The art of designing jewellery
The art of designing jewellery starts with inspiration. That inspiration begins with emotion and is translated into symbols. Those symbols can represent faith, love, respect, acceptance, beauty, loyalty or a promise.
These noble ideas are translated into the material world in the form of beautiful materials like precious metals and luxury gems. This practice dates back thousands of years from a time where shells on hemp strings were more common than tiaras and crowns.
The continual discovery of new gems, precious metals and ornamental materials, combined with the advancement of tools and metallurgy, have made it possible for almost everyone to own fine jewellery. Jewellery making technology has advanced more in the past three decades than any other time in history.
When we started almost 60 years ago, our artisans made jewellery by wax carving. Our designers carved miniature sculptures in preparation for lost wax casting. Models were then sculpted and embedded in plaster. Next we burned the models from the application to create an impression.
By alloying precious metals, we achieved the desired colour and karat and melted them by torch and placed them into the cavity with a manually wound centrifuge, Once the metal was prepared we shaped and formed it using files, abrasives, and grinding wheels. Our artisans then prepared them for soldering and welding.
Mould Making /
In mould making we begin the process by moulding an original piece using a soft material, typically wax, clay, or plaster. Once this is done, The model is placed into a flexible material that will shape the mould, which is enveloped by a tough exterior. When the moulds are separated, an impression of the original art piece remains.
From there, clay is poured into the mould creating an exact copy of the new art piece. A thin, interior layer of the second model is carefully removed, which provides a path for the metals to fill the mould. The thickness of the final art piece will be determined by the size of the gap between these two moulds.
After closing the moulds, hot wax is then poured in between the moulds, resulting in a clay figure that is completely covered in resin. A small system of vents and paths that are carved by the artist allows for the hot wax to leave the mould after settling. This allows for the gold or metallic material to flow through the mould.
Until recent years and the advance of CAD design and 3D printers, most fine jewellery was carved from wax using files and blades to cut and shave wax into an exact model of the fine jewellery. The roughcast item will then undergo polishing and the various stages of jewellery fabrication before the final stone setting.
Precision CNC Moulds
For high volume or dimension-specific orders, jewellery manufacturers often use Computer-Aided Design (CAD). In this process a designer creates a jewellery design on computer software along with specifications and exact dimensions for the piece. Once the initial design work is done, a prototype model is created. Rather than sculpting the piece individually, this prototype can be created using a 3D printer design that can go directly to casting.
For CAD designs, moulds go into computer numeric control (CNC) machines for production, similar to other mass-produced metal goods. Appropriately referred to as CNC moulds, these tools are durable and produce a wide range of custom jewellery.
The CNC moulds adhere to strict design specifications. CAD also allows versatility and affordability to make small edits and updates to designs throughout a production run.
Silver, Gold and platinum casting procedures differ greatly. Platinum melts at such extreme temperatures that specialized skills, equipment and plasters are needed. Gold casting has a wide range of karats and colours, The required alloy combinations dictate it's temperature cycles and processes.
Most jewellery casting is done through the lost-wax process, whereby models created through wax carving or printing are encased in a plaster-like medium known as investment. The investment is heated to extreme temperatures to incinerate the material, creating an impression of the desired form. The intricate cavity is then filled by precious molten metal.
Burn Out Cycle:
Wax models of resin type materials are connected to one another on a tree-like form configuration. The alignment of the models is arranged to allow gold or platinum to flow through the “tree” with minimum turbulence or resistance. The “tree” is then suspended inside a metal flask and filled with plaster slurry. Once filled, air bubbles and pockets are removed. After hardening and curing, flasks containing invested models are placed in specialized ovens, where the wax is incinerated.
Centrifugal Jewellery Casting:
Centrifugal jewellery casting uses the force of a centrifuge to create the necessary inertia to throw gold into the hollow cavity left behind. After burn out, the flask is placed in a cradle on a swing arm in which gold or platinum will be melted. When the precious metal is at a critical temperature, the centrifuge is released and metal is slung from the crucible at high velocity.
Vacuum Casting Jewellery:
The principal behind vacuum casting is very similar to the centrifugal casting in which the cavities are filled before cooling. The equipment used for vacuum casting requires the flask be loaded in a sleeve within a chamber to enable a forcible vacuum to inhale molten metal into the investment.
