Sometimes people wonder why it takes four weeks for an order to be made. In a time of instant gratification, drone delivered packages and instantaneous 3-D printers, the traditional art of making fine jewelry can get overlooked. So, allow us to introduce you to the world of handmade-to-order jewelry, starting off with Molding and Casting.
It starts with a blueprint and a model
Believe it or not, the image you see on our website is a computer rendering of a highly specific product blueprint. We know – It looks so real! That blueprint is used to produce a model of the item. This model ensures that all the details and scale are just right. We’re so invested in the quality of the design that sometimes it takes several iterations before we get it just right.
Next comes the mold
Once the model is right, a mold can be made. The model is encapsulated by a soft mold and placed in a machine that uses heat and pressure to turn the mold into a solid with the model embedded in the middle. After it cools, the solid mold is carefully split into two halves, and we end up with the imprint of the jewelry inside.
Some designs, such as some of our rings, are too complicated to make with one mold and are split into multiple parts, each with their own unique mold.
Then we wax on
With a new mold in hand, the jeweler uses a wax injector and molten, high quality jewelry wax to form a wax model. The hollow imprint of the jewelry in the middle of the mold is injected with the molten wax. The wax model is then attached to a “tree.” There can be anywhere from one to a dozen (or more!) wax models per tree, each on their own wax branch for casting.
The base of the tree is attached to a flat bottom and inserted into a steel flask that forms a tube around the tree. The tube is filled with a plaster like material called “casting investment.” This is then placed in a vacuum chamber that sucks all of the air out – if any air bubbles remained in the plaster when it was used to create the jewelry, it could potentially leave tiny bulbous disfigurations on the final product, and we definitely don’t want that to happen!
It takes about two hours for the investment plaster to harden inside the flask – then it’s time for the kiln!
The flask will spend anywhere from 5 to 12 hours in the kiln, at temperatures between 300 – 1500°F. During this time, the wax is “burned out” of the flask, leaving behind the detailed negative image of the model encapsulated in the investment. The base of the wax tree that was attached to the bottom end of the flask is also burned out, leaving a hollow tunnel to channel the molten metal into the empty space to make the jewelry.
Pouring the metal
Metal is melted in a crucible. Using a special torch, the empty crucible is heated until glowing red. The metal is then added and melted until smooth using the torch and a stirring rod. Meanwhile, the flask is placed upside down on a special vacuum platform that pulls the molten metal into the mold.
After the metal solidifies inside the investment, the entire flask is “quenched” by getting dunked in water until the investment dissolves, leaving a metal tree of jewelry.
*And breath* Step 1 – complete!
The branches and trunk of the metal tree are cut and each piece can then be polished, plated, enameled, and set with gems.
That was quite the lengthy process, and it’s only step 1! Thanks for sticking with us; We hope this gave you a jeweler’s insight into all of the hard work that goes into a piece, just for you. Stay tuned as we cover the rest of the steps. In the meantime, wear that jewelry with pride and shine on!