3D-Printed Jewelry Inspired by Leaves, Flowers and Jellyfish – PSFK (blog)

Differential growth was behind the craft process of Floraform, unique necklaces, earrings and bracelets based on forms found in nature

The beauty of nature has long inspired the work of artists, from painters and sculptors to fashion designers. Now, Nervous System— a Massachusetts-based generative design studio that focuses on the intersection of art, science and technology—has developed a collection of 3D-printed jewelry and sculptures inspired by the biomechanics of leaves and flowers.

Floraform, the computational simulation used to craft the collection, demonstrates how an elastic surface can develop through a process of differential growth, resulting in a collection of beautifully intricate necklaces, earrings and other pieces.

Here’s a quick explanation of the concept, according to Nervous System:

How does an organism go from a single cell to a complex differentiated structure? If a single cell were to divide and grow uniformly, it would result in a wrinkled blob. However, through carefully coordinated subdivision and differentiation, biological systems produce structures with specific, reproducible forms and functions. Growth isn’t uniform but instead differential.


In other words, some parts of the structure, whether it’s a leaf in nature or a Floraform piece of jewelry, grow more quickly than other parts. The use of varying growth rates in the Floraform simulation is what creates the unusual curves in the pieces of this collection.


Nervous System began developing the Floraform computational process after encountering several papers by mathematician and scientist L. Mahadevan, in which he speculated that the ruffled shapes of leaves and flowers are the result of the surface of the plants growing more quickly at their edges than in the middle.



A unique growth process was designed for each piece of Floraform jewelry, with the forms expanding fastest along their edges (leading to curves, folds and ruffles). Designers incorporated the concept of the wearer’s body as a constraint, as well, leading to designs that either conform to or expand from the finger, wrist or neck.


The designs come to life through 3D printing in plastic and metal, and most are available in white, black and petal pink. Some designs are 3D-printed in wax and then cast in precious metal, making them available in sterling silver.

Nervous System offers two main types of jewelry right now, categorizing pieces by their particular growth strategy: the first set is inspired by flowers and includes pieces with “curling, convoluted forms,” while the second is inspired by the arms of jellyfish. These pieces contain lots of waves and “dripping cascades” of ruffles.