The jewelry industry is proving to be a bankable industry, and online b2b retail is rising. If you are an online b2b jewelry reseller or an entrepreneur looking into the jewelry industry as a profitable business, have you ever thought of fabricating your own jewelry line? Small or big scale, how exactly is jewelry made. What is the systematic process of making jewelry? Today, we will find out the different methods of making jewelry—the techniques used and their advantages, from personalized pieces of jewelry to mass production.
Before you start a jewelry business, you need to decide what type of jewelry you are going to produce. Fine jewelry, middle class or fashion jewels. Fine jewelry is fabricated from precious metals and gemstones marketed at a higher price. Luxurious and one of a kind pieces fabricated by extremely skilled artisans. Fashion jewelry is mostly made from inexpensive base materials following the trend and with an affordable price. These are massed produced and somewhat disposable in essence. Middle-class jewelry sits in between luxury and fashion pieces. Made from metals, precious or not, with semi-precious gemstones and unique designs with a mid-range rate.
Types of Manufacturing Jewelry:
As the term implies, everything is handmade without using mechanical devices. Assembling readymade pieces like wire, joints, beads, metal plates, and others. Most of the most delicate jewelry pieces of the past and the present are handmade, fabricated, and assembled by a master artisan. These are labor extensive with producing unique and personalized pieces of jewelry.
Some jewelers specializing in handmade jewelry do not even use prefabricated pieces instead use raw form of gold, silver, platinum, and other alloys and forge each small sections separately. A master jeweler will then solder and weld each piece together, creating a masterpiece.
Soldering / Solder Paste
You will need a soldering board, torch, cross lock tweezers, soldering pick, and a solder or solder paste. Traditional soldering uses solder and flux. The solder used in jewelry may be in a wire, pre-cut squares called pallions, or sheets. Flux is a cleaning material commonly used before and after soldering, protecting the metal surface from re-oxidation. However, today, a solder paste (soldering flux) is available, a thick gray putty-like paste initially used for circuit boards connecting electrical pieces mounted directly on the surfaces. Solder pastes consist of powdered metals suspended on flux, acting as a brief bonding agent while the solder melts during the soldering process. Various soldering pastes are comprised of different materials, depending on their use. Solder paste containing real metal solder of copper, silver, or gold is commonly used in jewelry making with various melting points from soft to hard.
Advantages of soldering paste
Soldering pastes are excellent in connecting miniature pieces in fabricating filigree, jump rings, and earring posts as it can fill tiny spaces. Soldering flux is not recommended in soldering large parts, as this requires a large amount of heat.
How to Use Soldering Flux
- Prepare the metal for soldering. Make certain that it is free from grease and filth, a clean surface guarantees a better solder flow.
- Apply flux on the surrounding area to be solder to protect the metal surface from oxidation as the soldering paste will only preserve the segment it is applied on.
- Open the syringe containing soldering flux and choose the needle tip suitable for your project.
- Make sure that metal pieces are flushed cut, and apply the solder paste. Note that you will need to use more soldering paste, for it is a mixture and not your regular pure solder. Apply the soldering paste by pushing the plunger and deposit the paste directly on the area to be fused.
- Use low to medium heat until the flux bubbles and melts. You will see the metals glisten, and miniature solder balls will appear. Use a soldering pick to move the melted solder on its intended area and wait for the solder to flow and seep in between crevices. Apply more paste if you see some groves left and repeat the process.
- Pickle and sand off exposed solder using an abrasive silicone wheel and polish your jewelry as usual.
- In soldering earring posts, apply soldering paste on both ends.
- In soldering a metal frame on to a sheet, apply solder flux around the bezel connecting to the sheet.
- Cover the end of the needle with electrical tape to prevent the paste from drying out.
- Unscrew the needle and place the cover back if you are not going to use the paste for a long time. Ensure that you clean the needle by inserting a wire to prevent it from clogging.
- The pickling solution contains a mixture of diluted acids with five percent hydrochloric and sulfuric acid. This is used to remove visible oxidation after soldering.
- Immediately degrease soldered pieces for the longer it is postponed, the less efficient it will be.
Degreasing is a method used in preparation for electroplating. Materials used are alcohol, chlorine, dry ice, or solvents. The degreasing agent is directly applied to the surface by spraying or immersion.
