We offer our expert jewellery manufacturing service at the most affordable price. Our craftsmen work in a range of precious metals and techniques, including Platinum, White and Yellow Gold in 9K and 18K, Sterling Silver and Palladium. We also do custom wedding bands in Titanium, raw, inlayed or coloured.

Each item is unique, and the manufacturing process, be it by means of 3D CAD and digital wax modeling or by hand, will be discussed with each client. Some designs lend themselves better to either manufacturing process and much of the quotation, manufacturing speed and so forth is determined by the design itself.

For examples of items we have manufactured in the past, please click here

Click here for more information on our design and 3D CAD design services.

Manufacturing Techniques

Bench work

Almost anything can be manufactured at a bench using nothing but standard workshop tools. This is where the skill of the goldsmith alone is the deciding factor in the success of the piece and it is usually the method most goldsmiths take most pride in. An item produced on the bench will typically be manufactured in the following way:

♦ First the design will be finalised, either by hand or by 3D CAD, depending on the nature of the item, and the stones (if any) chosen and acquired. Then the metal will be melted to form an ingot or billet.

♦ Next the surface of the ingot will be filed, if necessary, to remove any air pockets on the surface, after which it will be rolled out using a rolling mill to form a square bar. Every few rolls the metal is annealed. Annealing is a process during which the metal is heated to a temperature that is below melting point, but high enough to allow the crystal structure of the metal to return to its natural state, releasing stress caused by work hardening and softening the metal for further rolling, bending or hammering.

♦ For this design, the collet (the structure that holds the stone in place) is manufactured separately from the shank (the piece of metal that hugs the finger). The metal is rolled out flat, trimmed and bent round, soldered and hammered to the desired shape and the exact size of the stone. The actual stone needs to be present so that it can be fitted to make sure no metal is visible from the top. In extreme cases, especially with large diamonds, the client prefers to keep the stone in his possession until the item is ready for set work. This is highly discouraged since it makes it very difficult to size the metal to the exact size and still allow for parallax since natural stones are cut by hand and are not always symmetrical. After the tube has been fitted and deemed ready, wires are soldered on and detail added (depending on the design; in this case we have removed the middle section to create a gallery or a double bezel). The wire was manufactured by rolling an ingot down as close as possible to the desired thickness of the wire, after which the square bar is drawn through a round hole in a drawing plate to smooth and round the edges of the wire and reduce the thickness if necessary.

♦ Next the shank is manufactured by rolling the bar down to the correct thickness and shape. Some goldsmiths prefer to roll the height of the metal into the bar before bending (as seen in the picture illustrating annealing), others prefer to file it down, but much of this depends on the type of metal and the design. The metal is trimmed to the correct length bent round and soldered and altered in any way the design might require, either before or after soldering. For this design, a hole was drilled in the middle and the metal was sawn through in the length in the middle of the thick section before it was bent and soldered. After hammering it round and to size, a sharp object was forced into the drill hole to bend the two halves outward. A section slightly smaller than the collet was removed and the split shank was bent further and filed until it corresponded with the design and the collet fitted perfectly.

♦ Now it is time to solder in the collet. All measurements and joins are checked, and in some cases the goldsmith would choose at this stage to sand and polish the metal, especially in places that would be difficult to reach once the collet has been fitted.

 After the collet has been soldered, it is cleaned properly in pickle or diluted battery acid (this is done after each heating procedure, be it soldering or annealing). The pickle/acid removes residual flux and oxidation, cleaning joins for soldering and making finished items easier to work off for polishing. The excess bits of the collet are removed from the finger hole and the entire ring is sanded and polished. Usually at this point the hallmark will be added. A hallmark is a number or abbreviation that is stamped into the metal (on the inside of the shank for rings or the back of most other items) indicating the type of metal or gold content of the alloy (click here to see the different hallmark types for each metal or alloy used in South Africa) and sometimes the personal stamp of the company or goldsmith. Under new legislation South African goldsmiths are also required to add a stamp indicating the country of origin to promote the sale of locally manufactured items. This stamp consists of the letters ZA inside an oval and the use of it will phase in until the end of 2013.

