There are five main methods of production for creating metal based vintage and antique jewelry. It is important to have a basic understand of these so you can more accurately understand how a piece was made. This also helps in aging the piece.
These techniques are:
Throughout history, most jewelry has been created by hand. Hand fabrication can be defined as when a piece is made by hand from start to finish, usually at a bench. The process of hand-fabrication encompasses a large variety of other techniques, including but not limited to, filigree, appliqué, granulation, cannetille, enamelling, repoussé and chasing.
This is when the piece is made from a mold, often rubber. The mold can be created from the original piece of jewellery or from a wax replica.
Die Striking / Stamping
This is a manufacturing technique patented in 1769 by John Pickering.
Die struck or stamped pieces are created using a moveable force made of steel (the 'male') and an immoveable hardened steel die (the 'female'). The metal that will become the jewellery is placed between the male and the female and assumes the form of the die.
This technique was first patented in 1840 and was popular until the end of the 1800s. It has experienced a revival in contemporary jewellery (which is why many Victorian electro-formed pieces can look uncannily modern).
Electro-formed jewellery is created by taking a mandrel in the form of the desired jewellery piece (the mandrel can be made from almost anything but most commonly is wax or metal). This mandrel is then coated with a metallic solution which is placed in a bath of electrolytic solution. This creates a negative charge that allows positively charged gold to be deposited on it in a very fine layer. The original mandrel is then melted away.
The result is lightweight, hollow gold coloured pieces of jewellery.
White Metal Spin-Casting
This is a process for making costume jewellery which uses a white metal alloy of tin, lead, bisuth, antimony and cadmium. The higher the quantity of tin, the greater the quality of the piece.
The mold is placed on a spinning caster and the metal is poured into the spinning old. It is usually then electroplated.
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