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Building a 3D jewelry career

By 3dtotal staff

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Date Added: 14th April 2015

3dtotal talks to Ziggy Hentze about his military past and digital arts future creating bespoke military medals and jewelry in ZBrush



Following a career in the army and in business, at 47 Sigmund Hjalmar Hentze (known as Ziggy) found himself having to reboot his career. Where many would look to a training course or vocational program, Ziggy found ZBrush.

After exploring a number of different art forms such as oils, pencil sketching and airbrush but it was 3D that sparked his creativity. While his patient wife Juanita supported him, Ziggy developed his 3D skills in ZBrush and Modo with no specific goal in mind other than keeping his sanity. However this risk paid off and Ziggy has gone onto establish his own freelance career, drawing on his military past and passion for ZBrush by creating military inspired jewelry.

3dtotal: You use 3D software to design military jewelry, could you briefly summarize your pipeline from concept to printing?
Sigmund Hjalmar Hentze (Ziggy): I chose military jewelry as our country has been through a long terrible war, and I felt I could bring back the honor we old soldiers once had, as politics caused and cost us the war.

Having a large selection of units to choose from, with all the insignia coming from a pre-computer era, I decided I could improve on these. I take them into either CorelDraw or Illustrator and then fix and export to ZBrush where I build a base mesh to do my sculpting from. Once the base mesh is done, the fun starts.

I used to painstakingly redraw the mesh in Modo, but ZBrush 4.6 has made life in 3D a dream and leaves room for more creativity. It has not been an easy road, but over the last 2 years, software companies have really pulled their weight, leaving more time for creativity.

Render of the 3SAI Griffon - sculpted in ZBrush and Modo

A range of cufflinks and a pendant

3dt: Who, would you say, are the customers for your work – is it the 3D community or collectors of military jewelry and medals?
SHH: My customers have been from all fields – I have made book covers, and recently a German band contacted me for a new album cover design, but all that changed a year back when I was approached by a professional jeweler from Johannesburg. He sent me a design that someone gave him and asked if I could do this, and to my surprise the work he sent me was my own design that I proposed to an ex-soldier a few years ago.

Well, this led to us forming Military Jewelry, so at the moment I focus on the jewelry side, but do other freelance work too, and am starting a new line with yet another ex-soldier (so many seem to be without work). This is a trophy business where we have my work printed in Europe and then molded and cast in Namibia.

This custom request was never done as Special Forces didn't approve of their emblem being combined with other emblems.

This is a new range starting in 2014. The first image is a ZBrush render, the second is a Keyshot render, and the insert is a Modo render

3dt: Which came first for you, Jewelry design or 3D design?
SHH: Definitely 3D, but in 2010, 4 years into my affair with ZBrush, I was contacted via a Jewelry company in South Africa that were going to can a project of converting an animated figure of the SpringBoks (Rugby Team) mascot 'Bokkie' into jewelry.

I accepted the challenge, as bread on the table is always important, but did not have a clue what I was letting myself into. Having to design something so minute was not easy, as I had to jump to and from ZBrush to Modo to measure and adapt. This was a stressful time, but I don't give up easily and learnt a lot in this period of time.

The range of rings

3dt: How do you see digital software changing the face of jewelry design?
SHH: I cannot speak much about real jewelry software programs such as Rhino, as I have not used them yet and don't really see me doing so soon. As mentioned I use Modo in conjunction with ZBrush, I love the organic side of designing.

ZBrush has developed a few tools that have made hard edge modeling a breeze, and I just hope they'll bring in measuring tools soon. I have found out how to measure on the ZBrush forum, but this is a tedious method. A must is a 64bit version, which should make life easier as one works with real mesh with a polycount of up to 40 million at times, to keep the detail.

ZBrush has changed the field of jewelry design.

MOTH (Memorable Order of the Tin Hats) design - ZBrush with KeyShot render

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Readers Comments (Newest on Top)
Rory Bjrkman on Wed, 15 April 2015 2:08pm
This is really interesting work , inspiring stuff
Ian on Wed, 15 April 2015 11:17am
Can perhaps help Ziggy here ...needs to contact me
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