♦ Now the item is cleaned to remove all residual polish before the stone is set. Setting is done in many different ways and is generally regarded as a completely specialised craft on its own. Whilst almost all setters are also goldsmiths, most goldsmiths are not setters. In mass production, setting is done by machines calibrated for a specific design or rows of dedicated setters doing nothing else, which lowers the cost of the labour. Sometimes with diamond rings the stones will even be set into the wax before casting to minimise labour costs. This is NOT recommended for work in a private workshop since the stones set in this way are usually burnt or shattered by the thermal shock if the metal temperature is not absolutely perfect (something easily achieved by industrial casting machines). Because of the specialised skills required, set work in a private workshop is thus usually outsourced to a setter making it very expensive. A good setter charges anything from R15 to R100 per stone for his labour, depending on the type of setting, type of stone and the level of difficulty. This is on top of the price of the actual stone (if not provided by the client) and does not cover breakages (if any), which is sometimes unavoidable when setting small, soft stones like tanzanite or emerald in especially channel setting. We do all our own set work, which means that it can be offered to our clients at a much more affordable price. For this ring, the wires (now called claws) were bent outward and a seat was grinded in them to fit the stone. The stone was seated and the claws bent back into place.

♦ When the setter is happy that the stone is securely set, he trims the claws down and finishes them with a special tool to give them the rounded edges seen on the finished product. A final polish and clean and the ring is ready for delivery. Sometimes a layer of rhodium plating will be added at this stage to white gold. We prefer not to plate white gold since the alloy we use is whiter than the alloys generally used in mass produced retail items.

♦ Bench work is generally regarded as the best method for production since the continuous rolling and compressing of the metal raises the metal density, making it more resistant to wear and damage. This is however, a very labour intensive process and is therefore usually combined with or replaced by casting processes to cut down on labour costs and improve affordability.

We offer a short course in jewellery manufacture for the bench worker. Click here for more information.

 

Casting

Lost wax casting is a very popular modern method of jewellery production. In mass production it is used to speed up the manufacturing process, set a production standard and lower input costs, whilst private jewellers mainly make use of it to facilitate the manufacturing of complicated designs. There are many different techniques and these differ for each metal and industry, but in a private workshop it is usually done in the following way:

♦ First you will need a wax model. This can be produced by carving it from a solid piece of wax or wax tube by hand, or in any of the wax production methods discussed in our section on 3D CAD design and digital wax modelling.

♦ The wax model(s) is(are) melted onto a rubber base using extra wax. This is called a tree and special attention is given to the position of each item since the flow of the metal will influence the success of the casting.

♦ The flask is pressed over the tree into the rubber base and the entire flask is filled with investment, a mixture of water and a powdery compound much the same as Plaster of Paris, but with a high temperature tolerance created especially for the purpose.

♦ The investment is allowed to dry thoroughly before the rubber base is removed. The flask is then placed open end down into a cold kiln. The kiln is switched on and the temperature is gradually increased every hour or so until it reaches the desired temperature and the wax has been properly burnt out.

♦ The kiln is kept at this temperature while the metal is heated in the centrifuge crucible.

♦ When the metal reaches the desired temperature, the flask is removed and placed in the cradle. When the stopper drops, the spring spins the entire arm around at high speed, injecting the molten metal into the flask using the gravitational force generated by the spinning motion.

♦ As soon as the arm stops spinning, and the metal no longer glows red, the flask is removed and submerged in a bucket of water. This loosens the investment and cools the metal completely.

♦ The items can now be removed from the tree by sawing or cutting them off one by one, and are now ready for cleaning, sanding, polishing and setting.

 

How does it work?

Easy:

♦ Make an appointment for a time that suits you.

♦ Bring your pictures (if you have ideas) and old jewellery (if you have any you'd like to use. Yes, you can bring us yellow gold even though you want white and vice versa). We could give you cash or credit, whichever you prefer.

♦ Come have coffee with us and tell us what you want. We will make some sketches and discuss the design with you.

♦ You will receive your quote by phone or email within the next day or two (depending on how fast our suppliers reply if you have any uncommon requests). If you would like to have a look at some diamonds (or other stones), and we do not have what you want in stock, we will then make a second appointment with you for the diamond viewing.

♦ There is NO OBLIGATION. If you don't want it, you don't take it.

♦ If you do want it (which we are pretty sure you will), you pay the mandatory 50% deposit. We then go to work. If your quotation calls for 3D drafting in the manufacturing process (which is included in the quotation), this is the point where you can expect to find your renderings in your inbox.

♦ After the manufacturing period (which will be discussed according to the complexity of the design), keep your phone close so that we may reach you when it is ready.

♦ At this point you may make the final payment via internet transfer, or bring cash when you pick up your order.

♦ With each and every design we manufacture, we are excited and look forward to delivering our craft. Seeing your joy at the presentation is part of our reward. Call us.