In this article, we explain how jewelry manufacturing works. We share the basics of how to get started in this industry. This will help you communicate to us or others when it comes time to do your homework, to evaluate costs and maintain good communication throughout the process, as well as understanding the costs associated.
This will be most relevant to several key audiences: those who are burgeoning designers, have a market and are ready to make their designs a reality.
We also work with business owners and entrepreneurs in the jewelry trade who are interested in expanding their manufacturing operations abroad.
Outsourcing or ‘near-shoring’ has become an increasingly popular option for many manufacturers.
In the search for an outsourced option, many are led to the Chinese market, which is very inexpensive, but is more prone to fraud, low quality, plated items and long shipping times.
We, on the other hand, are based in Taxco, Mexico, which is a happy medium for logistics, pricing and quality.
3D Jewelry Modelling
Many designers start with a sketch of what they’d like to get made. Over time, this ideas is often refined and perfected. When you have something that represents your style and taste and is truly unique, or simply a design you think would be a good supplement to your current jewelry offerings, it’s time to turn that design into a 3d model.
Designers in the jewelry industry typically use some form of computer aided design (CAD) software. Some jewellers are familiar with design software, whereas others prefer to send their sketchers to a designer who can turn it into a fully fleshed out three dimensional file.
Of course, to get a design that is accurate, you will need really precise sketches that show accurate dimensions. But one of the good things about CAD is that you’ll get a chance to review the file before any prototypes are made.
This allows you to save your work, to see it in 3d and to fix mistakes on the fly. Even more importantly, after the design is done, it allows you to send your file to whomever you want. Maybe you’d like to do this to get a few 2nd opinions on your work. You can then make adjustments, try it in different colors, with varying gemstones etc. until it’s just what you wanted.
Or, occasionally, experimenting with your design can also lead to happy little accidents that may actually wind up being improvements.
After you have your design just as you want it, the next step is to actually print a model of it. 3d printing technology has made creating models and molds far easier than it used to be. So, you’ll want to get your first wax model made. Now, for the first time, you’ll be able to visualize your design in 3d.
Making a Metal Model
But, you won’t be able to use the plastic version to make your actual jewelry pieces of course. For that, first you’ll need to cast your wax model into metal.
One way is the lost wax method. This involves a number of steps. Anyone attempting this should first seek the advice of an expert, as the process includes heating and using liquid metal to create the new mold!
Usually, a new material is needed that will surround the wax, take on its shape and then dry, later serving as the receptacle for molten metal. While burning right through the wax, this metal will also take its shape in the concrete. When all is dry and no longer hot, the concrete cover around the melted mold is extracted. This often almost looks a bit like an archaeological excavation, where one carefully chips away at the concrete to get to the metal mold underneath without damaging it.
Once the metal jewelry mold is finally free of the concrete, it is time to give it a final cleaning and smoothing. At this point, a number of final adjustments can be made.
As long as there were no major mistakes in the process, this will leave you with your final metal mold.
Your manufacturer should be able to take it from here. After you have your mold, ship it to them. They should be able to get a prototype of the finished piece back to you in less than a week.
The prototype is necessary just to make sure there aren’t any issues with your finished piece of jewelry. The prototype should also serve as a very accurate representation of the quality you should expect from your manufacturer’s finished jewelry pieces. If your manufacturing partner is reliable, all the pieces in the larger batch of jewelry they produce for you should reflect this quality.
If you want to skip the molding process, sometimes you can send your 3d file to the manufacturer, and they make the mold for you and create the metal mold as well. This is obviously a far more hands-off process for the designer, but it may be necessary for designers who for whatever reason don’t have access to the tools and supplies needed to create molds.
Santa Prisca Silver manufactures jewelry for designers and retailers in the US and around the world. If you need a hand with production, feel free to send us the specs and we’ll get in touch to receive a mold and get you a prototype ASAP.
Also, if you’re a manufacturer interested in outsourcing, Taxco, Mexico where we’re based is a great option. While its prices are affordable and has better logistical convenience than Asia, Taxco also has a wealth of skilled artisans focused on high quality, handmade work.
This is what allows us to provide great deals on premium jewelry to designers and retailers around the world.