Custom designed jewelry is more popular now with advances in technology like CAD/CAM (computer aided design). But the designs come from human talent and creativity, and not from some SI-FI creature. While the computer renders the design and prints a wax, the jewelry designer begins the process with an inspired design concept and a rough sketch of his/her vision. At Brummitt Jewelry Design Studio we use two forms of producing wax models. Isn’t is exciting that the “Lost Wax” process is still being used today?! Imagine old world jewelry casting techniques still existing today! At Brummitt Jewelry Design Studio, we use the ancient and the modern technique of wax model development.
History shows that over 2000 years ago, the ancient Egyptians and Chinese used the “Lost Wax Process” and more recently the Aztecs, Mayans and some tribes in Africa.
Many of the precious metal works of art you see in museums were made using this casting technique. A Florentine goldsmith named Benvenuto Cellini perfected the art, but the technique almost disappeared until Karl Faberge’ made remarkable and complex jewelry creations for the Russian Czars.
The name lost-was casting owes its origin to the fact that an expendable wax pattern of the item to be cast was first made of wax. The wax mold is then attached to a sprue base, placed in a cylinder, and liquid plaster of paris (varies) is poured into the cylinder in which it hardens as it sits. The plaster cures in about an hour, the sprue is removed, and this leaves an opening in the mold so that the wax can burn away. Now there is a cavity from the “lost wax” in the hot plaster and molten metal is then poured in the mold assuming the shape of the cavity. After cooling, the plaster mold is broken and destroyed, leaving the raw casting. Thus, each lost wax cast object is unique.
Our Studio Process
Russell is gifted to be able to hand carve waxes from a block of wax and create rings, earrings and necklaces. He learned this technique from his father, who owned Charles Hopkins Jewelers in Chapel Hill, NC. In our North Raleigh studio, we are able to carry on the ancient art of casting in gold, silver, and platinum metals.
We also use the modern technique of CAD/CAM design. (For examples of CAD/CAM wax models, see pic #1). The intricacy of the design determines which process is used. For example, a ring with numerous large and small gems requires several prongs per stone to set. Therefore, the model consists of many raised components and many areas with negative space. Hand carving a wax with these details is extremely laborious and challenging to get all the levels and spacing balanced. In this instance we would use CAD/CAM to render the design and then print the wax. With technology comes a price, however. The minimal charge to create a wax and a render is approximately $350.00 and is a one-time fee (at this date). You have to create the design (CAD), and the price begins with the CAD/CAM fee and then the final price is determined figuring the metal weights, gemstone pricing and labor to finish the jewelry item.
Hand carved waxes are used for more freeform designs and models are formed from wax options such as wax wire or wax ring blocks. An example would be a signet ring from a wax block, or one of our signature Cappellini ring made from wax wire.
None of this can be started without the talent of a jewelry designer. The best designers are those who also work at the jewelry bench and do the gold smithing and stone setting themselves. Russell Brummitt is a second-generation jewelry designer and he has designed thousand of pieces of one of a kind jewelry in his career. The joy in it all is revealing to the client something that has taken weeks to months to make its debut!