How Is Jewelry Made - Guide to Jewelry Making Techniques
Jewelry Making Ideas
You must have admired many rings, bracelets, necklaces and other precious jewelry and wondered how they were so beautifully made and crafted. Who were the talented artisans who wielded their skills and creativity in breathing life to these gemstones? How were they set?
For many of us who have taken for granted these refined and elegant crafts of jewelry making, here is a quick guide at how jewelry is made. A glimpse behind the scene at the designing and creating jewelry that will not only leave you in awe but wonder when you can afford to buy them!
How are Jewelry & Ornament Make In the Early Days
In the early days, jewelry and ornament were fashioned and made from stones, metal, bones, wood and other attractive materials available within the country. The artisan would spend days hammering, pounding and chiseling the intricate item to get the desired shape and size.
Some of these ancient jewelry-making techniques use several ingenious methods. Methods that were commonly used in the early days are now considered a specialty skill.
Among the technique is filigree. Filigree is a technique where materials such as silver, copper or gold are heated and pour through small holes to create thin wires. The artisans will then wind these wires to create patterns such as animals, flowers or just a simple curved pattern.
It is a difficult technique that requires patience and a steady hand. Filigree jewelry was very popular in the early '20s and it is still popular up to this day.
Cloisonné is another ancient technique where pieces of glass are inserted in open compartment in metals. It is then heated at high temperature to create an elaborate design of vibrant color.
Cloisonné technique is popular in China and Japan and a very well-crafted cloisonné enamel object can cost quite a bit.
Lost Wax Casting For Jewelry Design
Lost wax casting technique involved carving the jewelry design in wax. It is then covered with clay and baked until the clay mold is hard. Through a small hole, the hot wax is poured out. The artisan then pours the molten metal, which could be silver or gold, into the mold to cast the jewelry.
This technique is still being used today as not only it is the easiest, but also the most cost efficient. If you attend classes on how to make jewelry, one of the method and technique taught will be lost wax casting.
How is Jewelry Produced Today?
Today, jewelry is produced using a combination of several methods. It uses the traditional method of using simple tools to modern and sophisticated tools that are sometimes computer controlled.
Despite all these, skill and creativity remains the important tool for any jewelry artisanship. Jewelry involves several processes and these can be long and slow procedures.
Let us look at the steps taken from concept to final product in jewelry making.
Jewelry Design Concept and Jewelry Design Ideas
In any product, you have to conceptualize the design first. Likewise, in jewelry making process, designers will be briefed on the required product and its uses. For example, the designer will be told to come out with a ring design for Valentine's Day using diamond and white gold.
They will then sketch out the design and once approved, the jewelry crafting work can start.
Jewelry Making Tools - Jewelry Molding and Casting
This approved design will be handed over to the model maker. In some companies, several jewelry artisans will specialize in certain design. If this is the case, the artisan with a specific skill and talent will be assigned to do the molding and casting, whose expertise is best suited to create this particular jewelry.
The artisan will then transform the design into a master mold. This is the most crucial part, as the results will depend on this mold.
This old tradition is still done by hand especially for one of a kind design piece. This process can vary from a few days to a few months depending on the complexity of the design, which may require more detail and delicate shaping works.
The selection of material used for the mold is also important. Natural rubber, silicone, and wax are the most popular as they are the cheapest. For intricate design that requires several tweaking then wax will be used as it is pliable and easy to work on,
Metal is another material that is used as a mold, but it is the most expensive. However, it has better accuracy, consistency, and precision. Some company uses gold as a mold when they need a fast work. Silver, being the most economical of all metal for this molding process, will be used if the mold needs to be reused more than once. Jewelry that is molded with metal is naturally more expensive.
This is another complex process. The wax mold is placed in a steel container, which is then filled with investment powder (like plaster of Paris, but more durable). It is then heated in a heat chamber.
The heat will melt the wax and solidifies the investment powder. The liquefied metal is then poured into this container.
It is then allowed to cool and opened to expose the jewelry, which is still in casting form.
Types of Jewelry Finishes
There are several techniques to create a jewelry finish. The most common are the high polish, matte and satin, brushed or hammered.
Embellishing and Setting
Once the creation is cast, the stones that are required for the design will be selected and assorted. The selection will consider the stone sizes and weights that will be appropriate for the final setting. It is a time-consuming process and requires the knowledge of an experienced and skilled person
Once selected, it will be sent to the setting department. Using a microscope, the setting specialist will apply each gemstone to the cast material. This micro-setting process requires a steady hand, skill and years of experience to get a perfect finish for this jewelry design.
The next stage is polishing and plating.
Get Your Jewelry Polishing Cloth
Lost Wax Casting
Polishing and Plating
Deburring, polishing and buffing can be considered the second last stage where the entire piece is carefully and painstakingly deburred, polished, buffed and cleaned to get the highest degree of smoothness and shine.
Deburring is removing the sharp edges, burrs and air bubbles on the material.
Polishing is the use of specific abrasives to get a shinier surface finish. Different polishing materials are used for different metals. Hence, to polish gold, the material is different from those that are required for platinum and silver.
Buffing is the next step after polishing, to get a high sheen and shine for the final finish.
The last and final process is plating. Once the item is polished, it is then sent for plating using the electro-deposition process. Depending on the jewelry design, this could be using copper, gold, chromium, silver, rhodium or any other metals based on the approved design concept.
To increase the wear-ability and durability, rhodium is often used to plate white gold and platinum jewelry.
Gold is often used to plate silver and sold off as gold jewelry. Although you can still buy solid gold jewelry, this is usually more expensive.
Quality Control Check
Once plating is complete, it is then sent to the quality control section for a thorough check for any defect. If there are any, it will be sent back to the respective sections for correction.
In some companies, the chief artisan does these inspections. For an expensive and elaborate jewelry design using rare or valuable gemstone such as Paraiba Tourmaline, the General Manager or CEO may even be part of the inspection team.
These jewelry pieces will not be released for sale until this team gives the seal of approval.
Jewelry and Fashion
The trend for jewelry and fashion changes every year but not many people can afford to keep up with the changes in the jewelry trend. What's important is that you now know how jewelry is made and why it can take several months to conceptualize and create a bejeweled piece, so you appreciate and value your jewelry even more.
I've never thought of my jewelry as trophies. I’m here to take care of it and to love it, for we are only temporary custodians of beauty— Elizabeth Taylor
Fun Facts - Most Expensive Jewelry Pieces in the World
The Mouawad‘s 637 carats L’Incomparable Diamond Necklace ranked as one of the world's priciest jewelry. This exquisite deep-yellow diamond centerpiece is the world’s largest internally flawless diamond. It weighs an amazing 407.48 carats and was discovered by a young girl in 1980 in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
It took over four years to craft and polish it before it was revealed to the public in 1984. This incomparable diamond is complemented by 90 other smaller diamonds of various cuts.
© 2012 Mazlan