Kajs Jewelry is handmade from start to finish. Follow along as we explain our process to see what goes into the piece you just bought or are about to order:
- Concept: Inspiration might come from the walk to the studio, finding an interesting texture on an old forgotten button, or from hearing a client express their vision of their new piece. Sometimes the idea makes it onto a piece of paper. But after many years of creative experience and learning the limitations of a 2D representation, the jewelry often starts to take form by working with the metal or wax directly.
- Stone: If a stone is part of the design it tends to dictate the direction of the design. How is the stone going to stay in there? Should prongs, bezels, or another stone setting method be used to give the most pleasing design? These all need to be considered before the piece even starts to take shape.
- Metal Work:
- Fabrication: One method of creating the piece is by the jewelry from wire, sheet metal, metal components (findings), chains, and then forming and soldering it together. It is amazing what one can do with a humble sheet of metal and a few tools!
- Lost Wax Casting: This method is a bit more involved, but the scope of what one can make using this method is endless. We do most of our own sterling silver casting in our studio, but send away some of our more complicated (and expensive) gold pieces to be cast at a local refinery.
- Model: One either carves out the desired piece from a piece of wax or uses a found object as the model. This piece can often be cast directly, but one may also choose to create a mold of the piece so that it can be replicated, or to create a better image of the object.
- Mold: The mold is created by pouring a two-component rubbery compound into a form encapsulating the object. When the compound has cured it is time to cut out the object leaving behind a perfect imprint of it in the mold.
- Wax: Pellets of wax are melted (in something resembling a crock-pot with a fountain), and with pressure poured into the mold that was made. Once a satisfactory piece is been created a sprue (short wax stick) is attached to the piece.
- Wax Tree: Usually more than one piece is created at a time (because of this long laborious process). All of the pieces to be cast are carefully assembled onto a wax tree connected to a rubber base.
- Investment: A metal cylinder called a flask is then attached to the base. Liquid investment (a type of plaster) is mixed up and poured into the flask, careful not to break off any of the delicate wax pieces. It is left to harden.
- Burnout: When the investment has hardened the rubber base is taken off and the flask and is placed in a kiln. Here the wax heats up and runs out and/or burns up. Left is the empty space (hopefully) in the shape of the object created.
- Vacuum Casting: Metal is heated up until liquid, and poured into the small hole left behind from the burned up wax. Our casting is done using a vacuum, removing the air and forcing the metal into the place the wax left behind.
- Quenching: The metal solidifies, but before the flask is has cooled off it is submerged into a bucket full of water. This causes the investment to burst, and if successful, leaves behind the metal casting.
- Clean up: Each piece is removed by sawing through the sprue. Remaining pieces of investment are removed with a toothbrush. The pieces spend some time in an acid solution to get rid of any oxidization that might have happened during the casting process. The sprue is completely removed by grinding with a burr. This is the point where any additional soldering usually happens (adding jump rings, earring posts, bales, etc.).
- Polishing: The piece is meticulously polished and inspected. This is often one of the most labor-intensive parts of the process. For some pieces a tumbler can be used, which can polish many pieces at one time, get into all the nooks and crannies, while also hardening the piece (making it less bendable which is often undesirable).
- Stone Setting: Stones are set into a piece of jewelry in many different ways. The aesthetic and design of the piece, the hardness of the stone, the shape of the stone, are a few of the factors involved in choosing the appropriate method. Harder stones like diamonds and sapphires tend to be easier to set, while softer stones like amethyst and opals are much more delicate and are prone to chipping and cracking.
- Final Touches: Once the stone/s are set one carefully cleans up the metal around the setting by polishing. An ultrasonic cleaner (or hot water, soap, and a toothbrush) is used to clean behind stones and in crevices to make the piece clean and shiny.
In summary, this is how a piece of Kajs Jewelry is created. It is not always a fluid process and doesn't always follow these steps quite so seamlessly. It is almost impossible to answer how long it takes to make one piece (a question we often get asked), which might be a little more clear after reading about the steps involved. Being part of the creative process from concept to end product is very rewarding. Seeing an idea come to life is where I find beauty and joy in this tedious art.
DESIGN PORTFOLIO CUSTOM JEWELRY BROWSE JEWELRY