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The new Valentine’s Day gift: 3-D printed jewelry

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Valentine’s Day is coming, gents, so it’s time for all you engineering types to step away from the 3-D design software for a sec and visit your lady’s favorite jewelry store.

Or maybe not. Cambridge startup Matter.io can help you put those computer skills to romantic use by creating custom jewelry with a 3-D printer.

“Look, we’re four nerdy dudes — we don’t know much about jewelry,” said chief executive Dylan Reid. “We wanted to help dudes like us who have to buy jewelry do something that would be unique.”

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Reid isn’t talking about cheap pieces of plastic here (although, you can go that route). He’s talking about jewelry made from real metals, like brass, steel, bronze and sterling silver.

You’ve probably seen 3-D printers made by the likes of MakerBot and Formlabs that shape liquid resins into plastic objects, but the high-end printers employed by Matter.io use thin layers of powdered metals that are zapped by lasers. The heating and cooling of metal filaments creates solid shapes. Layer after layer of laser-zapped powder produces a piece of jewelry.

You can submit an original design or pick one of the ring and necklace templates at Dyo, the startup’s new online store. Either way, you’ll end up with a one-of-a-kind piece because the digital nature of 3-D printing makes customization easy.

The broken obelisk pendant, for instance, comes with his and hers halves that fit together. But your half fits only with your partner’s, and no one else’s, because the break is different on each pair. Such variation would be impractical for mass-produced jewelry cast in a mold.

“We’ve had to make do since the Industrial Revolution with stuff that’s right off the shelf. You’re forced to derive meaning from it, but you don’t play any role in designing it,” Reid said. “Now, by actually doing something creative to make jewelry, it kind of gives us all a leg up.”

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