      If you’re based in the UK or passing through, I could even help you face to face with private instruction in either Matrix or 3Design if you wished.



    1. Hi M. Adnan:

      I’m afraid turning a mesh back into a .3dm file (also known as “unmeshing” or “reverse engineering”) is difficult at best to do. Most of the tools which are capable of doing this are related to 3D scanning software and the associated decimation tools. As of right now, I don’t know of any reliable tools out there which can do a consistent conversion, especially on more details or higher quality mesh models. But I’ll have a look and let you know if I find any.



        1. Hi Adnan.

          I’m afraid I have not. Reverse engineering, mesh to NURBS, and retopology tools only go so far. Search for any of those terms if you want to see what they can do, but you will probably discover what I have– learning these tools and using them is more work than just remaking the file from scratch.

          UPDATE: Since writing this message, I’ve written an article about 3D scanning and retropology tools, which might be helpful for explaining this issue in more depth.


          1. thanks jack to answer you know any person in pakistan to help me for learning 3design software?
            best regards

          2. Dear Adnan.

            I’m afraid I do not. If you’re able to come to London, though, I could help you myself.



  6. Thanks for such a clear comparison of 3D softwares. Can you tell me more about how ZBrush works?

    Currently I am incorporating a lot of textured organic shapes in my jewelry designs. I am using a combination of Rhino, Rhino Gold and Clayoo.

    I’ll create the shape in Clayoo and convert it to nurbs. If I apply the texture (using RG’s texture tool) it will apply the texture to one surface of the polysurface.

    I want a texture over the entire piece. So I extract the isocurves and network them to a single surface. A tedious process, and it does what I want.

    I’ve keep seeing the software ZBrush mentioned with texture, and wish there was a trial version. Is there a better combination of software, to more efficiently create the organic textured pieces? (I ultimately am creating stl files from them for print)

    Your advice is greatly appreciated!

    1. Hi Annie:

      I gather you’ve already read my Zbrush page:

      You’re right that ZBrush doesn’t seem to offer a demo anymore. I’m rather surprised by that, because they used to. Perhaps it might have something to do with their having quite possibly the most awkward user interface ever developed for 3D CAD software? Indeed, you have to practically trick the software into allowing you to work on 3D objects!

      That being said, it’s a popular one. While there’s no demo of Zbrush anymore, Pixologic do offer Sculptris which is a free application which gives you a flavour for how the sculpting aspects work.

      As you’ve correctly observed, the big weakness of all NURBS modelling is the general lack of texturing options. There are workarounds (such as Rhino’s Orient on Surface or Splop commands), and there are plug-ins which help somewhat (such as Clayoo or T-Splines for organic modelling, or RhinoArt for bas relief flat mesh surfaces), but true 3D texturing is only really available through additional software like Claytools, Mudbox, ArtCAM Jewelsmith, and Zbrush. Of these Claytools is by far the most elegant interface, as you can literally “feel” the surface of the 3D CAD object as they sculpt it! But not everyone has £5000 to spare.

      My suggestion: Check out some of the video tutorials, and try out Sculptris.

      Hope that helps.



  7. We curently have artcam, my one son is very good on it the other thinks fire storm will be easier to learn he has difficulty using, learning artcam.

    1. Hi Bertram:

      In all honesty, they’re all about the same level of difficulty to learn. It really depends more on what kinds of jewellery you’re hoping to make. ArtCAM’s focus is primarily on textural work, relief carving, and “2 1/2D work”. This makes it fantastic for textural designs on rings. However, it’s not as efficient as other programs with creating complex 3D shapes and assembled objects (one of the reasons why it’s bundled with Powershape.)
      Firestorm (now called SpacePro3D) is based on SpaceClaim CAD software, which was originally designed for the express purpose of making it as easy as possible to modify the surface structure of existing 3D models. This makes it ideal for reworking models in a library. However, the tradeoff of efficiency in modifying models is that it’s not quite as efficient at building from scratch as some more basic “nuts and bolts” CAD modellers.

      The best way to get a more informed comparison for yourself is to come up with one or two common designs like what you like to make, and ask the salespersons from each respective company the same questions. Watch how they work, and you’ll get a good comparison of workflow. Every program is different, and different programs suit different people, regardless of which one’s the most efficient way.

      Hope that helps.



  8. Hi. I’m new to all of this. We had someone doing some designs for us and is now too busy to meet our deadlines. We just need fairly simple designs for a bracelet and belt buckle. I am willing to learn a program but am unsure which to pick? These are not complex pieces. Fairly sime but I know the manufacturer needs them in CAD. Any help is appreciated.

    1. Dear Lisa:

      There are some cases where it’s hard to even know where to begin. Tell you what: if you have images of the kind of work you’d like to do, contact me through Holts Academy’s website, and then pass on the images to me there. I’ll take a look and see if I can’t point you in the right direction.



  9. Hi
    Iam a Graphic Designer, I am creating Catalogues for products mainly Jewellery.
    I need 3D Software which is easy & fast to create, Final Images should be more Photorealistic. Not intended to manufacture it.
    What Should I buy : Rhino+V-ray or Brasil + Matrix (Expensive), Rhino + RhinoGold + V-Ray or any other combination please suggest.

    1. Hi Chetan:

      My first question would be: have you made jewellery before? Specifically, I mean hand making jewellery at the bench or using casting. I mention this because a person’s knowledge of how the real world process works will make a big difference for controlling how efficiently and realistically they’ll make jewellery. Without knowledge of how jewellery is made, we don’t know the tolerances or thicknesses required of the materials to make the object appear believable in CAD and rendering.

      All of the packages above would work for making CAD jewellery efficiently. The problem is that you’re going to need to know just as much about how jewellery comes out of the casting process as you would about how CAD models are assembled.

      If the answer to that question is yes, then the biggest difference between the choices you listed above is cost. Matrix is the most expensive, followed by Rhinogold (which I would recommend combining with Brazil since that’s what it was made for), and Rhino with Keyshot, Brazil, or V-Ray would be the cheapest. What you get for that extra cost though is time saving tools for working with stone settings in fine jewellery. The more time you’re going to be spending on Pave, channel setting, or other types of fine jewellery stone setting, the more I would recommend an expensive option.

      Hope that helps. For other tips in getting started with jewellery (if your answer above was “No”), FAQ page 2 on my blog can help:



      1. Hi Jack

        Thanks for guidance, I don’t have much knowledge of Jewellery manufacturing. Idea is I am getting hand drawn sketch from Jewellery Designer & I have to convert it in to 3D & Render it to look like actual photographed piece or some time actual products are there but not very finished one to shoot or my jewellery manufacturing client already have cad file with them I have to just render it to suit to my printed / web layout requirements.

        I don’t want to manufacture jewellery from my cad file, manufacturers will take care of it my requirement is it should look real & fast to create.

