How Fine Jewelry is Made

Happy 2021! How are you doing? It is Sunday and my first full week back from taking a much needed vacation after Holiday jewelry season for my fine jewelry business, Ounce of Salt Jewelry. 

I would love to write a blog post once or twice a week with helpful tips to share with you.. but I am struggling with how to do this and manage my “work-life balance,” which I’m trying to improve. For now, I am alternating fine jewelry blog posts with lifestyle posts until I have a better solution. Today, I’m sharing behind the scenes of how Fine Jewelry is made. I love BTS info on anything I’m interested in, so I thought you might enjoy what life is like when creating a piece for my line or a custom piece for my clients. 

I hope you enjoy it! 

It’s a new year and I’m working on my  Ounce of Salt designs as well as custom orders for my clients. In doing so, I thought I’d bring you “behind the scenes” to show you the steps taken to bring a piece to life!

I will use my most recent piece in my jewelry line as an example: the Ounce of Salt Diamond Butterfly Eternity Band. 

Butterflies are a symbol of transformation and metamorphoses. These are things I feel I went through in my own life once I turned 40 years old, and what many women my age seem to experience to “find themselves.”

What I love about this diamond ring: The pattern is not immediately obvious. At first glance, it looks like a mosaic of different shaped diamonds that sparkles across the room.

But with a closer look at this 7 carat diamond eternity band, you can see the precise pattern of the stones and different symbols they make, one of them being diamond butterfies glistening across the circumference of the ring.

My goal in making this piece was to make it a statement ring like no other that is comfortable enough to wear every day. Gone are the days we wear statement rings just for special occasions. This ring was made to be both “black tie” and “jeans/white t-shirt.”

As many of my customers know, I don’t like to use a lot of metal in my diamond eternity rings. Unless it is an intentional look of my design to have more metal, I try my best to use small prongs and a tight fit for my diamonds on its setting so the diamonds can have as much light passing through them, leading to optimal sparkle.

To achieve this takes an incredible amount of precision and careful craftsmanship. For obvious reasons, it’s much harder to make a ring using less metal than more. We had the diamonds specially cut in Germany to attain the exact shape and size/cut stones we wanted for this butterfly ring. The end result is, what I view as perfection!

Ounce of Salt Jewelry

My first piece made with platinum found her home as a Christmas gift for a local Manhattan Beach client. I am working on an 18k yellow gold version now and can’t wait to see who will be lucky enough to own her.

Steps to Make a Custom Jewelry Piece

The following is the step-by-step process to show you how a piece of fine jewelry is crafted using my Diamond Butterfly Eternity Ring as an example .

Step 1: The Sketch

Jewelry begins with a sketch of a piece of jewelry.

Step 2: The Computer Assisted Design

Step 3: Wax Molding/Casting

The wax pattern is the first step to casting a piece of jewelry. Using the wax mold, plaster is placed around the wax to create a mold. Once the plaster is set, we put the encased wax model mold into the oven until the plaster hardens. In the high heat, the wax will melt off and leave a hollow cavity inside of the mold. With the hollow mold, we pour molten metal into the hollow cavity. After a few minutes, we immerse the mold in cold water and the mold will then dissipate. Then, tada! The result is a piece of jewelry that is the exact replica as the wax pattern.

Step 4: Quality Assessment of the Casted Piece

We will check for any signs of porosity in the casting: little grains, gaps or bubbles that indicate that the metal didn’t properly fill the mold. If the setting does not meet our standards, we will repeat this process until the casting is perfect.

Step 5: Setting Gems

Jewelry bench workers must work carefully and slowly so they don’t damage the stones. The diamonds must be held securely and with precision. Like with any artistic craft where we rely on human hands to do the work, the variance in work quality is wide. The jewelry industry has a wide range of quality in its jewelry setters. Workmanship is extremely important!

Step 10: Final Touches

Once the piece of jewelry is finished, it needs a final polish to bring out the shine of the metal. This is done by putting jeweler’s rouge on a soft cloth and buffing the piece, making sure that all the details show off the finished piece of jewelry’s design and sparkle.

What do you think of these steps in making a piece of fine jewelry? I hope this post helps you understand the design process in making fine jewelry. We use this same process for all of Ounce of Salt Jewelry’s custom orders.

If you’ve been thinking of making an heirloom piece of jewelry, there’s never been a better time! Let’s start your year off with a meaningful custom piece to symbolize something important in your life. Visit my Contact Page and let’s connect!

Enjoy this video of the Ounce of Salt Diamond Butterfly Ring!

Flavor Your Life with an Ounce of Salt. A lifestyle blog by Jen Oliak.