Looking at the windows of jewelry stores, have you ever thought about the journey each product does before appearing on the stand? Today we will tell you everything about jewelry design, share insights and introduce you to all production stages: from a sketch to a final product.
1. Moodboard and Sketching
Every collection begins with sources of inspiration. Before making sketches the designer usually creates a moodboard, which includes graphic images and photos, reflecting the theme of the future collection. Next step is sketching. The idea of the artist acquires real contours on paper. The designer develops several versions of the same jewelry piece, which may have different design elements, inserts, fastening options and other details. Only then comes the choice of the best version of a jewelry piece (aesthetically and functionally).
2. 3D and Master Modelling
A 3D model of the product is created in graphic design software (usually it’s Rhinoceros) and is based on the artist’s sketches. Here’s when two-dimensional sketches of the artist acquire tangible volumes and shapes. It’s crucial for a 3D modelling specialist to have the competences of a designer and technologist at the same time, because even the smallest technical details and features should be taken into account. Sometimes a 3D designer works in cooperation with a technologist from the manufacture, which makes it possible to pre-evaluate all the characteristics of the future product and make adjustments if it’s needed. The 3D model should be designed in the most convenient way for production. If a 3D model is technically correct, there will be no difficulties with manufacturing. While an incorrectly performed 3D model may be either completely unsuitable for production or too expensive for implementation.
The created object is then constructed by a 3D printer with a special polymer or wax. Since 3D printing still has its flaws, additional work on the object made manually. After that the wax model is poured with gypsum and sent to the furnace. At high temperature wax flows out, making a hollow gypsum form. This form is filled with metal (usually it’s brass). The metal object is modified manually till it becomes perfect, this is a so-called master model, a standard model for future jewelry pieces. Usually a master model is made of several pieces (even if it is a simple shaped ring). A separate master model is created for each ring size. If after that some defects are detected it’s better to return to the finalization of the 3D model.
3. The Creation of Molds
The next step is to create a mold that allows you to speed up and simplify the production process, putting it on the flow. The master model is enclosed in this plastic mass (rubber compounds), then placed in a vulcanizing press and heated for 5 minutes, after which the mass is vulcanized for 40 minutes at high pressure and temperature of about 140-150°C. At this time, this clay-like mass solidifies to the state of rubber. After that carvers with special tools carefully cut the mold and remove the master model, which already left a three-dimensional imprint in the rubber. Now the product can be produced in any quantity. All products made with molds look the same. Simple products, without complex components, can be made with one or two molds, while products of a more complex design usually require several molds (for each part of the product a new rubber mold is created). It is worth saying that these molds can be used a limited number of times, but having a master model, you can always make a new mold. Production of the mold completes the stages of preparation for production.
4. Stencils, “Wax Tree” and Gypsum
At this stage of production jewelry pieces acquire a very real though wax form, which then becomes a stencil used for metal casting. Work with wax models starts with a technical task, which indicates the number of required products and their size range. With the help of special equipment the melted wax is injected into the mold. To freeze wax faster the molds are cooled beforehand. Therefore, as rubber bands are heated, the waxer puts them in the freezer for cooling. Ready stencils with the outfit will be therefore tested by the Quality Management.
The items that passed quality control are attached to the wax rod. Here’s when a wax tree for metal casting is created. Products are usually grouped by metals: one tree is for silver jewelry, another one is for gold jewelry, and so forth. This wax tree is coated with gypsum, then it goes to the furnace. At high temperature wax flows out, making a hollow gypsum form, which lately will be used for casting. The main idea is to create one gypsum form, suitable for producing as much products as possible.
Depending on requirements, a caster prepares an alloy, mixing pure metals (in case of our jewelry it’s silver) with ligature — a mixture of metals (usually it’s copper, nickel, zinc, but there may be others). The components are thoroughly blended till a consistent feed mixture and poured into the gypsum form. The mixture cools, the plaster form splits, leavings of the plaster are washed away by a stream of water, and the metal tree (also called runner) is ready. Then the tree is disassembled into elements, the individual products are detached and submitted for finishing. The remaining runner with sprues (metal sticks to which the products were attached) goes to the melting.
6. Tumbling and Mounting
The next step is tumbling, a process of polishing jewelry items by mixing them in a special drum with an abrasive full of ceramic particles in the form of needles, balls and pyramids. After tumbling the surface of jewelry items becomes smoother and denser. Most products are then modified and finished manually. The quality of future jewelry items depends on the quality of mounting in jewelry production, that’s why this step is so important. After that all products are manually polished.
7. Jewelry Marking and Millesimal Fineness Numbers
After tumbling and mounting all jewelry pieces are sent to the Assay office, where all products are obliged to compliance tests with the GOST (the State Union Standard). If the results of the test are satisfactory, the products are marked with millesimal fineness numbers and special trademarks of the manufacturer. According to the law, the millesimal fineness number must be placed on all products made of precious metals. The only exception is for silver: if the weight of the silver product is less than 3 grams, the mark is optional.
8. Electroplating and Rhodium Plating
After that some products are covered with gold (in our products we use 18 karat gold), while other silver items are covered with rhodium. The process for both operations is the same: the items immersed in a bath with a special solution called electrolyte, and due to an electrochemical reaction, they are covered with a thin coherent metal coating.
Rhodium is one of the rarest metals of the platinum group. Due to its excellent heat-stability and endurance to acids and other corrosive environments, rhodium plating is used to enhance the finish of silver and white gold jewelry. In addition, rhodium is hypoallergenic and doesn’t cause skin irritation or other adverse effects. All our jewelry pieces have rhodium plating, which protects the metal from darkening and scratches, and enhances the shining of the metal. It should be noted that electroplating or rhodium plating does not affect the millesimal fineness number, which is why this stage follows the marking at the Assay office.
9. Stone Setting
The final stage of production is setting of stones, which are thoroughly selected for each piece of jewelry. There are two types of fixations — by means of glue or metal braces. Regardless the selected type, at this stage it’s especially important to be accurate and precise: the jewelry setter must set the stones into the grooves, so that they cannot fall out while wearing. The organic origin of amber, the softness of the material, as well as the presence of inclusions and air bubbles make the process of working with the stone extremely complicated. The jewelry setter that works with amber must have exceptional knowledge of the physical properties of the stone to avoid any kind of damage.
Creating a self-sufficient jewelry collection is a complex multi-step process, in which all stages are closely connected with each other. 3D modeling is considered to be especially important, as it determines the operating speed of the manufacture at the stage of order implementation. In average the pre-production take about a month, and the same time takes direct implementation of the order at the manufacture.
Among all jewelry pieces earrings are the most expensive in terms of production. In fact, the retail price should include the cost of production of two products, so the calculation of adequate costs is a difficult question. Rings are also considered to be complicated, and not only in terms of production (for each size you need to make a separate master model and, accordingly, individual molds), but also because of the calculation of estimated sales: before making an order you must take into account the demand for each size.
It is worth mentioning that the outlined process applies only to the creation of monolithic jewelry (rings, bracelets, pendants, earrings). Such elements of decoration as chains, fasteners and other types of accessories are purchased separately, and as a rule, from manufactures that specialize in the production of these elements.
The above model of production is surely not the only one, but it is considered to be the most suitable for large scale production.