How I make my jewellery.
Have you heard the saying “There’s more than one way to skin a cat”? A horrible saying, I know, but what it means is there’s more than one way to do something. Jewellery making is like that. There are always many processes or techniques that can be employed to make a single piece of jewellery. I mainly use three types of manufacturing methods, let me explain a little about them and why I choose these processes.
Lost wax casting.
This process is where an investment mould is made of an object, traditionally that object would be an item or component of jewellery carved from wax. Except when I use this process, I use organic objects like twigs and gumnuts. The investment mould is cured by using a kiln, firing it, which makes the investment super hard. It also burns out (incinerates) the wax or organic objects inside the mould leaving a perfect and highly detailed negative of the object. While the investment is still hot, molten metal is poured into the mould which fills the negative space creating a beautiful metal replica of the wax or organic object.
I like to use this process for super fine and detailed twig or gumnuts, it allows me to capture all the amazing textures and character of the original twig. It is a method I cannot do myself in my home studio, so I take my organics to a casting house and they do the mould making and casting for me. But they give me back the raw unfinished casting and it’s up to me to breathe life into it and turn it into a wearable work of art.
Now this is what I am trained in. My 4 year apprenticeship was at a jewellers in Brisbane that specialised in bespoke jewellery. Handmaking is a long but satisfying way of making jewellery, it’s making jewellery from scratch by hand! Starting with a bullion of metal and rolling it down to the right measurements, drawing it down to make wire, wrestling it with hammers and pliers to shape it. Then when all the components are made, they have to be filed, emeried and polished before soldering them together to assemble an item of jewellery. Handmaking takes lots of patience and precision. But it is very satisfying to be able to create something beautiful out of a lump of metal.
My favourite use of this process is using sentimental metal. For example, using someone’s grandmother’s jewellery to melt down and be recreated into a new fresh piece that maintains its sentiment but is in a design more suited to the wearers taste. I love upcycling pieces too! Got lots of jewellery you don’t wear anymore or broken bits and missing earrings? Maybe think about melting it all down to create something new and fun.
This is a process I enjoy very much! I actually specialise in this technique and run classes teaching jewellers and novices alike how to sand cast jewellery. As the title lead you to believe it’s a casting technique using sand! It a two-part mould filled with special sand called Green Sand or Delft Clay. The two halves of the flask are filled with compressed sand and an object is pressed into the two halves creating a negative space that can be filled with molten metal. Its as easy as that!
I like to make castings of costume jewellery found at op shops or of heavily textured bits of wood. Shells and coral work great too. I love this process because I make the pieces from start to finish without outsourcing any of the work. I also get a lot of control over how clean or rough I want the object replicated and if I would like to cast in place stones or set them post casting. In short, it’s a very creative and fun process! If you are interested in taking one of my classes send me a message. It doesn’t have to be a skill for life, it can just be a fun day creating with a friend or partner.