Vasana Dharmawardane brings the beauty of the world to his jewelry
The owner and creative force behind Design Gold was the first in his family to be an artisan. While growing up in Sri Lanka, Vasana Dharmawardane’s father noticed his artistic talent and sent him to a full-time jewelry design school. After two years of study, Vasana emerged as one of the top six students and was awarded an internship in Belgium where he learned the trade.
“Studying under European jewelers taught me how to develop my own, unique design style,” he says. “I was exposed to so many influences and ideas that were new to me. Everyone had their own shop where they only sold their unique style of gems and their own type of jewelry.”
It was only natural that Vasana would start his own jewelry line after finishing his internship. He honed his style using the shapes and colors of gemstones unique to Sri Lanka while applying the techniques and emphasis on individuality he discovered in Europe. He established relationships with wholesalers in nearby Australia, and after several trips, he decided to move to the area of Queensland.
Vasana fell in love with the Gold Coast. Its natural beauty became fresh inspiration for his jewelry. Design Gold was born, and Vasana would soon discover a fresh process that would unlock even more inspiration — CAD and 3D printing.
His most creative time
“I was a traditional jeweler who didn’t use any of that technology,” he says. But he was curious about what might be possible. He connected with a CAD designer from back home in Sri Lanka who created digitized renderings of his designs. These files made it possible to 3D print wax models at a service bureau on Solidscape machines. It was a revelation. “The new process made my job easy. Using CAD and Solidscape gave me a whole new level of speed and precision. It was the best thing that ever happened to me!”
The only problem was the waiting. Shipping from the service bureau was too slow. So eventually he bought his own Solidscape and taught himself how to use it. “I had really good fun with it,” laughs Vasana. “That was the most creative time for me as a jewelry designer.” The high precision coupled with the immediacy of having every step of the manufacturing process in-house was a game-changer — 3D printing design freedom.
A few years later, Vasana upgraded to a new Solidscape wax 3D printer for increased automation and ease of use. “It arrived just after Christmas and was the best present,” he says.
A rich customer experience
Most of Design Gold’s clients are young professionals looking for one-of-a-kind engagement and wedding rings, but he also serves those who have retired to the Gold Coast and want to create new jewelry using gemstones from their old pieces they no longer wear. In either case, customers almost always arrive with a concept in mind. He sits down with them and sketches their ideas on paper to ensure he understands what they are describing. His customers enjoy the experience of being involved in the design process. Then he goes back to the drawing board, literally, and creates hand-drawn jewelry designs.
“Every stone has a story behind it, and my customers like their jewelry to be very unique,” says Vasana, which is a perfect fit for his process. “I don’t copy. I contribute my own distinct design style while incorporating the materials my clients want. I give them options for using different shapes and colors of both stones and gold. That’s what sets my jewelry apart.”
Once a design is selected, the next step is creating a 3D design file in CAD. The realistic, full-color digital rendering can be animated 360 degrees so customers have a full understanding of the design and the materials used. When they are completely happy, Vasana 3D prints the wax model for casting. Then he finishes the piece by hand, setting diamonds and other gemstones.
“Some of my designs are very complex. I use different colors, like a rose gold and white gold with yellow gold parts — tiny pieces in one setting that interconnect,” Vasana explains. “The accuracy of the casted parts makes it so easy to put them together. Using a Solidscape has saved me so much time in finishing.”
The next generation
After 20 years living on the Gold Coast and a total of 30 years doing business in Australia, Vasana has an avid following. “I now know the kids of a few of my regular customers,” he says. “It’s a whole new generation of clients and their families.”
As for his own family, Vasana may have been the first to enter the jewelry industry, but he won’t be the last. His son helps manage Design Gold’s business operations and does most of the CAD work, converting Vasana’s detailed sketches into 360-degree digital renderings that are transformed into precise wax models and finally finished bespoke pieces. His daughter works in the mining industry in Australia as a civil engineer. She lives nearby and is learning CAD drawing, too.
“Hopefully, she might join me some day as well,” Vasana says with a smile. Getting to work alongside his children is a joy he could not have imagined when he first started in the jewelry industry. Plus, he says, “I would enjoy a little bit of a retirement down the road.”
In the meantime, Vasana is reveling in his success and the 3D printing design freedom afforded by his Solidscape. “The possibilities are quite crazy. Endless! With my Solidscape, I don’t have to worry about the printing process or the quality of my models and their castings. I can focus on what I love: designing jewelry.”