A question I get asked a lot via email from my website readers goes something like this:
I have a great idea for a metal pendant (or charm). I want to design it, but I need someone else to make it. Since it will be extremely popular, I will probably need to have a way to produce them in large quantities. How do I do this?
Though there are a number of methods available for constructing a metal pendant or charm, more than likely, this person would need to use a method called casting to produce the finished jewelry product.
In this process, a wax (or sometimes plastic) mold is used to create a piece of jewelry. This wax mold, called a pattern, is first weighed so the amount of metal required to fill the mold (gold, silver, etc.) can be determined. Then the mold is attached to a base, and a flask is fit over the base. Once the mold is in the flask, a kind of plaster that looks like pan cake batter called investment is mixed up, put in a vacuum to get all the air bubbles out of it, and then poured into the flask. It is then left to dry and harden. This takes a minimum of two hours.
Once the investment is dried, the base and flask are removed. Now the piece is put into a kiln to burn out the wax. Next a centrifuge is used to force the melted metal into the investment mold. Finally, the piece is cleaned up by filing and polishing it.
Sounds like a lot of work! Actually, once you learn the process, it’s not that difficult; however, along with some expertise, it does require some specialized equipment, so not everyone wants to go so far as to make her own cast jewelry pieces.
What, then, is the alternative? You can pay a casting service to make them for you. A casting service takes your mold and can duplicate it as many times as you’d like using a similar casting process to what I just described. Cost depends on a number of variables such as type of metal, size of the item, number of jewelry pieces you want cast, and whether you want them to be completely finished – file, cleaned, and polished – our if you plan to do that yourself.
I have a few jewelry casting companies linked in the Metal Section of this site, but you can also locate them from Internet search engines as well as advertisements in many jewelry making magazines. Most casting services can help you through the entire process. Even if you don’t have the ability to carve your original mold to send to them, some will also be able to do this for you as well.