Jewelry Class: casting a ring

I’ve been taking jewelry-making classes at Jewel Envy, a jewelry studio that recently opened up just around the corner from me. They bought an old house in desperate need of renovations, gutted it, and painted the whole house a vibrant shade of blue (at which point they certainly had my attention). Inside are two floors of studio space for independent jewelers/metal smiths, and some gorgeous display cases full of lovely hand-made jewelry.

The lovely blue house of Jewel Envy

The lovely blue house of Jewel Envy

Look at these super-cute display cases.

Look at these super-cute display cases.

I’m just finishing up the 8-week casting workshop, where I learned how to do the lost-wax casting method. This is the first ring I made, out of sterling silver:

ring1ring2

Lost-wax casting involves carving a ring (or a pendant or some other piece of jewelry) out of wax and creating a plaster mould around the wax.
This is my wax carving for the second ring I’m making. I seem to be stuck on a heart theme, for some reason.

Separate wax carvings for the band and the big heart

Separate wax carvings for the band and the big heart

waxheartring2

The back of the heart

The plaster mould is then heated in a kiln which causes the wax to melt away, leaving a cavity in the shape of your carving. Next, you place the plaster mould into a centrifuge, and using a blow torch, silver pieces are melted in a crucible attached to the mould. As soon as the metal is completely molten, you let the centrifuge spin around which sucks the liquid silver into the mould.

The plaster mould and the crucible full of silver are placed in the centrifuge.

The plaster mould and the crucible full of silver are placed in the centrifuge.

Melting the silver with a blowtorch.

Melting the silver with a blowtorch.

Let 'er rip!

Let ‘er rip!

Sometimes this part of the process doesn’t work properly–the silver doesn’t completely fill the mould, for example, and it’s really “heart”breaking (see what I did there???)–because your wax carving that you worked so hard on has been destroyed, so there’s no do-overs.

A few minutes after the centrifuge stops spinning, you dunk the mould in water, allowing the plaster to dissolve away and you’re left with a silver casting, which then needs to be cleaned, sanded, and polished.

Tonight is the last class in the workshop, and I’ll be soldering the heart ring together and sanding and polishing it. Fingers crossed! I’ll be sure to let you know how it turns out.

Have you ever tried lost-wax casting? What did you make?

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