The Art of Custom Jewelry
The art of Custom Jewelry
Custom Jewelry is by no means a new art. It has been around since the first pieces of jewelry were created. This art form has been transformed a great deal since the very beginning. Today, Computer-Aided Design programs have enhanced the way we create jewelry. Custom jewelers can take an idea and turn it into a reality.
Hand sketches are still used as a quick way to convey an idea for a custom piece. CAD can help to transform a hand sketch into a life-like photo. This will give the end user a way to visualize exactly how the piece will look with their gemstone and metal choices. It also allows changes to be made to the piece until it is exactly what the user visualizes in their mind.
Hand Sketches and Computer Renderings
Hand sketches are still used to convey the overall theme of the ring. This is a great place to start when working on conveying different design elements. To further the image of the design, computers can be used to take this design and generate highly detailed renderings. These renders will portray the piece as it will look upon completion. This really helps grasp the overall design elements and allows to changes to be made.
Levels of Custom Jewelry
Custom Jewelry comes in many different shapes, sizes and price levels. In it's most basic sense, custom jewelry has three distinct levels.
Level 1:Assembled jewelry (or stock jewelry) using mass produced parts and standard gem sizes.
Level 2:Lost wax casting and finishing
Level 3:Hand fabricated from raw materials
Each level of custom jewelry design brings with it a new set of price points, design options and style options. In many cases, there are also cross over features where one may use a stock head in a custom ring or hand fabricated parts in a lost wax casting. These categories are not exclusive, but they do allow the opportunity to design a ring that will suite the needs of every person.
To help decide how you wat your custom jewelry create for you, here are several pages to help explain explain what each level can do for you.
The vast majority of custom jewelry being made today is made from standard parts assembled in new ways. It can be as simple as putting your favorite colored gemstone in a standard mounting or a creation using parts from several different jewelry pieces.
An assembled piece of custom jewelry can have it's start in many forms. It can be a gemstone, or collection of gemstones, from an older piece, it could be a favorite ring that needs refreshing, or it can simply be a new gemstone picked up on a whim. In many of these cases standard parts can be found to create a new ring or other piece of jewelry inexpensively.
Lost Wax Casting
Each piece of custom jewelry starts as a series of ideas and sketches taken from a consumers goals, dreams and emotions. This starting point is molded into a design especially for you. It all starts when you speak with a jewelry designer and discuss what look you are trying to achieve. In some cases it's a reminder of jewelry owned long ago, in others it's a reminder of the joy that is to come. Those thoughts and emotions can be used with jewelry design skill in order to create a piece of jewelry that is uniquely yours.
Your initial ideas for a custom piece can be used to create a CAD design. Once the design is completed, a rendering is created for you to visualize what the end product will look like. Any changes to your design can be made until it is exactly what you envision. From these pictures a wax is carved and used for casting. How the wax is carved is determined by the design of the jewelry. Many pieces are sent to a CAM machines which allows each piece to be cut with exact precision based on the model built in the computer. However, some pieces do not lend themselves to being milled. For those, a master engraver / wax carver can take over and hand carve the wax. This makes even the basic wax model it's own unique piece of art. In either case, every wax is inspected and refined by a wax carver until it is as near perfect as it can be made. For highly detailed pieces, a 3-D printer can be used to grasp the attributes of the design. The detail can be conveyed down to a mere micron to ensure that everything is captured in your new piece! Most 3-D jewelry printers use a wax/resin based material suitable for casting.
The next step is to take that wax or resin model and turn it into a piece of metal. This is done by placing the wax or resin in a metal flask and pouring an investment (a lot like plaster) around the wax. Once the investment hardens, the flask is placed into a burnout oven. Most flasks are burned out at over 1000 degrees celsius. But each burnout is determined by the type of metal that will be cast and the type of material being burned out.
After about 8 hours in the oven the flask is removed and placed in a centrifugal where an oxygen / hydrogen torch is used to melt the needed metal. A vacuum casting machine can be used to create a controlled environment. This type of machine uses argon or other gas to control the casting environment. Silver and gold are both relatively easy to cast, with melting points below 1100 degrees C (2000 degrees F). Platinum presents unique problems because the melting point is over 1800 degrees C (3000 degrees F) and requires a much hotter flame to melt it. The wax model disappears and becomes the metal piece. This is why it is called lost wax casting.
After the ring is cast, all of the finishing work is done. Sanding, finishing, polishing and stone setting. If required for the design, hand engraving is done after polishing to create a crisp, detailed look. When all details are completed, you are left with a unique design that captures the initial emotions and dreams that were brought up in the design.
Hand fabricated jewelry is put together by building the entire piece from scratch. A true 100% hand fabricated piece will not use any cast pieces. The entire piece will be made by using metal sheet, wire and will not use any stock pieces. A lost wax cast piece can have elements of hand fabrication, such as a leaf design made from a metal sheet. This does not make it 100% hand fabricated, but rather a partial hand fabricated piece. Hand fabrication should not be confused to what is commonly referred to as handmade jewelry. Handmade jewelry can be anything from assembled jewelry to lost wax casting. It does not necessarily denote a hand fabricated piece.
Custom Jewelry Poll
What type of custom jewelry would you create?
Skeleton Ring on Mill
Here is a look at the wax mill in action.
Custom Jewelry Photo GalleryClick thumbnail to view full-size
Tell a story!
Each custom crafted item tells its own unique story. With many designs, they start out as a vision in someones mind. This vision is portrayed into the design and transformed into reality! Each piece tells a unique story from the creator and is a piece that can be passed down through families for generations!
How to have your own custom jewelry made.
You can have your own custom piece of jewelry created. There are several custom jewelers that can help transform your ideas into a real piece of jewelry. You can speak with a custom jewelry artisan today and they can transform your ideas into a custom work of art that you will cherish forever!
100% of the proceeds for this lens have been donated to Charity!