Tuesday, June 05, 2012

Custom Jewelry Making using Lost Wax Casting

Custom Jewelry Making using Lost Wax Casting

Sketch of custom ring design

The first step in making custom jewelry is you, the customer, getting the idea of a ring, earring or pendant design you would like to have created.  Usually you have looked for that special piece of  jewelry but can't find the design you want anywhere.  Once you contact me, jewelry maker Tony Payne, and explain what you want, I will give you a free price quote based on your unique design ideas. A sketch of the design can be made for your approval before any work begins.

The next step in the custom jewelry process is carving the wax model. For a video of me demonstrating this step in the process go to this YouTube page. Rings start out as wax tubes and pendants begin as wax sheets or blocks. Saws, files, and specialized carving tools are used to cut away the wax and sculpt the design. 

Wax model of custom ring

Measurements are taken and the design is first scratched in the surface of the wax model. As in most sculpture the material that is not needed is removed.  Wax can also be added to the design using a special tool.  Once the design is carved, sprues, or wax wires, are added which will be attached to a flexible rubber base (see below). The wax is weighed and multiplied by a factor to see how much gold or sterling silver will be needed to make a complete cast.

The wax model is then attached to the rubber base using the wax sprue. More than one model can be attached to each base if needed.  A metal flask is then put into the rubber base.

Wax model on rubber base

Wax model in metal flask
Investment is a white powder used in casting that is mixed with water.  The investment is mixed using exact proportions, stirred and then poured into the metal flask. This material is semi-liquid when first mixed and it engulfs the wax model and sprues. It is then left for an hour to harden. The wax model and sprues are encased inside the hardened investment.

Molten metal being poured into the cavity
in the investment
The rubber base is removed and the flask containing the wax is placed in a burnout oven. This burnout process takes about six to twelve hours to complete and reaches a maximum temperature of 1350 degrees Fahrenheit. The wax model is destroyed by this extreme heat leaving a cavity where it once was.  The flask is taken out of the oven and molten gold or sterling silver is immediately poured into the cavity in the investment. The sprues now act as channels for the molten gold.  The metal then cools and hardens.

After the metal cools the sprues are sawed off and the metal design is smoothed with files and then sanded. The piece is polished and given any finishes that are needed such as texturing or antiquing. Any gemstones are then set in the handmade ring, pin or pendant. This completes the ancient custom jewelry making process know as lost wax casting.  The results is a finished handcrafted ring, bracelet or pendant that is unique and will always have special meaning to the person that wears it.

Completed custom ring

 Email me, jewelry maker, Tony Payne at  tony@paynesjewelry.com with your custom jewelry ideas and I will give you a free price quote based on your individual jewelry needs.