        I think Rhino + RhinoGold + V-ray (as I heard V-ray has better material & good effects) suitable to me.
        By not choosing Matrix am I loosing something in finished superior image ?

        Thanks & Regards


        1. Hi Chetan:

          I’m afraid you’re only going to get so far with making jewellery look like a convincing illusion without understanding more about jewellery tolerances. The problem with working from sketches is that even the best hand drawn sketches from an experienced jewellery designer haven’t thought of everything when it comes to how the ring would actually be made. There is always some information the manufacturers have to fill in on a given design. Mostly this is because the skills required to create a good jewellery drawing and a physical ring are very different.

          Thinking about it, you’d probably have better luck finding a real world physical ring by measuring it with calipers and modelling that. This might be a way of solving your problem, actually.

          As to not choosing Matrix, if you’re not seriously pursuing jewellery manufacturing, it’s probably not going to make that much of a difference.

          Hope that helps.


  10. Hi,

    I found some news and interesting advice here.
    Are you aware from Jewelry Animation? What program/software would you advise to use to get ideal and excellent animation?


    1. Hi Armen:

      I’m afraid none of the CAD programs made for jewellery or product design are designed for animation. I discuss this in the FAQ page about how jewellery CAD fits in with other types of CAD and design software:

      The best thing to do if you want proper animation is to design a model in product design CAD, and to import it into a dedicated animation package.

      However, if this is not possible for financial or time reasons, or you don’t need that powerful an animation tool, then some of the more advanced Jewellery CAD software packages are designed to allow some simple animations. 3Design and Matrix immediately come to mind for having rudimentary animation builders dedicated to this purpose.



  11. Hi There,

    Thanks for the post, it’s been a real eye opener for me.

    I actually come from a photoshop background as a digital retoucher on Mac computers and I’m interested in jewellery design. I’ve been playing with Zbrush for a couple of months now and absolutely love it! I can now see the advantages of having a more bespoke jewellery software for the main structures and shapes along with keeping the typology correct. I’m not particularly interested in stones/diamonds, I guess settings in general.

    My question is what would be a good program with all of the above in mind, to accompany Zbrush? I assume I can’t avoid going down the PC route, or can I?

    Many thanks in advance


    1. Hi Anthony.

      No worries. I’m glad to help.

      While I really enjoy the amazing capabilities of ZBrush too, in my experience it has two big problems which pose serious obstacles to new users: first, the user interface isn’t even remotely intuitive. This makes for a very steep learning curve, worse than nearly any program I’ve ever worked with. Put it this way– if you can conquer ZBrush on your own, you can learn any CAD software I could throw at you.

      Second, model conversion in and out of the program can be very awkward, even with the .stl export and decimation plug-ins. The issue isn’t just that you have to bring in meshes for ZBrush to use, but you have to bring in meshes constructed in a specific way. This means even the cleanest mesh from most product design programs has to be remeshed once it’s been imported as a Ztool into ZBrush. This can be highly maddening if you’re trying to preserve crisp lines and clean surfaces. It also makes for very heavy meshes and large .stl files when you finally re-export again.

      With all this in mind, it doesn’t terribly matter which 3D product design CAD software or jewellery CAD software you use for your initial solid form– they’re all going to work equally badly with ZBrush. So long as it has a reasonably good .obj mesh export option, you’ll be okay. (I believe that would include 3Design, Rhino, Matrix, and 3DSpacePro).

      Hope that helps.



      1. Thanks Jack,

        I appreciate your advice. I went with Rhino for the Mac which is free as it is in development at the moment. It seems fine so here goes.



  12. Hello Jack,

    I am currently considering the purchase of either Matrix or 3Design.

    Regarding your below comment, would you be able to give me an example of how 3Design would be less precise than Matrix, just so that I can understand this better? (are some things “pre-set” and unable to be changed?).

    “Precision Modelling (ie fitted components, hinges, etc.)
    Best: Rhino, Matrix
    Good: JewelCAD, Moment of Inspiration
    Okay: 3Design, ArtCAM Jewelsmith
    Can do it, but not really designed for it: Mudbox, Zbrush, Claytools, Countersketch”

    Thank you in advance.

    1. Hi Julie:

      Rhino and Matrix are based upon a classic cartesian grid system, which is well-suited to working in terms of measurements.

      3Design (and several other parametric programs like it), work not based upon a grid system, but rather based upon a fully parametric history tree system. The advantage of this is that it allows you to make changes to earlier parts of a model and have later stages automatically update themselves.

      What this also means is that you’re building objects in relation to each other rather than in relation to precision measurements themselves. In the case of precision modelling, however, this is not an advantage. You can still do precision work in 3Design, but the this modelling structure the history tree enforces makes the laying out of complex assemblies for mechanisms a bit more complicated.

      Does that make sense?

      In short, the big tradeoff between Matrix and 3Design boils down to parametric history-based modelling. If you would find it the ability to be able to rework your previously completed models from any stage useful, then 3Design is definitely worth a look.


  13. Hi.. I pretend create jewels (rings, earrings, etc) … What is the best software or the best combination of softwares (desconsidering de price)?

    Best Regards,

    Vitor SPadeto Venturin

    1. Dear Vitor:

      Do you mean you’re only making images of jewellery? That sounds more like animation.

      All of the CAD tools we use for making jewellery for manufacturing are product design CAD. But, as mentioned in one of my FAQ pages (link below), there are three different types of CAD:

      I’m afraid I can only help you a little bit with 3D CAD for animation, and cannot recommend any specific ones. But if the look of the piece is what you want, and precise dimensions do not matter, I reckon most any animation tool will do. Perhaps Google Sketchup, Blender, or even 3D Studio Max (if you want to spend some money)?

      If you Google search for 3D Animation software, you’ll come up with some more options.

      Hope that helps.



  14. This is an interesting comparison of different programs. I am an avid user of Jewelsmith, but where it sometimes falls short is creating full, freeflow 3d designs.

    I am looking to create some small figurines in the near future, less than 30mm high. I have looked at Rhino but it is hardly intuitive to use and seems very drawn out to do easy tasks sometimes, any ideas for a more practical alternative?

    1. Hi Liberty:

      The thing about ArtCAM Jewelsmith is it’s method of modelling is unlike any other on this list. Technically it’s a point cloud relief modeller, so you’re building up your layers from a flat surface using colour fields and sculpting tools.

      I’m afraid most of the efficient ways of modelling in 3D are going to be based upon a more architectural methods of modelling. You’re right it’s going to be a learning curve if you’re coming from Jewelsmith, but for what it’s worth, programs like Rhino work well as “opposites” to Jewelsmith, allowing you to use the programs together to great effect.

