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Goldsmithing: The Ancient Art of Handmade Jewelry

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Behind every piece of beautifully handcrafted gold jewelry, there are hours of patient, precise work by a goldsmith. Delicate designs are forged with hammers, saws, files, blowtorches, anvils, and more. And these tools must be wielded with exceptional skill honed through years of practice.

Thesis relies on the work of master craftsmen to create quality, custom designs from ethically-sourced gold. Our master goldsmiths employ multiple metalworking techniques, such as casting, soldering, and engraving, to create everything from a simple, rough-hewn ring to an intricate pendant inlaid with gemstones. 

We primarily use two goldsmithing techniques to make jewelry in our award-winning signature style: hand carved wax casting and hand fabrication.

moonstone-ruby-diamondpendant 

Moonstone, ruby and diamond pendant fabricated in 22 karat recycled gold

 emerald-diamond-ring

Custom fabricated emerald and diamond ring

 carved-wax-ruby-diamond-rings

Hard carved wax ruby and diamond rings to be cast into 18 karat recycled gold

 custom-emerald-cabochon-ring

Custom emerald cabochon ring – hand carved wax will be cast into 18 karat recycled gold

Hand Carved Wax Casting

Known as Lost Wax Casting, this ancient process has been used for roughly 5500 years to give lasting form to often detailed and elaborate designs. It’s an almost magical process that transforms a hand-carved wax model into a finished piece.

Step 1: Making the wax model

The initial model can be hand sculpted directly from wax, or sculpted from another material and then cast in wax. To make a one-of-a-kind custom ring, for example, a goldsmith might sculpt a single wax model. To make multiples of a design, however, they might sculpt it in metal, create a mold of this sculpted design, and then create many wax casts from that mold. 

Step 2: Making the mold

The wax model is set inside a metal cylinder, which is then filled with a liquid material

(typically plaster). When working with multiple wax models, metalsmiths will attach each

model to a wax “trunk” to form a “tree,” and place the whole tree inside the cylinder. Once the plaster hardens and cures, the cylinder is placed in the oven until the wax melts and runs out of the mold, leaving behind the negative space of the design.

Step 3: Injecting the precious metal

Molten metal is now injected into the negative space and cooled until it hardens. The metal is separated from the plaster mold, revealing the design in solid gold.

Step 4: Finishing the piece

Finally, the goldsmith cleans, polishes, and refines the design. They may also set gemstones into the piece at this time.

Hand Fabricated Goldsmithing

A hand fabricated piece of gold jewelry has been meticulously made by hand. In this traditional method of goldsmithing, several handmade components are fused together to create a design, rather than sculpting a model, casting a mold, or using machines.

Starting with a sheet or block of pure gold material, called an ingot, the goldsmith uses hammer, chisel, fire, and more to bring their vision to life. While this method has many variables depending on the desired design, the following techniques and tools are commonly used:

  • Forging: Gold sheets and other shapes are carefully forged with a hammer.
  • Soldering: Separate pieces are soldered together with a precision torch.
  • Repoussage: The gold sheet is hammered from the back side to create a design in relief.
  • Chasing: Also known as embossing, the gold is hammered from the front side to create a design or refine the repoussage design.
  • Filigree: Beads and/or threads of gold are soldered together with a blowpipe.

Discover Your Own Ethical Gold Design

Gold has been worked by humans across cultures for thousands of years, transforming the raw metal into ceremonial items, decor, weaponry, utensils, and, of course, jewelry. Sadly, modern mining practices can be highly destructive and toxic to the environment, putting this ancient art in jeopardy.

If you follow Thesis Gems & Jewelry at all, you know that social and environmental responsibility are at the core of all we do. We source 100% recycled gold from companies audited for sustainability. These companies also support artisanal, small-scale, Fairtrade mining.

Take a look at the many unique, hand-crafted gold designs in our shop. If you don’t see the perfect piece, remember our master craftsmen are available to create your dream design.