Spraying is the most common type for maintenance use and a prequel to vapor degreasing.
Chemical degreasing uses a warm alkali bath commonly used as the first step in degreasing. This process is immediately followed by a lukewarm water rinse for thirty seconds.
Using electrical current, usually, a second step is used for brass cup chain jewelry.
The process involving melting and incorporating metal base into molds by pouring or injection.
Lost Wax Casting Technique
Wax casting is an old-fashioned way of molding jewelry dating back from the 6th century BC in Northern China. Estimated to have used around seven tons of wax to mold the famous bronze Buddha housed in the temple of Todaiji. The term lost wax derives from literally losing or breaking the mold in creating custom jewelry. This means no two pieces of jewelry is the same for each piece, even with the same design is carved from a different wax mold. Metals commonly used are silver, gold, copper-based like brass, and bronze. Casts are generally made with either oil-based clay or wax. Other organic materials initially used were tar, resin, tallow, and fabrics. For molding small pieces such as jewelry, specialty wax is often used. There are two ways of creating a wax mold: injecting liquefied resin inside the rubber mold or manually sculpting the design on the wax itself.
Three Types of Wax
Beeswax or natural wax
The bees produce natural waxes. These are aromatic, sticky, soft, and pliable with a varied melting point from one hundred forty-two to one hundred fifty degrees Fahrenheit—preferred jewelry manufacturers for their resistance to contraction and shortness. A combination of beeswax, linseed oil, and mineral spirits paste protects metals such as iron, bronze, and steel from rust, producing a glossy sheen.
You may be familiar with paraffin wax used in creating candlesticks and paraffin treatments on salons. These are pliable microcrystalline wax from petroleum used as an additive to other wax types resulting in a more rigid form with a melting point of one hundred thirty-five degrees Fahrenheit.
Dedicated to its intended use.
- Carving wax is a type of resin used in the manufacture of jewelry due to its hardness melting at two hundred twenty-five to two hundred thirty degrees Fahrenheit.
- Modeling wax is comparable to molding clay used to model sculptures and jewelry.
- Patch wax is soft in form, used in patching up crevices of the finished wax model.
- Sticky wax is a hard type of specialty wax used to attach wax pieces in spruce in preparation for casting.
A method wherein a sheet of metals is manually hammered on a steel die producing definite impressions commonly used in fabricating signet rings. Considered superior in quality, that cast jewelry. The hammering results in a dense structure with highly defined features with a longer-lasting lustrous sheen. Resistant to friction, corrosion, and abrasion again due to its high density.
Step by Step Process of Making Jewelry
Idea / Draft
Everything starts with an idea. Your creativity is explored at this stage. You may have to do a little or in-depth research on what is sells and not. Find inspirations on what are the latest models that are hooking your target market. You have to decide how your jewelry will look like and prepare the materials needed especially if you are encrusting crystal pieces. If you are a designer, you may have drawn some inspirational pieces you wanted to see in reality. If you are a capitalist with an idea, yet you do not have the skills to draw it on paper, you may need the help of a designer or an artist to convey your thoughts and transform your ideas into a 3D sketch and drawn from different perspectives. This is no ordinary drawing but a blueprint. One thing that you need to take note is that sizing or standardization of your design starts from the here. Accurate sizing is critical, especially when you are going to incorporate accents such as crystals. Measurements from the ring size, shank thickness, and width to the grooves' depth and measures for inlays and other adornments. Everything has to be measured and precisely detailed.
The second and modern method is with the use of 3D mold using a 3D printer. You will need to work with a CAD designer during this process. CAD or computer-aided design utilizes a computer for creation, analysis, and design. CAD software is specifically advantageous in increasing productivity with a faster turn-around time, saving production costs.
Advantages of using CAD system
Detailed 3D prototype
Traditional sketching of blueprint using pens and paper are difficult to edit, unlike the models designed with CAD. After rendering the design, you will be able to see each angle and are able to edit features in an instant until you are satisfied with what you see on the screen. You can also quickly adjust measurements. As you may have realized by now, scaling is vital in fabricating the master mold.
With the help of an expert CAD designer, you will be able to create a line using your scaled prototype and save each design separately. This is particularly helpful when your master mold comes back perfectly with the correct proportions. This means that you only need to create various formats using the same base.
