A ‘master’ is made. This requires the skills of designer and master pattern maker (a most skilled craftsperson) to combine, in order to produce the original of a particular design, from which all subsequent pieces of that design are made. It can take months, and many experiments, to achieve the master just as the designer wants it.
The master is used to make a mould, out of a special kind of liquid rubber, which captures every detail of the design, and then solidifies. Once solid, the mould is cut apart into two halves.
Wax replicas of the design are then made using the mould. Again, the wax is in liquid, molten form, and is injected into the mould under pressure. A highly skilled job! (Actually, every stage of this process is tricky in its own way, requiring great skill and judgement.)
Multiple waxes are joined together into a wax ‘tree.’ This tree is then placed inside a metal sleeve, and plaster of Paris is poured in. This pot of plaster is then baked in a kiln at several hundred degrees centigrade, baking the plaster solid and vapourising the wax (which is then ‘lost,’ giving its name to the whole process). When the kiln cools, you are left with a perfect ‘negative’ of the wax tree, with all its individual ‘leaves’ – in the shape of individual pieces of jewellery.
At last precious metal gets involved! Molten silver or gold, to the appropriate legal quality standards, are poured into the plaster moulds, using a vacuum to make sure the molten metal flows into every nook and cranny of the design. After the metal sets, the plaster is carefully broken away, and the – now metal – tree is cleaned of all remaining plaster dust. The individual pieces of jewellery are cut from the tree.
If you were watching the whole process, you would finally see at this stage what you might have expected all along: someone sitting at a jeweller’s bench, an array of hand tools spread around them, painstakingly filing, soldering, buffing, polishing, and stone-setting. Every stage of the jewellery-making process takes great skill, extended training and much practice, but it is at this final stage – at the bench – that all the traditional skills of the expert jeweller have their crucial influence. A fraction too little polishing can leave a piece of silver subtly but unpleasantly rough: a second too long and a delicate design can be erased!
Last but not least, the finished jewellery is carefully checked – with anything less than perfection being rejected. (In the very unlikely case of you finding a piece of jewellery that is flawed in its manufacture we will of course replace it.)