Here’s an introduction to how I make a custom piece for a client, using the Lost Wax Casting technique. I also use fabrication methods to make jewelry, but casting lends itself so well to my sculptural aesthetic. And, most importantly, clients can actually try on the wax model, changes can be made, and when they approve it we go to the final processes.
It is an honor to be able to make a special piece for a client. I realize they have to trust me to interpret their requirements, likes and dislikes. It is my obligation to give them a fair assessment of what I will do for them, and estimate of cost.
Client was thrilled with her new custom ring using her own diamonds.
It is a team effort, between me and the client. The goal is to end up with a piece of jewelry to be treasured and worn with pleasure that will be practical, meaningful, comfortable, and suit one’s personality. It’s a tall order!
It may take me 6 weeks to 3 months to complete a custom project, sometimes longer depending on complexity and my schedule.
If you are the type of person who needs ‘immediate gratification’, this process might not be attractive to you – but you may find something already made up in our showcase.
The talking and designing takes time, and there may be revisions. We meet and look at photos of what I have done, samples of rings, and perhaps old sentimental gold pieces that you have brought to dismantle. There may be diamonds in Grandma’s vintage jewelry that you would like to use in a new piece more to your liking.
If you have scrap gold like old broken chains, one earring left from a long ago pair, a worn out ring, any old jewelry handed down that is not your taste - I will remove stones and weigh the gold. I can offer you credit for the gold content in your materials that will go towards the new project we are making.
Once we decide on a design direction, then I make one or more wax models to show you. It’s miniature sculpture and has to look great from every angle.
The wax carving details: I use a technique to build the model that I developed many years ago using a thin sheet of wax for the base of the ring, and then apply a build-up wax to create volume with dental tools I’ve altered and an alcohol lamp. I basically scoop up wax with a hot tool and deposit it onto the sheet base, wrapped around a ring mandrel of the right size. This wax cools, and is hard enough that I can carve it back to define shapes and surfaces. There is no computer aided design or three-D printer involved!
We meet so you can try on the wax model and see exactly how it will look on your finger with your stones in place. Revisions are made, and we arrive at the right scale and the best design, just for you. Once approved, I further refine the design in wax, to make it as accurate as possible.
Wax model with aquamarines, raw gold casting, completed ring.
The casting details: When the wax model is completed, it goes into a mold made of a plaster material, which then goes into an oven. It heats up and all the wax melts out of the mold, thus, the name: “Lost Wax Casting Technique”. There is now a cavity that may be filled with molten gold or silver. After the plaster material is washed from the raw casting, a fair amount of filing and finishing the surfaces is required. The last thing to do is set the stones.
Amethyst from old fillagree ring gets a new life.
In this entire process there are many steps, two or three meetings as we go along, but I invite you to go on the journey with me. It is immensely satisfying to know that the outcome will be special and entirely unique. And if we use your old gems they will be given a new life in a contemporary heirloom!