      Have a look at my FAQ page about software combinations favoured by those who work in industry:


  15. Hi,

    I am a self taught jewelry designer. By jewelry designer I have never made my own jewelry but I do create sketches and scaled drawings which I then have made by my manufacturers for my jewelry business. I am quite proficient in photoshop and am looking at starting a 3D design course or tutorial on CAD software. What would you recommend given I don’t have hands on jewelry experience? Am I out of my depth? I am living in Shanghai, China.


    1. Dear Ashley:

      Over the years, I’ve found an interesting common thread among all the self-taught jewellers who’ve come to my classes. It seems the seldom know how good they really are until they take that first class with other students. But having the will to learn on your own is a powerful thing, and the fact you’ve managed to work with a manufacturer and make a business out of it says quite a lot about your abilities to learn (and how far you’ve come already).

      Before taking a CAD course though, I would make sure you’ve spent some time working with metal at the bench. It is important to have a feeling for the materials, as that helps you understand better how to design for those materials.

      If I were you, what I’d do next before going into CAD would be to find a hand-made jewellery manufacturing course and take that first. If it’s not too far away from you, I know someone in Hong Kong I can recommend to you for training if you wish.



  16. Hi, Thank you for this resource! We’re looking at software for the production of high relief award medallions and lapel pins. We’ll also be 3D printing models of them for clients to let them look and feel. We were also going to be creating models for some sports sculptures. I was originally thinking ArtCam but perhaps I should be looking more at a combination of things? Any suggestions? Art Cam and Rhino? Other? Thanks so much.

    1. Hi Garth:

      ArtCAM Jewelsmith is definitely up your alley for the medallions and lapel pins, and is probably your best choice for that task.
      As for the 3D models for sports sculptures, you have a couple of options. DelCAM (ArtCAM’s developer) makes it’s own proprietary 3D surface modeller called Powershape. It’s a pretty good program, and DelCAM have been working to integrate it so that it can communicate back and forth with ArtCAM Jewelsmith. Alternatively, if you’re looking for a larger user base for support and a lower cost program, Rhino also makes a good secondary for ArtCAM. The strengths of one offset the weaknesses of the other very nicely.

      Hope that helps. Give me a shout if you have more questions.



      1. Thanks for this, Jack. We were thinking of using ArtCAM and Rhino. I’ll definitely look at Powershape as well. Is ZBrush something we should be considering as well for modelling? Also do you know of anything that would help with setting a photo to 3D? I’ve seen the 3Sweep video on Youtube and was ultimately looking for something like that in a way, where I could take a photo and use that as the basis for creating a model. For example if I had a photo of a soccer player kicking a ball I could use that as the basis to create a model for one side of it. Taking photos from the front and back and maybe top and bottom and other side as well, I could stitch them together and then sort of inflate it to define features? Maybe I’m dreaming and that is still years off? I keep thinking of Terminator 2 and how they modelled the police officer. I was thinking/hoping things have maybe advanced to do something like that on a smaller scale…Thanks again!

        1. Hi Garth:

          ZBrush is mainly a tool for taking a 3D object from another piece of CAD software and using texturing and sculptural techniques directly on it. It can make models on its own, but it’s a much harder learning curve than most other programs. I think from where you’re starting you’re better off with your original ideas.

          As for taking photos into 3D, the standard method for doing so is to take several photos into any CAD software (both Rhino and ArtCAM can do it), and draw lines and interpret 3D shapes tracing over that image in the background. Even with modern 3D scanning this is still the most efficient way of making a jewellery design at the moment.
          Directly interpreting the shape into a full 3D form for modelling sounds more like 3D scanning, and that can be done as well, but that would be an entirely different matter. As of right now, 3D scanning can do some of what you’re saying, but the model would have to stand dead still, and you’d have to set up a full scanning tent. It would be a bit like what these guys do:

          I’m just finishing up now a new FAQ on 3D scanning and how it fits into jewellery and product design CAD. It should be up on the blog in a week or two from this posting.

          Hope that helps.



          1. Hi Jack,

            Thanks for this. I’ve been talking with the vendors with your advice in mind and we are moving forward with the medal and pin end of things. The sculptures still sound a bit out of our depth. I’ll be watching here and looking forward to your coming FAQ. Thanks so much again!


  17. Hi Jack,
    I am have been fabricating some precision hollow pieces (think large beads or objects about the size of a kumquat. I am wanting to experiment with piercing the forms and would like to experiment with creating multiple patterns and 3D printing them to see them before I move forward to fabricate (time factor). the forms are very geometric in nature (spheres, lentil shaped forms, tubes, etc.). Can you suggest CAD software that would work best for this? I use a Mac so something that would work on a Mac would be best. I could use windows (parallels or bootcamp) but am more comfortable in the mac OS. Thanks!

    1. Dear Leslie:

      I’m afraid there aren’t that many Mac OS specific CAD software packages, and most of the ones available are mainly for digital effects/animation. I reckon most CAD programmers assumed engineers worked only on PC. Parallel partitions and bootcamp OS emulators will allow you to work on a few more options, though.

      The size you’re planning to work means you may well be able to work just fine with any general product design CAD software. Any piece of software which is able to export meshes to .stl files will work okay for you. Spaceclaim, Rhino, and Moment of Inspiration are three possible places to start looking. Each is at a different price point, and as you might expect you get what you pay for in terms of functionality. But have a look at those and see what you think.

      Note that all three of these recommendations I’m giving to you are PC software which I am fairly certain can run on Bootcamp or parallel partitions. I’ll have another look at Mac options though and see what I can find, but I don’t think product design CAD software developers have given Mac much time in general.

      Hope that helps. Let me know how it goes, and give me a shout if you’d like to know more.



  18. Hi Leslie-
    You might want to check out FormZ. I used it years ago when I worked on a Mac and it was the only solid model CAD software around for Mac. I just checked out their website and they have a few different levels of versions, including a free one with no restrictions, that will let you make files for 3D printing.It’s
    Good luck!

    1. Hi Annie:

      You’re right. FormZ is a pretty good general purpose CAD program. It doesn’t have any jewellery specific functions, but you can learn to work pretty well without them. Besides, from what Leslie described, jewellery specific functions wouldn’t be particularly necessary.

      Thanks for the addition.


  19. I believe 3DESIGN has a mac version

    All your posts have been really interesting Jack and worth reading.

    Im a jewellery designer and G.G from India, with 16 years of experience in Manual and Cad design
    have working knowledge in 3design, and Rhino

    but now a days I dont design myself, I have a team working under me.

    Nevertheless, I keep my self abreast with all the happenings in the CAD and CAM area as much as possible, sitting here in India 🙂

    Thanks a lot for all the information. Its helps

    1. Hi Sonali:

      Nice to meet you. And thank you for the kind words.

