A New In Memorium Bead

Orlando Karma Bead

It is now over 8 months since we lost our beautiful Orlando to a road accident and we still miss him terribly. His death caused many changes here, not least enclosing our garden with ProtectaFence and getting three new kittens to keep our Clicquot Happy. I have been looking for a way to carry a physical memory of him with me. I still plan to get a small paw tattoo on my shoulder where he used to sit to be carried around but I also wanted something more concrete.

I wear a beautiful Thomas Sabo “Karma” bracelet and looked around for a bead or charm that I could add to hold a small amount of his ashes. I was surprised that there was a mass of memorial jewelry designed for just this purpose but it was all rather big as it was usually meant to be worn as a pendant. None of it seemed right.

Then one day, I was checking out some 3D pinting – I had had a beautiful octopus pendant printed for my wife – and I found some easy, free, on-line design tools. After a little playing around I managed to create a bead with a hollow inside and a lid and had it printed in plastic to see what it was like. Lesson 1 .. check your dimensions! It was huge so I was glad I hadn’t had it done in silver straight away as the cost is based on the material quantity!

I decided to work on a couple of basic designs. One for bracelets like Chamilia with their need for a wide central hole, and one for bracelets like Thomas Sabo Karma with its smaller central hole which leads to a smaller bead. The hollow part of the bead needed to be suitable for some ashes, some hair or a small and flexible memento, and the walls had to be thick enough to allow text to be cut in.

As an aside, there are no 3D silver printers available – Shapeways and similar companies print the objects in high definition wax and then use the lost-wax method to cast them in silver which leaves a raw finish that can be polished (with the loss of some definition and material). To get all this to work successfully there are minimum dimensions for walls and details in 3D printed silver which can be a bit limiting – especially at the overall dimensions of something like a single bead!

I couldn’t come up with a simple, reliable screw thread so I made the lid fit snugly with a view to using one of the metal superglues. A few more rounds of plastic trial beads led to a pair of designs that I was happy with and which I could embed a name in. The smaller (Karma) bead has an outer diameter of 12mm and is 9mm high with the lid on. The lid fits well and wont slide about at all and the central storage channel is 2mm wide and around 6mm deep once closed. The central hole, suitable for Karma bracelets or other thin versions, is just over 3mm in diameter.

Here are some photos – click for more detail ….


The ends are plain (they are not really seen on the bracelet) and the need to keep wall thickness and channel width/depth to the design limits does restrict the decoration but I will experiment with a few more designs as I add the remaining beads I have planned for the other ashes and locks of hair I have from those now lost to us. I have looked at heart shaped beads and embossed features already. I shall mix them in with genuine Thomas Sabo beads (off to get another one tomorrow for our 25th wedding anniversary) but these fill a need and I’m rather pleased with the result of my first steps in 3D design!