If you’ve never seen jewellery made, you may wonder what a piece of silver (or gold) looks like before it’s made into a beautiful piece? What process does it have to go through to magically transform into an heirloom or statement item of jewellery?
Well now I can reveal all about how jewellery is made!
All silver and gold jewellery is made from a gold or silver bar
True AND false!
Yes it’s true that the metal originally comes from a bar of silver or gold bullion. BUT this is not the way that most jewellers buy their gold and silver. Most jewellers will buy their gold or silver either in wire, sheet or tube form. This means it’s ready to use and make into different items. Some jewellers also melt down old jewellery to recreate new designs. This involves a lot more work, as once it’s melted down it then needs to be rolled into sheet, drawn into wire or it could be made into grain and used to ‘cast’ pieces. It really depends on what you want to make out of it.
How I buy my silver, in wire and sheet form
How does a jeweller make metal into different shapes?
There are LOADS of different ways, and that’s all part of the fun! Generally speaking there are two rules of manipulating metal - you heat it up to a certain temperature to make it flexible and then the more you bend, hammer and manipulate it, it goes hard and brittle again. This is really important as you absolutely don’t want bendy jewellery! Especially if you have stones set inside. You can also obviously cut it to size or cut out a certain shape and this is generally done with very fine blade on a jewellers saw.
How does a jewellery join pieces of precious metal together?
There are different ways, but the most widely used way is to solder the pieces together. You create a tight joint between the two pieces, add a piece of solder (this is generally a piece of the same metal i.e. silver, with extra alloys added so that it melts at a slightly lower temperature than the silver), and then heat up to a certain temperature with a blow torch. Once the metal reaches the right temperature then the solder melts and joins the two pieces together. This starts to get really tricky when you have more than one joint though!
How does a jeweller get their jewellery hallmarked?
My jewellery being hallmarked at Birmingham Assay Office
For a piece to be hallmarked (i.e. be guaranteed of quality) the piece of jewellery has to be tested by an Assay Office (there are just four of these in the UK) to prove it is the correct quality and then the Assay Office will stamp them. The jeweller therefore has to send the jewellery off to be tested, and it’s why sometimes a customer might have to wait a short while for a commissioned piece of jewellery to be ready. Not all jewellery has to be hallmarked by law, it depends on the weight and type of the metal being hallmarked. Silver jewellery only has to be hallmarked once it’s more than 7.78g in weight. However, I prefer to hallmark all my pieces, so that you can be sure of its quality.
Hopefully this sheds bit of light on the mysterious art of how jewellery is made.
Do you have any burning questions about jewellery making? Let me know in the comments box below, and I’ll try to answer them for you!