Continuous Casting (seamless tubing making):
We start our manufacturing process by making seamless tubing through a combination of hot extrusion (pushing a billet of metal through an orifice to produce the tube) and cold drawing (pulling that tube through draw plates fitted with tooling and dies to achieve various ring diameters). This process is time consuming but when we reviewed our procedures we found it to be very effective at imbuing a metal with greater tarnish resistance over the soldered type. It also includes the added benefits of having no soldering joint, asymmetrical microstructure, uniform hardness, and high dimensional accuracy; all contributing to a stronger final product.
Jewellery Soldering / Welding
Using a torch and a steady hand, jewellers and model makers solder miniature pieces of gold and platinum together with accuracy. Great skill is required to freehand support a miniature wire while heating it to the molten point, all while avoiding damaging other parts of the jewellery.
Jewellery welding is another method that does not involve the use of solders. In this method the metal is fused to itself with extreme temperature applied to an acute area until lasers develop and fuse the pieces. This method is often used for jewellery repair.
Most complicated jewels will be both soldered and welded. With these fabrication stages completed, the item moves to stone setting and polishing.
Stone setting is the challenging practice of securing diamonds and gemstones to jewellery. The objective is to strike the perfect balance between using the minimum amount of material necessary to secure the gem while providing the maximum durability while the jewellery is being worn.
There are a number of Setting types each intended to present gemstones differently. Some stone settings are designed to raise and highlight a single stone, while other types cluster gems to be viewed as a group. In some cases the setting work is intended to protect a fragile gem from excessive wear.
Here are a few examples of the types of stone settings used in modern jewellery:
The prong setting is familiar to almost everyone due to its prolific use in engagement rings. It uses a wide range of prong designs to fit every shape and size gem in existence; the most typical being the traditional four or six prong configurations.
It includes different styles, from trellis designs to baskets. The elevation of prong-set stones allows light to enter from the top and sides, making it the most popular method of stone setting for individual featured gems.
Bead setting is primarily used to display sequences of small diamonds in strands or continuous rows. The emergence of CAD jewellery design has made it possible to create less labour-intensive styles. With miniature beads created by computer-automated design, it is now possible to create fin bead set jewellery. new technology enables designers to position precision beads in half the time.
In pave setting, diamonds are set in fields rather than rows or strands, setting diamonds typically cover a broad expanse and share beads to create a diamond-encrusted appearance.
Bezel set stones are seated in thin strips of precious metal, formed to the shape and size of a stone. Once seated, gems and semiprecious stones are placed inside. The metal strip is then trimmed to a depth that marginally overlaps the gem. Using smooth metal tools, artisans burnish the metal by rubbing it with force to roll it over the edge of stones in Channel Setting
Channel setting is achieved when a jeweler uses a rotary cutter to create a seat in precious metal that is grooved to the size of a gem. Once the setting wall is prepared, the stone is carefully leveled into its seat. A precision handheld impact hammer is used to carefully chase over the girdle to secure the stone at the desired angle.
It enables designers to create jewellery featuring stones that lie flush in the surrounding metal. This can be done with a single large stone seated in a broad, level surface; However, this form of stone setting is most often used to set smaller stones to create a spangled look.
Polishing removes the rough precious metal forms created during jewellery casting. We use a wide array of machines and handheld tools to remove uneven surfaces from gold, platinum or silver. Using wheels and bits tipped with abrasive compounds the polishers shape and contour surfaces and the metal begins to take on a shine. Once the desired polish is achieved, various textures and finishes can be applied to specified surfaces of jewellery to add character or enhance the design.
When all of the jewellery polishing is complete, and all surfaces have been thoroughly cleaned, a jeweler can apply a chemical finish such as rhodium plating to achieve the desired look.
CNC seamless tube ring making:
We originally manufactured wedding rings from extruded tubes that were cut into identical size rings. These blank rings were then shaped.
The last technology we use in rings manufacture is a CNC machine. It has many advantages over extruded tube manufacturing because a seamless tube is used to produce the rings on an ad hoc basis according to a customer’s design. CNC machine allows a level of quality and accuracy that is not possible with the manual manufacturing process. It also provides a high degree of positional accuracy allowing greater production output.
The final inspection process verifies that all of the finished products are free from defects. This quality control does not just take place in the final stage of production. Instead a quality control inspection is done at the end of each process, from raw material, through casting and polish, ending in packaging. This allows us to minimize production anomalies.