      Yes, 3Design definitely has a Mac version. Indeed, I believe it has always had a Mac and PC version, and it once had even had a Linux version.

      The reason why I didn’t recommend it for Leslie is because she’s working on very large objects which would be more suitable for general product design CAD than jewellery specific CAD.



  20. Hi!

    What is your opinion about modeling jewelry on parametric softwares such as Solidworks and Inventor?

    Thank you!

    1. Dear Elisa:

      Good question! As a matter of fact, I’ve been putting the finishing touches on a new blog entry specifically about parametric modelling (and Direct modelling) which will be coming out very soon. It seems to me that the subject is complex enough to warrant its very own FAQ page.

      Watch this space!



      1. Thank you very much for your answer! I`m looking forward for the article. Tell us also if you already tried to model jewelry on these softwares yourself, and what is your opinion in comparison to the traditional jewelry softwares!

        My best regards, have a nice day!

        1. Hi Elisa:

          On the comparison list above, 3Design is a Parametric modelling program, and Firestorm is a Direct modelling program. The parametric and direct modelling methods within them make changing many aspects of existing models extremely easy and quick, hence their high ratings in certain categories.

          There are a couple of other parametric and direct modelling programs on the market I haven’t listed here, but they’re either not really designed for jewellery CAD, or they’re actively hostile to being listed and compared to other programs (except by their own internal sales reps).



  21. Hi Jack,

    Thanks for providing such detailed information, it is a great help for someone looking to invest in a CAD CAM system. I work with a lot of small descriptive pieces of jewellery and would like the ability to copy some of these products into a CAD format to make exact wax moulds. I see you mentioned before that:

    ”As for taking photos into 3D, the standard method for doing so is to take several photos into any CAD software (both Rhino and ArtCAM can do it), and draw lines and interpret 3D shapes tracing over that image in the background. Even with modern 3D scanning this is still the most efficient way of making a jewellery design at the moment.”

    I just wanted to know for small intricate pieces that I would like to make into CAD for designing moulds, would taking photos of the product or using a scanner be the best method? If its taking a photo, are the products you previously mentioned (Rhino or Artcam) still the best solutions?

    I appreciate your help.


    1. Hi Dan:

      I’ll answer your question in a few parts:

      First, I’ve written a whole FAQ page on 3D scanners, showing the limitations and uses of them. Rather than giving the full answer here, I’ll simply refer you to that:

      Second, it’s a good question whether it’s better to work from 2D photos that you trace inside the CAD program, or to work from freeform just holding the real world imagery/object in your hand. Both methods have followers. I simply say use whichever suits you or the situation demands.

      My suggestions for you would still remain the same for the kind of work you mentioned.

      Hope that helps.



      1. Hi Jack,

        Thanks for getting back to me. Your information helps a lot! I will keep working off the 2D images, as it suits the product I’m trying to replicate the best.


  22. Hi Jack,
    Thank you for the comparisons and your very generous answers to all of these questions. I hope you may be able to help me too! I am a jeweller who trained at art school rather than through the trade. I have picked up lots of skills in my 20 odd years of working at the bench and have developed a range of “contemporary” precious jewellery incorporating gold and gemstones. This is only one aspect of my practice and probably takes up about 20% of my time but obviously has the potential to be the most financially viable. My designs are quite geometric and I don’t think I would use close to 10% of the capabilities of Matrix but I do need to be able to alter ring size, gem size and type of setting in individual designs. I guess I want to know if an investment in Matrix will be worth it or whether I get rhinogold and work with its limitations? Is an investment in Matrix going to set me up for the future? I understand you’re a CAD specialist, not a psychic but is an investment in Matrix software and skills going to still be valuable in 10 years time, say.

    Thank you in advance.

    1. Hi Anna:

      Good question. It makes sense to consider buying a tool whose scope matches the kinds of work you do.

      I went ahead and had a look at your site. Frankly, I agree with you that your work is too much in the contemporary arena for you to find fine jewellery plug-ins particularly useful. However, wanting to change the stone sizes and ring sizes after you’ve made your designs complicates matters a bit.

      Any software can change a ring size faster than you can at the bench. However, for most software you would have to go back a few steps and basically “regenerate” parts of the ring to resize the stone settings or the ring shank. The exception to this would be a subset of CAD modelling tools know as Parametric Modelling (or its cousin Direct CAD modelling). Rather than storing models as geometry, they store it as stages in a process. You can then go back in and change earlier stages of the process, and later stages update themselves.

      I guess it depends on how important being able to change your designs after you’ve made them is to you. If being able to change old designs quickly is your biggest priority, then you should be looking at parametric or direct CAD software (like 3Design or Firestorm CAD). If reworking old designs is a frequent issue for you, the cost of these is justified. However, if low cost solutions are your biggest priority, then RhinoGold is as good a solution as any.

      I hope that helps. Let me know if you have any more questions.



      1. Thanks Jack,
        I think that Rhinogold is the best option for me. Particularly as the conversion rate at the moment brings the price up to nearly AUD$9G!

  23. Hi,
    Thank you very much for your detailed explanation.
    However, I would like to know which software you would recommend for 2D Design (using vectors)? This would be good for me I believe as I am very new to jewellery design and would like an easy interface. I don’t design large quantities so I don’t need a fancy software. Just something to give me an idea of what the final product could look like in terms of shape, dimensions, angles etc.
    Thank you in advance for your help!
    Didn’t know who else to ask for this advice. So happy I found your website.

    1. Hi Milari:

      You’ve got a good question there with regards to 2D design software. I may add a section here for this.

      However, before I start answering your question, I feel I should manage some expectations. While Photoshop and Illustrator are often considered gateways to more advanced software, ultimately they have pretty similar learning curves to some 3D CAD software packages. So rather than picking a 2D software program because it’s easy, it might be more worth your while looking for software which will do what you want to do, even if it seems intimidating at first.

      For precision technical 2D work, I would definitely recommend going for Adobe Illustrator any day of the week because its flexibility for drafting work is unmatched by anything else. Perhaps it’s only drawback is cost, which is why I sometimes recommend the free program Inkscape as a good place to start learning 2D vectors before moving up to Illustrator.

      I will admit vectors can be intimidating at first, but once you get the hang of them they’re the building block for all 2D as well as 3D CAD, and even now I still go back to Illustrator for complex logo work, laser cutting, or blocking out shapes for relief sculpture.

      Does that answer your question?



  24. Yes! Thank you for your time Jack.
    Will definitely check out Inkscape and Adobe Illustrator.
    Will Adobe Illustrator CC be comprehensive enough to cover all tools for jewellery design? If so, it does seem like the way to go for the long term.
    Do you know a good tutorial for the software?