Fast and Practical
Using your master scaled model, you will be able to alter and create the design without having to go back to zero, unlike with the traditional blueprint where you need to recreate everything.
There are two ways to create a mold for jewelry.
The first one is by manually carving on wax. You need to be or employ the help of a carver with impressive skills because your jewelry's aesthetic relies on the accuracy of the master mold. Exquisite details must be incorporated at this level.
After designing with CAD, it is now time to print and see how it looks like in real life. 3D Printing does this. 3D Printing only takes days to weeks, depending on the scale and intricacy. As jewelry pieces are generally small, it may take 30 minutes to a few days at most.
3D Printing is the procedure of creating a 3D object, designed using computer software such as CAD. Linked and ready to be printed. Just comparing the time it took to finish a traditional wax carving compared to a few hours or days with the help of technology. What is more impressive is that if the prototype is flawed and needs adjustments, it can be immediately tweaked and printed again. Unlike wax carvings in which with just a minor mistake in carving, you have to scrap everything and do it all over again and again if the prototype is flawed.
Materials used in 3D Printing
The most common material used in fabricating almost anything available in bright red, green and transparent form. It may come with a matte or glossy surface: firm, smooth, flexible, and affordable properties of plastics that are appealing to creators and enthusiasts.
PLA – Polyastic acid.
An environmentally friendly material derived from sugar cane and cornstarch. A material expected to rise in the future due to its biodegradable property that may appear in soft or hard forms.
ABS – Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene
A safe and robust material termed as lego plastic. These are used in printing stickers, jewelry, and toys.
PVA – Polyvinyl Alcohol Plastic
Low-cost plastic used to print disposable items.
PC - Polycarbonate
Rarely used in printing fasteners.
Flexible and creates a highly detailed 3d model used in fabricating almost anything.
A powder mixture of gray aluminum and polyamine producing a robust, grainy and sandy textured 3D objects.
High –detail resins
As the term suggests, this is a type of resin used in printing highly detailed objects.
Used in printing objects with detailed features like figurines.
The most robust among the resins.
It is central to note that the metals used in 3D Printing are in a powdered form. The metal powder is heated, skipping the casting process directly creating the article or jewelry. The finished product is electro-polished and ready for sale.
Also used for jewelry and everyday household utensils.
Suitable in creating decorative household fixtures, vases, and even jewelry.
Perfect for earrings, rings, jewelry, and other jewelry.
3D Printing using aluminum powder is common fabricating thin materials.
A robust material commonly used in fabricating concrete equipment.
Used as a topcoat on a plastic base aiming to strengthen the plastic material. The future of carbon fiber printing is predicted to replace carbon fiber lay-up.
Advantages of 3D Printing
- No unsold inventory
If you are starting a jewelry business or specializing in custom-made pieces of jewelry. 3D Printing is specifically beneficial. You can manufacture limited parts at home, altering each design depending on your customer's need. You do not have to invest a large sum of money that you do not have to store somewhere in your house, not knowing if everything will be sold. You can start with limited finance and grow your business with every purchase.
- Endless design
As we have mentioned earlier, together with CAD software, it is easier to print out and manipulate designs using a proven scaled pattern. This limits mistakes, and you will be able to see if your current design is marketable seeing its 3D model. Because some designs may look great on paper yet ridiculous in real-life.
- Custom Designs
You will be able to quickly adapt to your client's request. Sometimes we encounter a client who changed their mind quickly. With CAD's help, you can adjust the current design, adding or subtracting accents per customer request.
- Faster turn-around time
There is no need to depend on a third-party manufacturer; you can start manufacturing your own jewelry at home or in your office. Accept clients without fear that your third party fabrication company may have a long list of clients before you. You will be able to give an exact date on when you will be able to produce the requested jewelry design.
- Allows Intricate Designs
With CAD and 3D Printing, you will be able to design and fabricate intricately designed jewelry such as linked pieces and chains that were impossible to create in the past. No need to assemble each segment. Print your mold can cast it, making an intricate design in one piece.
Creating the master mold is first on the list prior to mass manufacture. Using the master wax produced from carving or with the help of 3D Printing, it is cast, creating a master metal mold. For rubber molding, a metal model is imprinted using a particular rubber mold and placed on a machine that presses the article firmly while applying heat until it forms a hard block. The hardened rubber is called the master molder injected with hot wax used in was model reproduction. 3D wax mold replicas are made by injecting liquefied resin into the mold and left to harden. These pieces are then soldered and arranged onto a wax pole, like a tree. This way, multiple components are made at once and will fit inside the cylindrical flask.
