Silversmith Bruce Moffitt presents Constructed Jewelry.

The Construction Method of Jewelry Fabrication

Lost Wax and Construction

There are two main ways of creating jewelry, the lost wax process and by construction. In the lost wax process, a model is carved or cast in wax, the model is surrounded with a heat resistant cement-like compound, a pour-hole is left in the top, the wax is burnt out and the resulting cavity is filled with molten metal. The cement-like compound is removed and the resulting casting is finished and polished. In the construction method, the various parts of a piece are sawed out of stock, filed smooth, decorated, and silver soldered together. The resulting piece is filed, sanded and polished. Here is an overview of the construction method, by which all of the pieces on this site were made.

This picture is early in the process. The materials are together. There is piece of 18 gauge plate, (0.04 in), for the band that goes around the wrist, a piece of thin plate, (26 gauge, 0.014 in), part of which has been made into a bezel that will encircle the stone and hold it in. In addition to the bezel, there is some 12 gauge, (0.08 in), square wire which will be made into decorations around the stone, and a piece of 20 ga plate, (0.034 in), which will be the base that the bezel and decorations will be soldered to. This base will also extend out further than the decorations, and will be decorated itself, then soldered to the band. The stone is a nice piece of African Carnelian. The preliminary design of the band has been laid out on the piece of 18 ga. sterling, and the band has been sawed out, along with some decorative cut-outs.

This is a bit further on in the process. The band blank has been through a lot of filing and sanding, and is now smoothed down to about 400 grit. A couple of guesses as to decorative stamping have been laid out on the blank. One of the decorative pieces has been formed and is ready for filing. The second one is being formed from the 10 gauge square wire. By this time, I have also found a very nice piece of Lapis Lazuli, I have changed my mind about the stone I will use, and a new bezel has been made for the new stone. (That fine carnelian and its bezel went into pendant #211, click here.) The position of the new stone has been laid out on the base plate.

The decorative lines have been chiseled into the band, and the band has been given a little upward bend to expose the surface I plan to solder the base plate to. The two decorations have been filed even and smoothed. For soldering, the lower sides of the decorations have been carefully flattened and the inner sides of the distal ends have been filed carefully so that they meet flat and even, and will solder cleanly. Everything has been sanded to a 400 grit smoothness.

The first silver soldering has been done. Sterling Silver is an alloy, 925 parts per thousand being silver, and the rest being mostly copper. Silver solder is the same 925 parts per thousand of silver as sterling, but it is a slightly different alloy, usually with a bit of tin replacing some of the copper. This tin lowers the melting point of the alloy a bit so that the solder will melt and flow before the Sterling melts. It doesn't lower the melting point much though, so the soldering stages are by far the most difficult parts of this method of making jewelry. You have to get all the different pieces, of different thicknesses, up to the soldering temperature at the same time without melting any of the thinner pieces, and then you have to "lead" the solder around so everything is evenly soldered with no gaps. Here the decorations and the bezel have been soldered on to the base plate, and the base plate has been sawed and filed to shape.

The band has now been hallmarked. The part of the back plate that extends beyond the decorations has been given a texture with a small punch and hammer, and has been bent back a bit to change its reflective properties. The back plate has been soldered to the band, and the band has been give a further bend. There has been a fair bit of filing and a lot of hand sanding. There is still a fair bit to go.

The piece has been hand sanded to 1500 grit, and burnished to a high luster on polishing wheels using two grades of polishing rouge. The stone has been set, the band has been bent to shape, and the piece has been given a final hand polishing with a rouge cloth. It is now ready to look good on a wrist. At the moment it is piece #236, and is for sale here.

To read some comments by his customers, your are invited to visit the Reference Page.

To discuss a piece, or for more information, call us at 505 286-4156

Every piece custom crafted by hand featuring selected gemstones and Sterling silver.
Every piece bears the maker's mark.

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