Creativity is just the beginning. Once you’ve derived your blue print of design, you’re now tasked with taking it off the paper and into reality. Figuring out how the various joints will be assembled through sub-processes to finally be in a store conveying your vision to the fullest. Traditional methods rely wholly on the handmade process, whereas modern methods will tag in various machines to get the job done. There are endless options to choose from that we couldn’t possibly cover in detail in one blog post. Nevertheless, we’ll look at some of the buzzwords you’ve probably heard before; maybe here, here or here and in your general interactions with jewellery.
LOST WAX CASTING
Also known as ‘Investment Casting’, this is the earliest metal technique dating as far back as the Bronze Age. Often used in jewellery manufacturing, it’s a method of creating a hand-crafted mould that will produce several findings made of wax. According to an article by Valentin Magro, “To create a large number of precious metal components in a short amount of time, jewellers will create a large mould from which dozens of findings and other parts are cast at once.” All the pieces within this plaster, known as the investment, are fixed to a central base to form what looks like a wax tree. Once the investment is dry, it’s placed inside a kiln to melt the wax away to get the investment plaster mould that molten metal will be placed into. It’s then cooled to solidify. The investment mould is then broken off by placing it into cold water, and the casting is then fragmented into different jewellery pieces.
DIE STRUCK METHOD
This method relies on pressure; 25 tons per square inch to be exact. This pressure is used to force the metal into a metal mould. Then a plunger or compressed air forces the molten metal into a metallic die until its atoms move together and solidify. This method is estimated to have been in use since the 1800’s and is often used to produce complex shapes.
Centrifuging is often used by artisans that want to work on smaller, more comprehensive pieces of the design. The jewellery is cast using a motorised arm that whirls on an axle which is contained inside a vat. The vat is particularly essential as it keeps the stray molten metal flecks from flying out and in jurying anyone in the room. This jewellery casting process is different from the industrial grade that shapes the pieces by placing the mould inside a spinning drum.
Unlike the lost wax casting that can only be used once to create moulds, this technique can be used repeatedly. Using metals such as bronze, iron and steel, permanent moulds are made and warmed up before being filled with the help of centrifugal force or gravity. However, since precious metals such as gold have a high melting point, ceramics – which can take on more heat than metal – is used for permanent jewellery casting. Although this method can be used numerous times, the permanent mould does experience lassitude and begins to wane after several uses.
This is one of the newer techniques on the list, with a immense array of options. This mechanised process of three-dimensional printing works by layering thin deposits of material on top of each other to create an object. From plastics and nylon, to metals and glass, it’s not limited in the type of materials it works with. It also widens the possibilities to play with complex designs under a shorter time frame than it would if done by hand. It can be used solely to produce the entire piece or can work with casting techniques to create a multi-dimensional article.
PRECISION CNC MOULDS
Using sophisticated CAD (Computer Aided Design) programmes, designers can now take their crafting and drawing to a more complex level, detail-wise. Furthermore, they can tag team with 3D printers and print out the jewellery in a matter of hours. Once the exact specifications and dimensions of the piece are input in the computer software, a prototype is created. As is, this prototype can go directly to casting. So what exactly are CNC moulds? Known as Computer Numeric Control machines, this is where the CAD designs moulds go for production. Due to their durability, they are used for high volume orders, as well as, designs that are highly dimension-specific. Having the ability to digitally envision the design gives the artists the versatility to not only see what the end product would look like, but to also make edits to the designs pre-production.
Another modern process on the list, this uses (you guessed it) lasers to engrave designs onto stones and jewellery. Unlike the traditional imprinting tools that came in direct contact with the jewellery and naturally required a steady hand, lasers rely on concentrated light and heat. When setting the wavelengths to be used, the different chemical compositions of stones and alloys used in the design is taken into consideration. While its impressive that in can work on any surface – curved or flat, large or small – it’s the laser’s precision that has made this a welcomed addition into the jewellery manufacturing arena.
Once a piece has been complete, this is effectually the last stage it will undergo in the production process. This multistage process buffs metals to achieve the desired lustre. Using a soft rotary tool made from muslin, bristle or felt, the metal is worked on by various polishing compounds descending from coarse to fine. When applied to precious metals, on the other hand, the polishing works to leave a more matt appearance.
Whether you choose to use traditional, modern or a mix of the techniques, the end result tends to be incredible art works; if you keep the elements and principles of design in mind. However, if you’re not particularly sure what techniques you should be aiming for, allow the materials/metals you’ve chosen to guide you. You also want to consider what your USP and style is and match it to the corresponding process. Read more in-depth into the particular techniques and collaborate with an expert skilled in the art to produce pieces that are timeless and communicate your vision.