Learning CAD for Jewellery (Matrix vs 3Design)

CAD or Computer Aided Design is now an integral part of the jewellery industry and after spending a year learning how to set stones, it was time for me to try my hand at this!

When it comes to CAD for jewellery, there aren’t a whole lot of options out there and by far the biggest and most commonly used program is Rhino with the Matrix plugin. So it made sense for me to learn on what most of the industry was using.

Back to School……Again!

After doing a fair bit of research into courses over the summer of 2019, I decided I might as well carry on with the School of Jewellery as I had been a student there for 4 years now!

But going into the class for the first time, I wasn’t nervous or excited, I was just there and I think that this was because I felt I need to do this, rather than wanting to do it and this isn’t the best mindset to start a new endeavour.

In the first class, we met my tutor Heather, who is a graduate of the school and works as a CAD designer for one of the biggest manufacturers in the Quarter, so it is safe to say that she knows what she is talking about. The rest of the class was a varied mix of students from professionals looking to add a new skill to full time students who wanted more tuition.

Matrix 9

In the first class, we were shown the CAD software that we would be using for the course, which was Matrix 9.

Now by this point (Oct 2019), it had been replaced by the new MatrixGold but we were still going to be learning on the older and soon to be unsupported Matrix 9.

When it comes to technology, I am pretty quick to pick things up and don’t usually struggle but I almost instantly found Matrix to be complicated and in some ways illogical to use.

Even very basic tasks seemed to take far more steps than it should.

But I would persist and see if it would start to make more sense as the weeks went on, as I became more familiar with the platform.


As we moved through the weeks heading up towards Christmas, I still wasn’t clicking with Matrix, even with Heathers great tuition, the whole program just seemed over complicated to me.

I think what got me the most, was that I wasn’t enjoying using the program and even playing around and doing things felt like a chore.

Following the Christmas break, part of me was already checked out of the course. I was almost having to force myself to go every week.

I also had no inclination at this point to get the student version for myself and I think the reason for this is that I knew that I had no interest in trying to further my skills with the program. The reason for this is that I have always had the philosophy that if you are struggling and almost fighting to try and learn something, then it is not for you!

So it was time to see what other options were out there…


I had heard about 3Design a couple of years ago as Charlotte from the Gemmology course used 3design and had always said how good it was. A few months before starting the CAD course, I had enquired about 3Design with Pooja at Sierra Consultancy (3design’s UK distributor) but never actually tried it out.

I had also spoke to Jack Meyer at cadjewelleryskills.com and explained the issues I was having with Matrix and he said I should give 3Design a go. So I started watching a few YouTube videos and the workflow just looked a bit more logical to me, I knew I needed to try it for myself, I just needed to work out how?

One day as if by fate, I happened to be browsing Instagram and saw that Pooja was going to be on the HS Walsh stand at the Jewellery & Watch show, so I decided to pop along and see if I could have a quick go with it.

20 minute demo later and I was pretty much hooked, it just made sense to me and I took out a Practice licence for students, there and then. A few days later, it was all downloaded and I was ready to go and I was excited to try it out!

It really didn’t take me long to get comfortable with 3Design and within a few days, I was quite happily beginning to design rings and pendants, that I had struggled or not been able to do with Matrix and you can see some of these below.

4 Claw Diamond Solitaire Ring

One of the things I love about the program is that I found it really easy to know where I had gone wrong or why something hadn’t worked and then how to not do that in the future.


This very much reiterated something that I have believed for a long time, and that is that you need to use the right tools for you. It doesn’t matter if 1000 people tell you that tool A is better than tool B, if you prefer and feel more comfortable using tool B, then that is the right one for you.

And in this situation, 3Design was definitely the right tool for me. I also realised from this that you probably shouldn’t start a course because you feel you need to. When you are investing in yourself, your skills and your future, always make sure that it is something that you want to do as it will make the experience much more enjoyable.

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