If you know the basics of how jewellery is made, you will appreciate your ring more, and will be able to make an informed choice between handmade jewellery and those that were mass-produced.
Herewith a short description of the manufacturing processes in use today.
Firstly, a designer makes a detailed sketch in which the specifications of the gems, gold and the required finger size are combined in an aesthetically pleasing design.
The goldsmith interprets this design and proceeds as follows:
Precious metal granules are melted in an electric oven or with a gas flame and poured into mould to form an ingot.
The metal ingot is then rolled into a bar, a sheet, or pulled through decreasing holes in a drawplate to form wire.
After being rolled or stretched a few times, most metals become hard and brittle and need to be annealed (heated to a certain temperature) before further work is possible.
Designs are then sketched onto the metal with a needle-like instrument.
The metal is cut by shears and sawed by a hand-saw containing a thin wire-like blade.
The metal is bent by various types of pliers, steel bending blocks, hammers and anvils into a ring or whatever form is required.
The goldsmith then uses a hand file and/or electronic drill to sculpture the ring into the required design.
Metal parts, such as wires for claws, are soldered together with a small gas flame using solder with a melting point lower than that of the metal. Some metals are laser welded without the use of solder.
Holes in which diamonds are to be set, are drilled into the metal with an electronic hand drill.
Pre-polishing is done before a setter secures the gem in its setting.
Thereafter, a final polish is given and the item hallmarked.
If required, the item is rhodium plated in an electrolytic bath to give it a “whiter” look.
Quite a job, wouldn’t you agree?
WHY CUSTOM MAKE?
Handmade jewellery is unique and a product of time, skill and patience. It also is stronger since the metal has been hardened by bending, rolling, and hammering. The claws holding gems are individually made and less likely to be porous often in casted jewellery.
Labour cost of handmade items are more than in mass production but is justified by the higher quality of the final item.
You are welcome to visit our Aurum Art Goldsmith Atelier to observe the age-old skills of making jewellery by hand.
Mass produced items
There are different techniques for the mass reproduction of jewellery, such as stamping and electroforming. Most popular, however, is to design the item via a computer program and print wax models to be casted in metal.
Computer Assisted Design techniques (CAD/CAM)
Existing apps allow the designer to create 3-D models on a computer screen which can be rotated and altered at will. The design is sent to a 3-D printer that produces wax replicas of the design. In some cases, you can try on a wax model of the final item within an hour after it has been designed.
Often these wax models are set with small diamonds before they are casted.
Lost wax casting technique
These wax replicas are waxed together to form a “tree” which is placed in a metal cylinder and a slurry of investment (a type of Plaster of Paris cement) is poured into the cylinder containing the wax tree. Once the investment has dried and hardened, it is heated so the wax melts and flows from the mould (i.e., the lost wax process).
Molten gold is poured or sucked into the mould by centrifugal forces or under vacuum. The gold is allowed to cool and the mould broken to reveal a tree made from gold – an exact replica of the wax tree.
Lastly, the individual items are cut from the gold tree and either filed and polished by hand, or tumbled in a slowly rotating drum which contains water and fine polishing powder. The result – a large number of duplicated and polished gold items that are produced with relatively little labour input.
Nearly all jewellery sold in shops or the internet have been produced in this way. They are made to weigh as little as possible and is difficult to repair or alter afterwards.
Prins and Prins designers are skilled at creating CAD designs for the casting method, which will last a lifetime. Our experienced design team can advise you, according to your own unique design, which method of manufacture will be most cost effective for you, and will suit your design best. We are fortunate to be able to offer both handcrafted jewellery and cast jewellery and can produce your orders in a short time frame.
Your personal consultant is just a call away. We will love to hear from you.