    1. Hi Milari:

      For 2D design, Adobe Illustrator CC will be of great help, especially when you combine it with Photoshop. However, If you wanted to do 3D printing or realising your designs fully in 3D, then you would need 3D CAD (in spite of what Photoshop likes to claim nowadays).

      Check out my tutorials section for a start on Illustrator. Also, if you are close to the London area, I could teach you Illustrator myself. You can reach me through the Holts Academy website.


  25. Hi, I am doing Jewellery trading business in Asia.
    Most of my production are in China, and mainly they are using JewelCAD for production. Recently, I need to do a better presentation for my client, therefore I start to think of using Matrix. However, i cannot give up JewelCAD at this stage. Is possible to convert the file from JewelCAD to Matrix? So that Matrix can only need to support the rendering? Can Matrix read the data from JewelCAD file, so that it can be saving more time and easier in making Jewellery in Matrix?


    1. Dear Go:

      It is indeed possible to convert from JewelCAD to the .3DM file format used in Matrix and Rhino. However, it is not always easy.

      Here’s what I used to do:

      1.) Export the JewelCAD model as an .IGS file.
      2.) Import the .IGS file into Rhino or Matrix.
      3.) You’ll notice all the .IGS geometry is imported as separate surfaces. You’ll need to Join these surfaces back together again, and in some cases, you’ll need to use Join Naked Edges on the geometry to get the tolerances of Matrix/Rhino to cooperate.

      Once that’s finished, you’ll have a working editable model in Matrix or Rhino with all the original JewelCAD geometry. From there you can do what you like with it.

      Give it a try, and let me know how it goes.



  26. Hi Jack!

    Thank you so much for this very helpful article! I am a jewelry designer and I just started to learn Artcam. I have created my vectors in Illustrator. Can you suggest which program would be the easiest and most intuitive for creating cuff bracelets? Simple 2.5D designs. All the programs seem to have built in libraries for rings but what about cuff bracelets? Thank you for your help!

    1. Hi Mandee:

      Good question! I love using ArtCAM for 2.5D relief models, especially for rings and bracelets. However, while ArtCAM Jewelsmith includes ring mandrels for wrapping in its program, it does not to my knowledge as of this writing include oval cuff bangle mandrels, but I will ask about it.

      What we can do in the meantime is one of two things:

      1.) We can make the bangle in the flat, 3D print and cast it, and then bend it manually on a mandrel. This would be the ideal as it guarantees the shape and spring tension we want. However, the bangle may crack if there is too much porosity in the casting or if the shape is too thin.

      2.) You can design the bangle in the flat in ArtCAM Jewelsmith, and then take it into another 3D CAD program like Rhino and then Bend or Flow the shape along an oval mandrel shape. This would give you the greatest chance of getting the shape to survive the process, but it does not solve the problem of brittleness of the cast shape, and there is the small chance the mesh form from ArtCAM itself may not like being bent too far.

      Hope that helps. It doesn’t hurt to try either technique and see which works best for you.



      1. Hi Jack!

        Thank you for taking the time to answer my question. 🙂 Someone on the ARTCAM FORUM suggested the following:

        “you can treat your cuff bracelet like a BIG ring. create it the same way, and cut it the same way you do with the rings.
        I have cut some for the company I work for.
        Start with a two rail sweep with an oval silhouette that matches your bracelet inside dimensions. Use that as a ground plane in the same way that a ring uses a cylinder for a ground plane.
        Add the same relief as your back relief and when you add the bracelet to the master model, you will end up with the correct inside shape to your bracelet.”

        What do you think?

        1. Hi Mandee:

          Interesting! I reckon that may work just fine. I’ll try it out myself. Thank you for that.



  27. I use Pro-E to create solid models. I’m modeling an object which is mainly a thin walled tube. I want to add relief(s) in the form of vines, flowers, faces, lettering, etc. onto the surface of the tube. It seems a waste to buy another solid modeling package which will likely be less powerful than Pro-E. Is there software which: (1) will input a file exported from Pro-E, add the surface relief, and then export an STL file; or (2) will input an STL file exported from Pro-E, do the surface relief, and then export an STL file; or (3) some other idea for modifying a solid model created by Pro-E by adding surface relief and exporting a STL file.

    Thanks for your help,


    1. Hi Wil:

      Good question. While nothing to my knowledge directly interfaces with Pro-E files for textural work, there are a few textural programs you could use to take exported Pro-E files and add textural features. The issue however will be file conversion. If memory serves, Pro-E can export .IGS and .STL. Some programs work better with these than others. ArtCAM Jewelsmith would have no problems with the .STL file (either importing or exporting). Likewise, Geomagic Sculpt (and the Touch haptic device) have no trouble with .STL files. However, Zbrush and Mudbox don’t really like anything except .OBJ for import.

      Therefore, we could find you a file conversion utility if you wanted to use Zbrush or Mudbox. Otherwise, I reckon Geomagic Sculpt or ArtCAM Jewelsmith are your best bets for textural work exported .STL files.

      Hope that helps.



  28. Hi. Excellent article. I have been using Modo software for a while and I think it\’s a very complete software. Even whent it is not Jewelry oriented I think you can shape any form very easy. Price is the only concern with this software. Works very well when exporting to Zbrush since they both work with quads and not triangles. I have seen today a demo of 3Design as well and I liked it a lot since is a very complete solution. If I would recomend any software I would recommend 3Design & 3Shaper.

  29. Hello
    I have completed my Jewel CAD but later came to as its of no use here and i want to do more in this field and also no opportunities in Jewel CAD.
    What should i do now ?

    1. Hi Akansha:

      If that’s the case, then I suppose it’s time to find new software. Have a look at the list and start making comparisons to see which one you want to try next.

      If cost is an issue, I recommend you read this page from my FAQ section:

      If you’d like to talk to other individual users of the various software packages, try the 3D CAD Jewelry Forum.

      Best of luck, and give me a shout if you have questions about specific software packages.



  30. Hello,
    I am a cad designer. I use Jewelcad for 3d modeling. Now I have started using rhino for the same.
    So I want to edit some of my files in rhino. Is it possible to import my jewelcad files into rhino? Or is their any plugins for importing .jcd files into rhino?

    1. Hi Lalit:

      It is indeed possible to bring JewelCAD files over into Rhino, although in order to do so, you’ll have to export your JewelCAD files as .IGES file format. Also, when you then bring them into Rhino, you’ll have to rejoin all surfaces. If you have single-surface cylinders, you’ll have to join the naked edges where the surface seam should have closed together.

      There aren’t any plug-ins for doing this mostly because I think this proved to be effective enough for most JewelCAD users.

      I hope that helps.



