In the Studio: How it's made
On a recent visit to our manufacturers, we caught up the Head of Production, and also one of the owners who, along with his siblings, took over the family business started by their father over 20 years ago. We spent the day road-trip style as he drove us to the production studio to watch the Earring Capsule
being made, introduced us to his favorite seafood restaurant (the studio is near a coastal part of the city where locals like to spend their weekends) and became our impromptu tour guide. We bonded over stories of our kids, our experience as second generation entrepreneurs, our favorite playlists and, of course, our passion for jewelry. With his extensive experience, he was excited to share his knowledge of how they make jewelry.
What’s your background and experience?
I’ve grown up in this industry my whole life. My great-grandfather was a metalsmith and my father had produced jewelry for decades and started his own business in the 90’s. My brother took over the company when my father retired and my siblings and I joined the company a few years after university. We’re a family business with each sibling responsible for different parts of the company. I have an engineering background so my passion is in production. I’m always thinking about ways to improve the process and am fascinated by innovation in the industry.
How long does it take to make a design?
We’re a small business compared to the mass manufacturers with thousands of employees. Our company has about 80 employees including my siblings, the office sales team, and jewelers at our studios. We make one of a kind pieces and also designs in higher quantities. It can take 5-8 weeks to make a design, but it depends on the intricacies of the designs, quantities and also the time of year too. Production closes for a month during the Lunar New Year. The official holiday is 2 weeks but most of our jewelers, including my family, travel back to their hometowns to celebrate so it’s nice to have more time at home.
Can you walk us through the process of how you make jewelry?
1. After you provide us with initial design sketches and ideas, we use a computer-assisted design (CAD) program to draw the designs to scale.
2. Based on the CAD drawings, we use a 3D printer to produce a wax prototype.
3. The wax prototype is called a “master” and is then cast into metal.
4. The metal casted master is prepared for the mold by the head jewelers in our studio. They are also called “Masters” because of their skill and experience and they are also mentors to the rest of the team. The master prototype needs to be exact, it is what all the other pieces will be made from.
5. A rubber mold is made from the master.
6. A wax injector shoots wax impressions in the mold. We make as many impressions as the quantity required and assemble them on a “tree”.
7. The wax impressions on the tree are cast into the desired metal using the lost wax method. The casting is done at a facility down the street that is certified in using sustainable casting processes and is government monitored. We provide the raw materials like the wax impression tree and precious metals and we are on hand during casting to control quality. It’s important that casting is done here because the water used to cast jewelry contain chemicals and waste that is harmful to our ecosystem if not properly treated. At this particular facility, the water is treated and tested before it enters the water stream again and is reused back in the facility. The water is also filtered for metal particles that can be refined again.
8. After casting, the jewelry is hand finished back at our studio which includes cleaning and sanding smooth the pieces.
9. If it’s a piece that requires additional plating, like vermeil pieces, they are electroplated at the same casting facility. Our process and requirements for plating is a longer process than most since the plating is thicker than just gold plated jewelry. We also test the pieces on site to ensure the gold layer is thick enough to meet vermeil standards.
10. The jewelry is then hand finished at our studio.
11. Stone setters set the gems that have been previously selected for quality.
12. The jeweler adds findings (like earring posts, chains, and clasps) and finishing touches.
13. Each piece is polished, buffed and goes through a final clean.
14. The quality control team does a final inspection of the finished pieces and packages them according to client instructions. The QC team actually inspects and weighs the pieces at each point of the process before it moves forward in production. While this adds extra time to production, the team appreciates it and makes for a better quality final product.
The head jewelers in the studio
Creating wax injections from the custom rubber molds (and also she's wearing our Ball Stud Earrings)
A wall of rubber molds
The rubber mold for the Circle Hoop Ear Jackets
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