Broadly speaking there are two main methods of construction in jewellery manufacture – hand work and mass production.
With hand-made jewellery, we will begin by designing a piece that will optimally display the featured stones. This piece will then be constructed out of metal plate and/or wire around the dimensions and proportions of the stones. This is advantageous for a number of reasons.
Firstly, the design will incorporate and facilitate the construction of a piece of jewellery that has the correct heights and proportions in relation to the stones. Secondly, the actual process of manufacturing, with soldering, hammering and annealing, enables the goldsmith to build up tensile strength in the metal – effectively “work hardening” it. This ensures a much longer life span for the piece.
With mass production jewellery the process is significantly different. Normally, a model will be carved out of wax and then “cast” in metal – using a “lost wax” technique – i.e: a mould is made around the wax which is then burnt out and molten metal is poured into the negative space, effectively “making” the piece in one go. This is not ideal for a number of reasons.
Firstly, wax models are normally made to accomodate a range of stone sizes – so pieces often have the incorrect heights and proportions. Not only does this impact on the overall aesthetic of the piece, it can also expose the stones to unnecessary wear and tear. Secondly, as the metal is poured to create the piece, there is no work hardening process, which has a direct impact on the longevity of the piece and often results in stones falling out.
Whilst mass production obviously has a cost effective place in the jewellery industry, ultimately it is the design combined with the method and quality of the manufacturing process that will be the defining features of value of a jewellery item. If you consider individuality and excellent workmanship to be important in your choice of a piece of jewellery, please contact me for a private discussion. You will be pleasantly surprised by our costing and the advantages of personal and professional guidance in creating a piece you will treasure.
Photo’s: courtesy of Carmen Visser .www.carmenvisser.co.za