  31. This was a great article for me – thanks!
    I\’ve tried to work with a trial of RhinoGold3 2-3 years ago, and since then I\’ve wanted to go all the way and bye the program. But now I\’m in doubt if RhinoGold is in fact the best program for my needs.
    I want to make organic and asymmetric modelling, different surfaces, both polished and rough ones on parts of the jewellery (outside of rings etc.), diamond settings, and most of all – I want a really good rendering engine.
    I had a look at Matrix 8 and also 3Design 9 as very interesting alternatives for RhinoGold. Which would You recommend? And why does it have to be so difficult to find the pricing of the programs?

    Many thanks in advance 🙂

    1. Hi Shanne:

      If you already know RhinoGold, then Matrix 8 will be easy for you to learn, as many of the tools are the same or similar from one to the other.

      There are many similar tools in 3Design, but you’d be learning a new modelling process.

      As to which one is better for you, it really depends on whether you want the advantages of parametric modelling or not. If you don’t know what parametric modelling is, this link will help you:

      In short, if you think you’ll be having to rework your models frequently, or use parts from one design on another quite often, then 3Design might be worth the learning curve to change.

      Does that help?



  32. Hi.

    Very impressive article.

    I have a question if you could please take out time to answer.

    I have 3dm files of rings and I would like to be able to change the ring size and centre stone size for different customers. Is it possible?

    The designer tells me that it’s impossible without creating ring from the beginning because these are solid union files? Or something along those lines.

    Could you shed some light on this please?



    1. Hi Furqan.

      If you’re using .3DM Files, this means you most likely made the piece with Rhino or Matrix.

      In either program, there is limited capability for using history to change existing objects. However, Boolean commands (which combine simpler solids into more complicated ones) tend to break history. So I’m afraid your designer is correct when he says that changing the centre stone will involve rebuilding the geometry. However, if he has the original curves which made it, it should take less time to rebuild the geometry from the original curves than it took to make the piece the first time around.

      As for changing the ring size, however, it will depend on the shape of the band. If it is a solitaire, cluster ring, or something similar with nothing interesting on the bottom of the band, you might be able to get away with using Matrix’ own Ring Resizer tool to readjust the ring size as a mesh. It’s not going to be as elegant a solution as remaking the band, but it should work.

      I hope that helps.



  33. Hello

    I am a modeler. I use maya and zbrush for scluping model before. If I want to start to learning jewelry CAD , What do you prefer between RhinoGold or Matrix?

    1. Hi Pangtcz:

      RhinoGold and Matrix are both technically extensions of Rhino’s core program designed to make jewellery making easier. The difference between the two is almost entirely explained by the level of investment. RhinoGold is cheaper and has fewer options than Matrix.

      You could compare Rhino, RhinoGold, and Matrix to a low-end, mid-range, and high-end sports car. You get more specific performance for your money.

      I hope that helps.



  34. Hello,
    I found the article to be very useful, but I have a quick question:

    Is there any way of having Matrix or 3DESIGN for free on mac? or do I have to buy it? And how could I buy it online?
    Thank you so much!

    1. Dear Susana:

      I’m afraid neither software offers a free demo that I’ve ever seen. Some academic institutions offer access to a student version as part of their diploma courses (Holts Academy and the GIA let students buy a limited time student version of Matrix, and I’ve been informed the Revere Academy lets its course attendees buy a limited time student version of 3Design).

      In other words, you do have to buy it, or use it through open access on a school’s campus.

      The best (and only) place to buy most CAD software is directly from the software company themselves, or through one of their closely affiliated resellers. You can find them through the company websites.



  35. Hi, not a jewellery guys myself but, are you sure ZBrush has less of a user base than Rhino? I mean people from video games, film, and many other industries use ZBrush…

    1. Hi Siuling:

      Good question. If we were counting ALL users, Adobe has them all beat, and you are correct that there are probably now slightly more Zbrush users than Rhino users. But if we’re talking jewellery or product design users, that market (as of the writing of this message) is significantly fewer.

      I’ll keep an eye on it from now on, and when it changes, I’ll update this post.



  36. Hi Jack,
    Thank you for this thread it is very useful, i have been using Rhino/ Rhinogold4 for a few years, I have come to the stage where i need to refine and update my Cad skills and i am considering updating or replacing my programs. My question is has Rhinogold now caught up to Matrix with version 6 in your opinion or is Matrix still the better more comprehensive option.
    Thanks in advance

    1. Hi Patrick:

      Well, I don’t know if you know that Gemvision/Stuller bought out Rhinogold last year, and the same company is now developing both platforms. It’s hard to know what Gemvision intends to do with both softwares, but I suspect they’ll most likely keep RhinoGold as a lite version of Matrix. If I find out more I’ll update this.

      Note that this doesn’t really matter either way– you can do most of the same things with either once you know the core strategies of how to build geometry. The builders are more of a crutch than a primary creation tool anyway.



      1. Thanks Jack,
        I tend to use Rhinogold as a helper to Rhino so with the new tools additions and presentation options i will probably go for the upgrade.
        Kind Regards

        1. Incidentally, I use RhinoGold for the same reason when I use it.

          If you know your way around core modelling concepts, you can work just fine without any specialist jewellery plug-ins. Of course they do save time. 🙂


  37. Hello,
    Thank you for these comparisons, which I found to be very informative and insightful. Currently, I work with a jewelry manufacturer who is trying to offer its customers high resolution images. It seems that the results achieved via rendering CAD images are far superior to anything a camera can capture. That being said, do you have a particular recommendation for a novice user who will essentially trace existing images for CAD format to ultimately be rendered? Any advice would be appreciated.

    1. Hi Jason:

      It’s a fair question, and a surprisingly common one.

      With the proliferation of 3D printing, it’s understandable that everyone wants to have the ability to create 3D printed content. The problem is finding where to begin.

      There have even been a few programs toting themselves as introductions to 3D modelling. The problem I’ve foudn with these shortcuts and “easy ways in” is that they quickly run out of options and end up being not worth it, either because they badly limit what you can actually do, or because their user interfaces are so bad that you have to work twice as hard to make anything more sophisticated than the absolute basics. (This is my issue with Google Sketchup and Photoshop’s 3D printing suite.)

      So my suggestion instead: go for a standard product design CAD package, like Rhino. Alternatively, one of the low cost options like Blender would work as well. It may be a bit of a learning curve at first, but once you figure out the basics of the interface the whole program falls in your lap, and you’ll have much more freedom to make what you want for rendering or 3D printing.

      I hope that helps.



  38. Hi .. I do hand-drowning jewellery (Design), I like unregular jewellery design. My question is which 3D CAD suitable for creative designing using electronic pen along with software?

    I would appreciate if you could reply as I am planning to pay a software soon.

    Have a good day

    1. Dear Mai:

      It’s a fair question. Using a pen tablet (such as the Wacom Intuos) is primarily designed for working with 2D design or CAD software like Photoshop or Illustrator, but there are some forms of 2D and 3D CAD which have been designed to work fairly well in conjunction with it, at least in some instances.

