Good Jewelers are not always easy to find
Most people don’t realize but there are several specialized areas within the jewelry manufacturing process that are sometimes not known by all jewelers. In some cases you will find that a jeweler can create a nice jewellery piece but you will find out that he often has to send it to another specialist to actually set the stone. However some jewelers such as John, pictured below, have an all round skill permitting him to tackle just about anything. John actually worked for a firm in England who did jewelry for the Royal family, so his experience was extensive.
John, one of those jewelers with a heap of skill and patience
John unfortunately (for us) has retired now but when I think of jewelers, I always think of John. You see, to be a jeweler (or ‘jeweller’ as we spell it in Australia and the U.K.) you have to have a number of skills, and not all of them have to do with being a master craftsman as John was (and is). If you have ever had a go at making jewelry yourself as I, being an opal cutter, have done, you will realize that working with gold and silver, creating miniature things is a real challenge. So you don’t just have to have years of experience, you also need patience, which John has, and I don’t have much of. Opal Cutting is a much more straight forward occupation. I actually taught John how to sand and polish opals. He learnt that very quickly and was able to make minor repairs without having to send the opals to a separate factory.
What different processes do jewelers use to create the jewelry?
Well, the traditional way of making jewelry is to take a piece of metal, either gold, silver, platinum, or Palladian (or indeed high quality stainless steel which is being used a lot more nowadays because of its enduring qualities), mill it (put it through a set of steel rollers which flatten the metal and make it into something you can cut and bend) and then start to saw, shape, weld and create a masterpiece by hand. This is the old way of doing it that stretches back through history to the very beginnings of the human race. It’s actually still the most sought after process. It’s really nice to have something original, made by hand. However, unfortunately, not everyone can afford to pay for the time involved in this process, so other methods have been developed.
Other methods the jeweler uses to create masterpieces.
Jewelers can also apply the system that is called ‘lost wax casting.’ It must be said that while its true, modern innovative machines have been developed to perfect this process, the method itself is by no means new. Casting too stretches back into history. All sorts of mediums have been used to make copies of things such as cuttle fish, sand (sand again) and clay. This involves the creating of a shape in the material to form the basis for the casting. In the case of lost wax casting, the shape which is first carved in wax, is installed in a cylinder over which a creamy texture of special clay is poured. It is put into a furnace which hardens the clay and melts the wax (hence the term ‘lost wax’) The hardened clay is then removed from the furnace and allowed to cool and the molten metal is poured into the cylinder down through a connecting tunnel called the ‘sprew.’ When the clay cylinder is split apart, the shape created by the wax is now replaced with the metal, leaving you with the basis for a fine jewelry piece. You can then copy and duplicate this casting with this method.
The Jewelers then finish the castings
Its now a matter of filing, sanding, and polishing to bring the jewelry piece to a finishing stage. If there are stones to be set, claws or bezels have to be filed and shaped to make them fit perfectly. The jeweler has now completed the process. There are other methods that jewelers can use as well but these will be discussed in another article.