When I go to museums and see jewellery that has been found on archaeological digs I am always amazed at how current it looks, how it could have been made today. We still use many techniques that would not have been out of place hundreds of years ago and yet technology has moved on to develop methods that would be incredible to those jewellers from yesteryear.
Here I look at some of the key innovations that have taken the craft of jewellery making in new directions
Roman gold rings with stones, 3-4 Century AD from the collection at the British Museum
|Examples of 3D printed jewellery from Fathom and Form jewelry|
3D printing allows us to use a machine to ‘print’ a 3 dimensional object. This innovation is becoming more utilised in jewellery making in many ways including
- to make samples and test pieces in resin or plastic
- to print in wax ready for casting in metal
- for printing directly in plastic or metal
|Printing in wax for casting by Next Day Wax|
Recently, students and staff from LJS were lucky enough to visit a local 3D printing company My Mini Factory. You can read more about this visit here.
Soldering, particularly multiple solder joins in one piece, can be the bane of the jeweller’s life (as I’m sure I don’t need to tell you!). It is particularly tricky when trying to fix broken pieces with gemstones already set because of concerns of damaging the stones. The use of laser welding has helped to make the process of repairing and soldering easier without heat damage to the whole piece.
Laser engraving has also meant that engraving is possible without damage to the piece and is now regularly used at the assay office when hallmarking, helping to ensure pieces aren’t damaged as they could be with the ‘struck’ mark.
|Metal clay necklace made by visiting tutor Julia Rai|
First developed in Japan in 1990, metal clay is a different way of working with metals. Metal particles, an organic binder and some water are combined to create a putty-type substance that can be moulded and shaped, dried and fired either with a torch or a kiln. It is a beautiful addition to our ways of working with metal and artists working in the medium have fast developed their skills to do so.
Metal clay is available in many metals including fine silver, sterling silver, gold, copper, bronze and steel. It also comes in different forms including lump clay, paste, syringe and paper.
If you would like to see what is possible to create with metal clay check out the pieces submitted to the Metal Clay Masters Registry.
Motorised drilling and polishing
Drilling and polishing pieces has become a quicker process than our predecessors could ever have imagined as we have the benefit of using many nifty pieces of machinery including the pendant motor, flex shaft and motorised drill.
At the London Jewellery School last supplier event Petra from Metal Clay Ltd brought along one of the latest innovations in polishing - the Jool tool. You can have a look at a video review of the Jool tool here.
We all definitely had tool envy!
What other innovations have I missed? Have you tried 3D printing? I’d love to hear your thoughts on innovations in jewellery making. Please share them with me in the comments below