      As of this writing, 3D product design CAD software which has been proven to work well with a pen tablet includes Zbrush and ArtCAM Jewelsmith. More will likely appear with time.

      That being said, there is a whole category of 3D haptic pen sculpting tools which rely on 3-dimensional movement of a pen in physical space. Geomagic Sculpt is an example of that

      Hope that helps.



  39. hi jack
    very useful information,
    I am using freeform modeling since 5years,
    I have a question,
    I am using freeform with omni in dental, I want to know is there any alternative software, which convert the mesh to clay and than I work on it?
    thanks in advance

      1. thank you jack for response,
        actually I am already using this, and I am well known about it,
        actually I want to known that any alternate of this software? because this it too much expensive and I can’t afford it,
        so I want to use alternate of it,

        1. Hi Zee:

          I’m afraid the closest you’re going to come to an equivalent of Geomagic Sculpt for less cost would be Zbrush. It costs US$795, and has a Zremesher function which is nearly as good as Geomagic’s mesh quality options.

          The other problem is the user interface is not quite as elegant as Geomagic, but it can achieve amazing things once you get the hang of it.

          Hope that helps.


  40. Hi Jack,

    This has been a wonderfully informative article – thank you for writing it 🙂

    I’ve been asked to render JewelCAD .jcd files in KeyShot. I have no experience of either programs – The JewelCAD files are created in China and are not my own. I do have many years of Rhino experience so feel confident in carrying out the task (once I know how to do it!).

    I don’t have a copy of JewelCAD and from my research so far I believe a trial version of the program will not allow me to export or save models? I need to get these .jcd files into the right format for KeyShot to do it’s magic but I don’t want to have to purchase JewelCAD as I won’t use it again after this task.

    Have you got any suggestions?

    Or am I asking the impossible?!

    Any help would be greatly appreciated!!

    Thank you,


    1. Hi Rachel:

      It’s been a long time since I’ve been asked about JewelCAD, but it’s nice to hear about it again.

      If the trial version can export .IGS (IGES) files out of JewelCAD, that will be enough to be able to import them into Rhino. If it cannot export .IGS format, you’ll need the full version.

      Once in Rhino, The files will have strange naked edges (when you check it with Show Edges command) on what would otherwise be closed surfaces, but these can be joined either by Exploding and then re-Joining, or by using Join 2 Naked Edges.

      Let me know how it goes.



  41. To be honest, I found the software mentioned here super hard to learn.
    I could take you days to get a simple thing done.
    For lazy people (like me) I’d recommend using decodedheart to be able to design nice 3D printed jewelry without having to understand 3D modeling or all that complicated stuff

    1. Hi Alejandro:

      Thank you for your honesty, and thanks for sharing.

      To be equally honest, there is going to be an ever growing need for people who can create good content for 3D printing in the future. And there will be some debate as to whether 3D modellers will be able to do it all themselves. A service like the one on the website you’re plugging here could be a solution for others, and there are many more just like it out there. (Even Photoshop rather dubiously added a 3D printing model viewer and generator to their CC software which seems to work in a similar way to your site).

      My problem is, however, that no matter what tool you’re using, you still have to have an understanding of what you can get away with in terms of tolerances with your chosen material. Half of what you need to learn with CAD modelling (regardless of tool) is how to make an object strong enough to survive 3D printing and manufacturing.



  42. Hey Jack,

    Great piece, thank you for sharing it with us!

    Could you suggest which software would work best for working in front of a client? Firestorm or Countersketch?

    I have been researching both, but I am having a hard time deciding, haha!


    1. Hi Ng.

      Countersketch is definitely designed for working in front of a client. Indeed, that’s what it’s designed for, and some may say that’s all its good for. If you’re outside the US, it’s also a viable way of making models.

      Firestorm has more power as a modelling tool, but it takes a fair bit more training than Countersketch.

      I suppose the one to choose would primarily be based on how quickly you want to get going. The easy solution would be Countersketch, but if you were working in the US you would be bound to just produce your models with Stuller.

      I hope that helps.



    2. ng – I’ve purchased both Firestorm and CounterSketch. Firestorm first. Their support is very good, but their program, at least for me, was quite buggy and I had issues far too often. Their renders aren’t nearly as good as CS, either. The people that sell Firestorm are good folks, but I got to the point I just had to find something else. I don’t sit with clients, I use CS and sell only online, it does have some limitations, but it was far easier to learn, their renders are killer and support is excellent. However, you are stuck with Stuller as a casting house, and they own rights to all of your designs, so that is an important factor to consider as well. I’m very happy with the CAD/CAM people at Stuller, mistakes do get made, but they are always great about correcting anything I have issues with. Hope this helps!

      1. Hi Jen,

        Thanks for sharing such vital information, I certainly did not know that Stuller would own all rights to my designs.

        The main concern I have now is regarding renders. I have seen some videos of CS renders, and they indeed are awesome, especially the ability to use props such as a human hand, that definitely helps a client visualize a design.

        Does Firestorm have such capabilities too? I was leaning towards CS, but the fact that Stuller would own the rights to all my designs is a bit of a discouragement.


        1. Absolutely! CS renders are all kinds of awesome, including the “model” shots. Firestorm didn’t have that hand model capability, at least when I was using it over a year ago.

  43. Hello Jack,

    I am working in a jewelry company in Hong Kong and have a few questions concerning 3D programs:

    1) I am looking into what 3D imaging drawing programs exist that interface easily with hand drawing. Do you know anything about that ? I heard z brush you can work from drawing by hand onto the computer. How could I work from a tablet onto a 3D program that could then be used for manufactures and 3D printing.

    2) I dont know how to use the 3D programs at all. I am looking for classes in Hong Kong to start now, but do not know where to start or which program is best for what I am seeking.

    3) Defenetely I am looking for a terminal manufactures purpouse ( printing wih titanium, wax, and other materials). Could you recommend be the best program in the market today ?

    4) Is it possible to call you to have a proper talk about it ?

    5) If i am looking for those programs class, could you orientate me towards the program that i should start with and maybe a location in Hong Kong where I could learn it the best ?

    Thanks again a lot.

    I have been reading since 2015 your great concise clear and helpful response. You encourage all of us young apprentice on a right path, I thank you again for that.

    Have a lovely day,


    1. Hi Marina:

      I reckon the best way to answer your questions would be via e-mail. I’ll send you a message shortly.



  44. Hello Jack,

    I read your indepth analysis and comparison of CAD and deiging softwares and am truly impressed.

    I have a whole collection of JewelCAD (JCD), 3DM, STL files developed by a designer for me. Now I want to get these in various views in high quality rendered images so that I could upload them on my online store.

