A third-generation jeweller, Christian Tse, Owner and President of Christian Tse Design & Manufacturing, made a splash in 1996 when he opened his design house and unveiled a signature line of platinum and gold mesh jewellery. His sights were set high from the beginning, and he aimed to present jewellery that was not just delicate and stunning, but innovative as well. A brilliant designer and technologist, Tse has, over the years, been a favourite of several international celebrities, including Beyonce, Rihanna, and Jennifer Lopez. At this year’s JCK Las Vegas show, Tse, who is also the founder of Formula 3D Corporation, announced a partnership with Desktop Metal, a 3D hardware company, for 925 sterling silver jewellery. He spoke to Solitaire about the many benefits of introducing technology in jewellery manufacturing.
California-based Christian Tse learnt the art of jewellery making manufacturing from his father, whose business was designing 24-karat gold jewellery for traditional Chinese weddings. Many of Tse’s designs today are inspired by the pieces he crafted with his father as a teenager. While working in the family business, Christian began designing his own jewellery and later attended the Gemological Institute of America (GIA) to further hone his skills.
Christian’s designs have caught the eyes of key influencers in the fashion and entertainment industries. Because of Christian’s distinctive collections and innovative use of materials and technique, many notable jewellery labels and manufacturing companies seek him out to design and produce their collections.
Tell us about your early years.
Most of my family is in jewellery. My brother has a retail store and so do my nephews. As I was growing up in the business, I saw that designers like David Yurman had a healthy business. Clothing designers were also successful at branding themselves. I always liked to design and tinker with mechanical items. So, I started my own company when I was only nineteen years old.
Did you take up any courses to hone your skills further?
I took many courses at GIA. First year was with hand fabrication. I also read a lot of books on jewellery rendering.
Your skills as a designer are widely known and more so, your ability to handcraft jewellery pieces are unique – a case in point is the Dandelion ring.
Regarding the Dandelion ring, we wanted to show our engineering capabilities. Each stalk is 0.30 mm wire which was cast in platinum. As it was worked on, ideas of hiding its mechanism evolved into pave-setting diamonds on the surface. For me, creativity often comes from the process itself.
From a traditionalist jewellery designer to setting up Formula 3D Corporation … what made you transition to the world of technology?
I’ve always had a passion for technology and am always looking to add new technology to our processes, to either streamline or improve our manufacturing.
Formula 3D Corporation was formed to be able to offer 3D printed precious metal. We focus on developing the precious metal powders and of course, processing it with 3D printers.
At JCK Las Vegas, you launched a partnership with Desktop Metal, a 3D hardware company, that showcased sterling silver jewellery designed by you and printed on the Production System P-1. Tell us more about this venture.
Desktop Metal is a 3D hardware company that focuses on binder jet printing. We are the science behind the materials, concentrating mainly on precious metals. I would say the printer itself is Desktop Metal. Formula 3D Corporation provides the ink for the printers! We will also gladly manufacture with 3D printing for any of our clients or designers who want to try the technology.
Why did you choose silver for the launch?
We chose to launch with silver because it is a low-cost entry to experiment with. In other words, it would not cost so much if there were errors in our process.
Any plans to introduce 3D gold jewellery?
That is the primary objective to introduce gold in all karatages and platinum!
What are the advantages of 3D printing in jewellery?
3D printing requires no sprues, and that is a big benefit. Also, it offers scalable printing. I can accomplish in two hours what used to take me two days to achieve. Up to tens of thousands of jewellery pieces per day can be 3D printed on the production system, and manufacturers can produce the same pieces or customised, unique ones — all in a single build.
By eliminating time-intensive techniques like casting, manufacturers can iterate and scale new designs easily — once a design is finalised, printing and production can begin immediately. Manufacturers can also establish digital inventories, storing design files digitally to be made on demand, reducing working capital requirements.
There’s also a significant reduction in waste material through recycling and reuse … substantially all of the loose powder recovered during the printing and de-powdering process can be recycled and reused for subsequent prints, driving further cost efficiencies and reducing material waste.
We believe your manufacturing units have employed robotics for superior finishing… Does this also mean that there is no room for artisanal skills?
Yes, we are deploying advanced robotic polishing to increase capacity but not to replace skilled polishers. The robots manage the lights out manufacturing, and humans pick up where the robots have limits or tasks that ‘they’ cannot accomplish.
Technology will not replace any of our employees. They will only add capacity to our already constrained production. They would also add consistency and constant function, removing downtime and delays in getting new products to the market.
Who do you supply jewellery to? Is it large retail stores or designer boutiques?
Mostly, we design and manufacture for our clients that are branded companies and designers. We’ve signed non-disclosure agreements, so the names cannot be shared.
Do you also have a retail platform? If yes, where can an individual buy your designer piece?
We are working on launching a new collection this winter in 2022-23. So, look out for it! The highlight of the collection will be natural fancy-colour diamonds.