This the second entry in a four-part series on the process of custom designing a piece of jewelery.
Once a design is approved, Tony has to decide whether to create a model of the piece using the lost wax process or CAD (computer aided design) .
Lost Wax Process
The lost wax process works well for organic designs and unusual settings. When modeling a piece of jewelery using this process, Tony applies either subtractive or additive techniques. An example of the subtractive approach is when he begins with a block of wax and carves a ring from it by removing the wax in a systematic manner to get to the desired shape and design. When using an additive approach he starts with a smaller piece of wax and builds it up with a wax pen to get the desired shape.
And in some situations he uses both subtractive and additive methods.
Tony works with CAD when the piece requires perfect symmetry, intricate details, or numerous stones. He begins by measuring any stones to be used as well as any relevant body parts (finger size, wrist circumference, etc.). He designs and builds the CAD model based on these two important factors. After the piece is finished in CAD, he will send the digital file to a vendor that will either use a computer to “grow” the piece or that mills it out from a solid section of wax. Another advantage of CAD is that the model can be used to make one or one hundred identical pieces. (Example: bracelet link)
Occasionally, the design requires outright fabrication, directly shaping metal into the final form. In this situation the modeling process is bypassed entirely. This method involves melting the metal into an ingot and using a rolling mill to make a sheet or wire. The metal will then be shaped and forged in to the components needed to complete the job.
The wax model or CAD representation is usually presented to the customer for approval. Then the next step is Casting and that is the subject for the third part of this series.