Casting, another tedious stage where the was mold are placed in a cylindrical steel container and filled with a mixture of investment and solvent. The mixture and the molding flask must be inside a vacuumed environment where the air is removed from the mixture and fills the mold. It is vital to remove the air bubble, for it may leave hollow spaces and lead to a flawed mold. Again, accuracy and perfection are paramount. The filled flask is heated in an oven with a temperature ranging from 550 to 800-Celsius degrees and undergoes a complete burn out cycle to harden and at the same time melting the wax mold, leaving a detailed impression inside the cast.
The cast is quickly transferred to a vacuum chamber poured with molten metals, allowed to cool for a bit, and quenched. The model is rapidly destroyed, revealing the raw casted jewelry inside.
The prefabricated metal is polished to the highest degree of shine and even surface. Cleaning baths are used to remove any investment cast lodged in small crevices challenging to remove by manual hand washing even the use of high-pressure water showers. The molded pieces are manually cut close to the sprue, careful not to damage the jewelry.
Excess metal connecting the jewelry to the sprue is cut and filed to create an even surface. Wheel cutters are used to clean out extra metals between crannies, giving a clean and detailed cut accent. Adding enamels and other additional designs happen at this stage.
If the jewelry is made with various pieces, it is assembled and soldered together. Lastly, it is hand-polished using your choice of polishing machines.
A typical polishing machine has two wheels, one with a coarse wheel and the first to use, followed by the wheel with a soft buff. There are various compounds applied on these wheels, enhancing its efficiency in a shorter time.
Jam-packed with emery, emery is dark granular rock used in making abrasive powders. This compound is used and effective to remove visible scratches from plating and lacquer. Perfect for pieces of jewelry with a rough and deeply scratched surface. The abrasive will increase the efficiency of the coarse wheel, saving time and energy. This will also give a slightly glossy and smooth texture, best followed by a soft wheel buff.
Exclusively designed for platinum, providing an unparalleled luster. It may likewise give a beautiful shine on gold.
A universal compound for removing scratches while providing a smooth surface. Best suited in polishing soft metals like copper, aluminum, brass, steel, and wood.
A one-step polishing compound used on all metals from gold, silver to alloys and decorative metals. Removed light scratches leaving a mirror-like finish
Suitable for both hard and soft metals giving a highly lustrous finish. Best to polish stainless steel, chrome, and platinum, leaving a brighter finish than using white rouge.
Perfect for soldered pieces in removing fire scale stains, a general-purpose compound consisting of fine and constant abrasive particles for cutting uneven surface and enhancing the metal's luster. This is best suited with a rigid buffing wheel.
The orange glow is specially designed to polish yellow gold, stainless steel, platinum, and white gold, leaving an incredible glistening sheen. Initially intended for watch straps and cases for touch-ups giving a brand new appearance.
Red Rouge (Jeweler's Rouge)
Widely used by jewelers for its high effectivity in polishing most metals while enhancing their natural color and sheen. Perfect for a touch-up polish giving a brand new shine safe even for thinly plated pieces of jewelry.
Red Rouge (water-soluble)
Perfect in buffing precious metals such as gold and silver, the only difference between a typical red rouge is that the compound is water-soluble easy to clean with plain water.
Suitable in polishing platinum and other hard metals, used as a finishing compound to enhance the end polish, which can also be used for soft metals providing an exquisite finish.
Famous for its fast, abrasive action, quickly removing light surface marks and fire scales from soldering. Best to smoothen the surface gold and silver metals. Used it with a buffing wheel as a pre-polishing compound, preparing the surface for the final polishing stage.
Exclusive for silver and turquoise pieces of jewelry composed of gentle ingredients, which does not harm soft stones giving a lustrous finish. This is primarily used on jewelry pieces requiring a touch-up polish containing delicate gems that cannot be taken out of the setting.
Mauro Cateb, CC BY-SA 3.0
It is time to add bling and sparkles! In setting crystals and stones, the central piece is always mounted first. Gem setters have light and steady hands. They carefully placed and secured the stones by delicately pressing prongs using a cutting burr. Channel and bezel settings are harder to set.
