One of the most important decisions a jeweler makes when creating a new piece is whether to cast or to fabricate. Both casting and fabrication have been used to make jewelry for thousands of years, so the decision about which method to use is based on several concerns including complexity of the design, intended use of the piece, and the size of the gemstone being set. But perhaps we should step back and review the two methods:
When you fabricate, you start with gold (or platinum or silver) in the form of ingots, sheet, or wire. Using hammers, torches, pliers, and other hand tools, you form it into bands for rings, backings for settings, bezels, prongs, baskets, and galleries.
When you cast, the traditional method (which is still used widely today) begins by carving a model of the item you plan to make in wax. A more modern method is to design a computer model of the item using a CAD program, then create the model in plastic using a 3D growing device. Once the wax or plastic model has been created, it is encased in a plaster-like material called investment, and heated in a kiln to melt out the wax or plastic. What remains is a plaster model with an impression of the jewelry item inside where the wax or plastic used to be. Into that void you pour liquid metal, and once the metal has cooled and hardened, you break away the plaster to reveal the rough piece of jewelry.
Either method of jewelry making is a valid, artisanal process. So why do we choose to hand fabricate nearly everything we make at Omi Privé?
First, the soldered prongs of a hand-fabricated jewelry piece are stronger than the prongs of a cast piece. This is not to suggest well-cast prongs are likely to break — they aren’t. But at Omi Privé we are setting the finest gemstones, so it is important to us that the prongs be able to stand the maximum quality test, and that means hand fabrication.
Second, many of our designs require delicate wire work. We use drawn or extruded gold or platinum wire, which is much stronger than cast metal. Just one look at the galleries of our rings will show you the intricacies of our designs. Less skilled jewelers would choose to cast these pieces, because the hand work is extremely challenging. But true masters of jewelry making do this work by hand to achieve a more refined, more delicate, and longer-lasting piece than casting can produce.
At Omi Privé, we want to create more than beautiful jewelry. We want to create masterpieces. So our choice is almost always to fabricate, and only cast when casting is the superior choice. Because when you’re working with the most beautiful gemstones in the world, only the most masterful settings will do.