    I was able to find an APP for my android phone where I can open the 3DM/STL files (made using Matrix) and at least view them in 360 degrees. I am looking for someone in India who can provide me these Rendered. If you know of someone, please do recommend.

    The main issue is to get high quality rendered images for JCD files. I could not find a viewer/APP nor any designer who could provide me the same.

    Kind request to guide me since you are an expert in this field. Will be waiting for your reply.

    Warm Regards

    1. Hi Saurav:

      Rendering JewelCAD files is a problem. There was some talk many years ago about bringing in a better rendering plug-in for JewelCAD, but I don’t know what became of that.

      One option is to export them out to another piece of software and render them there. Rhino would work, with one of it’s plug-ins (you’d export out of JewelCAD as .IGS files). Any of the Rhino rendering plug-ins would work here.

      Alternatively, you could bring the file into any other piece of software which can take an .IGS file.

      There are also IOS and Android apps out there which can view .IGS files, but I’ve never tested them, so I don’t know how good they look. But at least you can view and manipulate them on a mobile device.

      I hope that helps.



    1. Hi Haroon:

      You’ll need to export out of ArtCAM as .obj or .stl I believe, but Matrix can open those files (or rather Import them) just fine.

      Hope that helps.

  45. Hi there, I am interested as to why RhinoGold is not included? I have been a Rhino/RhinoGold user for several years. I work freelance designing 3D jewellery models for print. I am happy with the program but it’s difficult to find out what exactly Matrix 9 offers that is better.
    I am wanting to be able to have a lot of options regarding rendering styles.
    Thank you!

    1. Hi Helen:

      It’s a fair question. The reason why RhinoGold is not on the list anymore is because it’s been phased out and replaced with MatrixGold Essentials. While there are several sites still talking about it, it’s becoming harder and harder to purchase. I’m surprised anyone’s still selling it at all, really.
      Stuller/Gemvision bought out RhinoGold from their developers several years ago, and since then they’ve been working on integrating it into their product range. With MatrixGold Essentials, they’ve finally finished doing so.

      I liked RhinoGold myself, and I do think it served as a kind of useful middle-market option for those who wanted some automation but didn’t want to pay full whack for Matrix.

      In answer to your other questions. RhinoGold added a few automated methods for making certain common jewellery-making processes and techniques in Rhino a bit easier, but ultimately, it was more of a collection of shortcuts with a new interface and a few new rendering materials for Brazil than anything else.

      Matrix is a full platform rewrite of Rhino. That is to say, they have kept all of Rhino’s commands and systems, but added enough additional commands that the entire workflow has changed. While it was true that RhinoGold’s shortcuts could do quite a lot of what Matrix does, certain tools were an entirely new level of program (such as the pave tools, ring resizer, and V-Ray based rendering suite).

      You could in theory get a lot of options with rendering styles with both programs, and you could create and save your own. I always felt V-Ray had the edge based on a combination of quality of render and speed, and Matrix’s handling of that interface was the least worst of all the ones I’ve tried. I’m not saying Matrix V-Ray tools are a great interface, but they are certainly better than V-Ray’s original frustrating interface.

      I hope that helps.



  46. Hello,
    Thank you for these comparisons, which I found to be very informative and insightful. Currently, I deal with a jewelry business Irishcharm who is trying to offer its customers high resolution images. It seems that the results achieved via rendering CAD images are far superior to anything a camera can capture. That being said, do you have a particular recommendation for a novice user who will essentially trace existing images for CAD format to ultimately be rendered? Any advice would be appreciated.

    1. Hi Irishcharm.

      Every CAD program on here has it’s own set of renderers, and there are a few standalone renderers out there. I’m currently in the process of investigating the various CAD rendering software packages for Rhino and MatrixGold. I will post an article on it here as soon as I am finished.

      But in the meantime, I can email you to answer questions. what CAD program do you currently use?


  47. I don’t know, for basic needs, and really most of us are doing “basic” jewelry designs anyways, Rhinogold is enough. Yeah, I paid 50 bucks for it now. Is it as good as Matrix Gold, no, but it gets the job done. Also, I saved 7950usd that i can now spend on precious stones.

    I tried Matrix gold, signed the contract but “returned” it before the 30-day period expired. Just couldn’t justify the investment.

    Basic shapes, and decent pave in my opinion is all that’s needed. One should have a strong foundation in rhino anyways to use either Rhinogold or Matrix, and if you can control Rhino, then the sky is the limit with designs. I’m not paying 8k for shortcuts

    1. I hear you Ian. Cost of software is definitely a factor. Not everyone is ready or willing to invest in a software as extensive and expensive as MatrixGold.
      RhinoGold was a pretty nice and deluxe plugin before it was discontinued. This is the main reason why I cannot recommend it anymore– It doesn’t run on the latest version of Rhino (which is a major issue considering how much was added to Version 7).

      Fortunately, it looks like there is a small but growing market for new Rhino jewellery CAD extensions. Have you looked at Panther?

      1. Hi Jack,

        I hope all is very well with you! 🙂

        Techno-challenged woman here who was thrown into the deep end 7 yrs ago and had to teach myself Matrix 8. Finally confident in it after all this time, and using it to make most of our items now, I’ve been too terrified to attempt to upgrade/learn anything else. It has finally irreparably pooped itself on me this week (and as you know there’s no longer support for this version) so here I am again having to quickly try to learn a new system.
        I’ve decided on Rhino 7 to start with and was having a squizz at plugins, and love the look of Panther 3D. Just wondering if you’ve given this a jam at all? I’m concerned that there’s such little info or reviews available and worry there won’t be decent support if something goes wrong :/ But gosh it looks magic! (Or perhaps all programs are this good now and if I’d remained relevant like the rest of the CAD whizzes in the trade this wouldn’t be such a surprise?…)

        Would love to hear your thoughts.

        Many thanks,

        1. Hi Penelope:

          I’ve spent a little bit of time with Panther. It is very much like RhinGold used to be– several plug-ins designed to make certain kinds of jewellery-making easier in Rhino, but all of them have their own new interface.

          So, in exchange for learning two user interfaces (one for Rhino tools, one for Panther tools), you get a second set of booster tools to help with certain kinds of work.

          Personally, I’m always a fan of learning Rhino on its own first before bringing in plug-ins, and then deciding if you still need them from there.

          Hope that helps.



  48. Hello!

    Thank you so much for the comprehensive list, will definitely have to delve into software previews!

    While I am not a jeweler, I am looking for a software that is able to convert 2D art that I upload into 3D sculpts/reliefs while being relatively user-friendly. I am currently looking into Carveco, as it seems to serve that purpose well from video demonstrations.

    Do you have any other recommendations? Please let me know when possible. Thanks again!

    1. Hi Ian:

      Actually, you already correctly guessed my recommendation for doing what you just said. Carveco is the best suited software for that particular task.


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