How To Make A Custom Pendant Necklace
Whether you are looking to create a one-off custom pendant necklace for someone special or trying to start your own jewellery business, being able to design and create pendants to your desire is a useful skill to have. It provides you free-reign to design the pendant exactly how you want, and even if you don’t end up using the exact 3D model, allows manufacturers to get a better idea of exactly what you want. In this blog post, we go through how to make a custom pendant necklace and the exact steps we took to create our range of pendants.
1. Think About The Style Of Pendant Design You Are Going To Be Making
Are you going to be making a locket, gemstone, delicate piece or streetwear-style pendant? This will determine which tools and software you need.
If your designs involve simple shapes and geometry then drawing them on a piece of paper or using the basic modelling tools in Blender is adequate.
If you want to create streetwear-style pendants like our Icarus pendant below, you’ll need to get comfortable using the sculpting tools to create 3D models.
2. Designing Using 3D CAD Software
As mentioned before you can create pendant designs on Blender using the basic shape tools, however, if you want to make more intricate designs like our Anubis pendant pictured below, you'll want to use the sculpting function on Blender!
If you go the sculpting route, you’ll want to get comfortable using the essential tools including
- Draw brush - standard sculpting brush, which can sculpt up and down (inverse)
- Clay strip brush - builds up the volume, adds lots of texture
- Grab brush - allows you to move parts of your model around
- Draw sharp - good for creating creases, great for adding detail and sharp lines
- Inflate brush - more volume into the model
- Smooth brush - get rid of any sharp lines, good for smoothing out if you’ve used the clay brush too much.
You’ll also want to get comfortable adding polygons and adjusting the resolution of your design. When you manipulate the design and stretch it out the resolution can decrease. Tools for this include
- Dyntopo - used to increase or decrease poly counts, mainly used to add resolution and adjust the detail of the model
- Remeshing - add resolution everywhere, changes the entire resolution of the model.
- Mask tool - use it to mark areas of your model you don't want to be affected by the various sculpting tools. Great if you want to work on specific areas of your model
When you sculpt your custom pendant can use a keypad and mouse, however, to get more accurate strokes and detail into your pendant and for the sake of ease we recommend getting a drawing tablet from Amazon.
Now, before you start you’ll want to get a reference photo to model against. For our Anubis pendant, for example, we used this photo for inspiration.
Then you’ll want to start with a base mesh to start sculpting your pendant design, we recommend converting the default cube mesh into a UV sphere for this.
For more information and guidance on how to sculpt on Blender, here is a great video that takes you through the basic tools and their uses as well as other tools that may be useful!
3. Send It Off To Manufacturers
You’ve got your pendant design now. Congratulations! The next step once you are completely happy with your pendant is to download the STL file. An STL file is essential to a file that describes the surface geometry of a 3D object without any representation of colour, texture or other common CAD model attributes.
Once you’ve downloaded the file you will want to spend time researching and having a look at different manufacturers and their current portfolio of products. This is an essential part if you want to ensure your custom pendant is good quality. There are plenty of websites to find high-quality jewellery manufacturers including Global Source, DHgate and Alibaba.
We recommend that before you buy the pendant in bulk for your jewellery business you get a sample from them of either one of their already-made pieces or of the custom STL file you have. This allows you to test the product before mass production. You’ll want to wear the product every day for a couple of months to determine the quality of the jewellery.
Once you’ve found a manufacturer you are happy to work with, you’ll want to send them the STL file of your pendant design and provide various specifications about the pendant necklace including
- Dimensions: width, length and height in mm
- Materials: base material of the pendant necklace and any additional metals if you are planning on making the pendant necklace plated.
- Pendant Bail Type: bails range from snap-on bails to bails with loops and v-loop bails. You’ll want to choose this based on what you prefer and what the manufacturer can offer.
- Type of chain: we recommend choosing a chain that is sturdy as this minimises the risk of breaking. Strong chains include rope chains, cable chains, Cuban chains and wheat chains. In general, avoid flat-type chains as these are more likely to kink and break with the weight of a pendant.
- Length of chain: Longer chains are better for lighter pendants whilst shorter chains are more suited for lighter pendants. A good spot is anywhere between 20 - 22 inches as this means the pendant can also be used for layering with shorter chains.
- Quantity: Most manufacturers will have a minimum order quantity (MOQ) of 50, with most having an MOQ of 100. If you are ordering a sample piece prices can go up to £50+
For some more information about chains for pendants, check out our blog on the best styles of chains for pendants.
What happens on the manufacturer's end?
1. Casting - the manufacturing team will then print the pendant design as a 3D wax model using a 3D printer and use it to create a model that the molten metal is poured into
2. Set and polish - once the item is cast, the metal will tend to be rough. The pendant will then be polished using a wheel made from steel wool. If you included any stones in your design, the stones are set into the design at this stage.
3. Application of plating, enamelling and oxidation
Any colouration effects are done after polishing as the colours are applied above the metal.
- Plating- if the whole item is plated, it will be sent to a plating tank where it is immersed in a solution of metal salts. An electrical current runs through the tank which fuses gold particles to the surface of the necklace. For small details that need to be plated, the jeweller will use a gold plating pen to colour the specific colours instead of putting it in the gold plating tank.
- Enamelling - applying coloured compounds to the surface of the metal to give it a painted look. After application, it is baked and hardened on top of the pendants.
- Oxidation - chemical application for sterling silver pieces. Applied to specific areas to give it a darkened look which helps gems stand out.
Still unsure about pendants? Check out our blog post that covers everything to know about pendants.