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Certified Diamond Network

Understanding Handcrafted Jewellery and Cad Cam Jewellery Making


What is “handcrafted” jewellery anyway? And what is “Cad Cam” jewellery making?

As a jewellery master craftsman with over 40 years of experience, I sometimes take all that knowledge and expertise for granted and forget that this is not common knowledge and that people are very interested in how a ‘handcrafted’ jewellery piece is made.

As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words… I hope you find these handcrafted jewellery design and manufacturing journeys interesting…

One of the biggest differences between jewellery handcrafting and ‘Cad-Cam’ production is the skill sets required to produce a beautiful piece of jewellery from a bar or plate of gold to world-class standards. The other is the time required; 100% handcrafting is a very time-consuming process. The quality that the handcrafted approach achieves when done to the highest standard, is second to none and is truly a one-off original.

It has to be said that designing a one-off piece and creating it with the latest ‘Cad-Cam’ technology is very cost-effective when compared to the more laborious approach of 100% handcrafting. With such amazing high-level technology now, to a point where you can’t see any visual or aesthetic differences in the quality of the two approaches, one point still needs to be made…

The quality of the ‘metallurgy’ in handcrafted jewellery with all the working processes performed on the gold to create a handcrafted piece means the density, malleability, and knitting of the metallurgic structure is as good as it gets. Although, casting technology these days is not very far behind.

We live in an age of fantastic and remarkable technological advancements; this is true for the jewellery industry as well. This is why my opinion has changed on this subject in recent times.

The two jewellery production methods in question need to be explained in a bit of detail without boring you or getting bogged down in too much information. “Cad Cam” is an industry term used to describe a method of designing a jewellery computer software platform and creating a 3D virtual jewellery image, or a 2D top, side, end, and perspective view.

The image file is transferred to a 3D wax or resin model building / growing machine where it will build and create the computer design image in specially formulated wax or resin mediums to produce a replica. The highest end of this technology produces an extremely high degree of fine detail and “skin quality” (or surface smoothness), which needs to be seen to be believed, truly amazing.

Important note: Here is the catch that you need to be aware of before having your important and treasured piece of jewellery made using this amazing technology. Your jewellery dream and vision will only live up to your expectations using this technology, if…

  • Artist and creative ability: The person building the jewellery design on the computer has a great creative and artistic ability to translate your ideas and vision.
  • Technical experience: The computer designer must have the experience and expertise to translate your design without breaking or compromising technical rules that ensure the aesthetic quality and security of the diamonds or gemstones that will be set into the piece of jewellery.
  • The sequence of highest technical quality: The finished computer design needs to be reproduced in the very highest wax or resin modelling machinery. This is a critical 2nd
  • Technical casting quality: The wax or resin model needs to be cast and produced in whatever your selection of gold or platinum is, with the highest quality and technology in casting machinery to produce a piece with high gold density and 0% porosity.
  • Technical finishing expertise: Finally, once all these steps and criteria have been met, it all comes down to the experience, quality and expertise of the jeweller to set the diamonds or gemstones and complete the jewellery piece to the finest quality finish.

In a nutshell, the technology is truly amazing, but can only be as good as the talent of the jewellery designer and the expertise of the jewellery craftsman driving and leading the use of the technology. And finally, the finishing expertise and skill of jewellery craftsman to complete a piece of jewellery to world-class standards.

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading through this post and please leave a comment if you have any questions or would like to share some of your own experiences relating to this topic.

In my next post, I’ll be sharing some of the hidden facts about white gold that are a must-read if you wear white gold or platinum jewellery.

Master craftsman and award-winning designer,

Edward Swaab.