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Handcrafted Jewelry: A Dying Art

Published: June 14th, 2017
Categories: Jewelry

So many of us have grown accustomed to mass produced jewelry hanging from every spare inch of our local department stores. This is a far cry from the painstakingly handcrafted pieces that were a staple of class and nobility. These were designed and created by a master craftsman who followed the process all the way through. They would often melt and mold their own metals using molds they themselves designed.

The cost of handmade jewelry is directly related to the materials and the artist who created the piece. If high quality gemstones are used in concert with pure gold and silver, then you can expect to pay a hefty price. Many people agree that this is worth it to own a piece of jewelry that can become a part of your family's history. Mass produced jewelry rarely has the character or the quality that can be seen in the detail of a hand tooled setting or chain. It’s always a better idea to look for important pieces in shops that specialize specifically in jewelry. These places will typically have a master jeweler on site who can customize and design everything to your specifications. Custom designs are especially popular when dealing with engagement rings. The process of creating a ring and a sterling silver necklace are very different, but equally fascinating. Consider some of the steps below:

Wax Carving

This is an incredible process that has been at the heart of handmade jewelry since the process began. First, the jeweler must draw the piece that they are making in intricate detail. Once they have done this, they will begin carving a perfect replica out of wax. They will use an array of tools to create the looks and textures that are integral to the piece. After this copy is perfected, it will be encased in plaster molding to create a final mold for the metal. The plaster will be heated up to harden with the wax still inside, melting the wax. All that’s left is a perfect mold to use when pouring the metal.

Alloying

Gold is an extremely soft metal, and sometimes needs to be mixed with a stronger material to ensure longevity. The process of mixing metals to create new or various karats of metals is called alloying. This also allows the designer to manipulate the color of the precious metals. Once the metals are ready, they are molded into the desired shape. From here, they can be filed and soldered into the final piece.

Soldering

This is an extremely delicate process that can damage the jewelry completely if not done correctly. The skills associated with soldering are difficult to come by, and really set the master craftsman apart from lesser jewelry designers. Soldering is how all of the different parts of the jewelry piece are combined. A tiny torch or heat source is used to melt the metal just enough to allow it to adhere to another piece. Heating it too much will mar the metal, and create a rough and ugly appearance. Heating it too little will prevent a good adhesion, and the jewelry will fall apart and be of poor quality. Placement is equally important. A stone setting has to be placed precisely, or the entire piece can be ruined. No one wants a ring with a stone that's glaringly off-center.

Setting Stones

The goal of this process is to place the stone in the jewelry without allowing the setting to obscure the view of the stone. Prongs are generally used to hold the stones in place. Thin strips of metal seem to grab the stone tightly, and to hold it in place.

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