The process of adding a thin metal layer with the use of chemicals and direct electrical current aimed to simulate the appearance of precious metals to improve the aesthetics and prevent the disintegration of the base metal. You may be wondering if the crystals or stones will be covered as well. The answerer is no. the metal salts will only adhere to electrically conductive materials, thus not affecting the crystal or stone.
- Ensure that the surface free from dust and grease. Clean, pickle, and activate the metal surface by exposing it to a diluted acid solution.
- The organic varnish is deposited using electroplating to resist and protect the jewelry from corrosion.
Types of plating
It is recommended to use a sulfuric bath in attaining a bright luster. Crystals with an iridescent aurora borealis layer may be affected by this using a sulfuric bath if the recommended plating time is not followed and exceeded.
A type of plating used to enhance adhesion of copper plating, particularly for soldered pieces. Again, note the recommended time of stone exposure to prevent damaging its reflective coating.
Gold baths are either alkaline or acidic. Both conditions are safe for stones having a pH of nine to ten for alkalis and three to four pH for acids.
commonly used as a white interlayer in place of nickel. Palladium bath has the tendency to plate crystals with an AB coat; therefore, it is advisable to limit the plating for three minutes or less.
Commonly seen on plated jewelry for lustrous shine. Rhodium baths are safe for crystals containing phosphate or a sulfate base.
A highly concentrated cyanide containing alkali bath, which are safe for crystals.
Challenges with electroplating
- Flawed raw surface.
You will not always get a perfect surface. To minimize these imperfections, it is recommended to chemically and mechanically degrease your jewelry piece, followed by a thirty-second water rinse. This will ensure a clean surface, thereby a perfect surface for the coat to adhere to, covering uneven surfaces.
The appearance of corrosion prior to the plating process can be corrected by rinsing the jewelry with de-mineralized water.
Final Polishing and Quality Check
The completed piece is once again hand-polished to a perfect shine. After the final polish, the jewelry batch is submitted for final checking under a highly trained eye, watching out for any signs of defect. Once cleared, the set is forwarded to the packaging department, while flawed jewelry is returned to their section for revision.
The last stage of manufacture before it leaves the store. Packaging and labeling your products. Is good packaging important in the manufacture of jewelry?
Some may argue that the packaging is not essential if you deliver a quality product, they are just going to toss it away anyway. Yes, packaging, no matter how beautiful they are, will be thrown away. However, your packaging creates a long-lasting impression serving as your calling card. It completes the total customer service experience. Good packaging and labeling represent your commitment to serving your customers. Jewelry is always associated with elegance and beauty, as a jewelry manufacturer and seller; it is paramount that you follow this way of thinking.
You may have a brick and mortar jewelry shop, but with the age of online shopping and delivery, you must stay updated and offer an online shopping experience and delivery. Here are some tips to consider in preparing your jewelry prior to shipping.
- Organize your products
Giving your jewelry on last polish will not hurt your jewelry. In fact, you have to wow your customer at first sight! Maximize their excitement and give your jewelry some love.
- Secure Shipping Package
Protect the jewelry by placing it securely inside a box held by a soft pillow or felt. This will prevent your jewelry from tumbling inside the box. The container should likewise be secured by a plastic coat as extra protection from the impact and water. Things happen, and you want to be on the safer side.
- Provide a decorative wrapping. Again, as an additional layer of protection as well as adding aesthetics.
- Enclose your jewelry in a bubble wrap before finally placing it in a shipping box.
The manufacture of jewelry is a long and tedious process needing both highly skilled artisan and, at present, advanced technology to make the process of making jewelry more straightforward, precise, and faster. The main advantage of fabrication your own jewelry line is you are in charge of everything, from the design to the final product. Now that we have learned the various stages, materials, variations, and techniques, you can decide if you are going to chase your dream of making your jewelry line. Either by getting your designs manufactured by a third party for mass production, or starting with handmade pieces, investing in the latest technology as you grow your jewelry business. The jewelry industry is a booming business but is also quite crowded, particularly with mass-produced jewelry pieces from Asia. Still, there is always a place for a passionate, knowledgeable newcomer and is willing to learn and adapt to the continually changing jewelry industry.