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DIY – Recession (Friendly) Jewelry

by Grace Bonney

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We have a cabinet in our kitchen that always seems to collect all sorts of loose ends from around the house. Last month I was sorting through this catchall when I discovered Alissa has a lot of old gold jewelry she never wears (with good reason… some of this stuff was really ugly). It seemed like such a waste so it got me thinking about how we could reuse this precious metal. I did a little checking around and it turns out a lot of jewelry makers will cast a piece of jewelry with your own gold, for a small fee. I thought this was great – a recession is upon us and not many people can afford to splurge on jewelry, so let’s make it ourselves! (Be warned, this was my first foray into jewelry making.)

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Things I determined you will need:

Old gold jewelry that is far too ugly to wear anymore. If you don’t have any old gold jewelry but still want to participate your caster will sell you gold or try casting in silver instead (much less expensive).
A wax file, simple wax carver, some sort of handsaw (Dozuki saw is easiest to use) and carving wax.
A local precious metal caster or casting company (I just did a quick Google search).
and, if you’re kind of clumsy like me, A Band-Aid for when you cut yourself with the wax file or the wax carver.

The Steps:
Step 1: Plan out your design. I went with two simple teardrop shapes because I thought they would be easy to carve.

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Step 2: Using the handsaw, cut an appropriate sized piece of wax from your wax block. The closer you can cut to the finished size of your piece, the less time the next few steps will take you.

Step 3: Using the tip of the wax carver, lightly sketch your design into the surface of the wax piece(s) you cut in Step 2. This will be your guide.

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Step 4: Use the coarser side of the wax file to start shaping your wax. Be patient – this may take awhile. As you approach the guide you sketched into your wax in Step 3, switch to the finer side of the wax file.

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Step 5: When you get very close to your desired shape, use the wax carver to help finish any areas that need touching-up or were too difficult to carve with the file. Again, this make take a little patience and time but you want to get the shape as close to finished as possible as it is much harder to correct mistakes after it has been cast.

Step 6: Take your wax and your gold to your caster and ask them to attach jump rings to the top. This is the little loop through which the chain will run. I lacked the necessary skills to attach them myself (it involves fire and Alissa won’t let me play with fire in the house).

Step 7: When the casting is finished your gold will have a rough edge and be slightly imperfect. Have the caster finish and polish the piece to your specifications. I asked them to round out the teardrops to compensate for my slightly misshapen wax mold and then I had them “apply” a satin finish.

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Step 8: Put your new pendant(s) on a chain. I thought mine needed a little something extra, so I found a garnet bead that was part of an earring whose mate Alissa had lost and I attached it to the necklace with a wonderful gold headpin I bought from Etsy.

Step 9: Rock out in your new recession friendly jewelry! (or in my case I gave it to Alissa to rock-out in).

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Comments

  • Beautiful design, beautiful idea (beautifull Alissa, too!)…I have been making charms and pendants from pretty, orphaned earrings and bits that seem to accumulate near our kitchen, asking the neighborhood jeweler to add a tiny ring or a clasp to be able to use them, but designing a new shape and melting down to recast is pure genius!
    Thanks for sharing!!

  • Wow! I’d say you should definitely make more jewelry. I can’t believe that is the first thing you’ve ever made. Beautiful! Thanks for the great guest posts!

  • As a jeweler who makes many of my pieces using lost wax casting, I have to say that Ryan… you put together a very user-friendly breakdown of how to make diy charms (or rings or bracelets or earrings or whatever).

    Wax is a great medium to work in. It comes in all different shapes and sizes. You can buy hollow tubes to make rings (http://www.ottofrei.com/store/home.php?cat=1858) or you can buy wax wire in different shapes and gauges that is more pliable (http://www.progresstool.com/cat_waxes_wires4.cfm). The best thing about working with wax is if you make a mistake, it’s very forgiving. All you have to do is melt the area with a tool called a wax pen (being sure to add some extra wax) and start over. There are a couple of different kinds of wax pens out there, but this one is the least expensive and good for a beginner.
    http://www.ottofrei.com/store/product.php?productid=1060

    Here’s a great resource for chain, headpins, clasps, jump rings, and any other little part (called findings in the jewelry world) you could think of https://www.cgmfindings.com/
    You may need to have a wholesale account to order with them, but I’m not sure.

    Also, most major cities have gem shows a few times a year that are great for picking up stones, chains, findings, tools, or anything else you could need. Intergem is a good one to check out
    http://www.intergem.com/event/index.cfm

  • Many years ago I dated a dental student. At some point, when they were practicing gold casting (you know, for crowns and such), he made me a hand cast necklace featuring my birthstone. So if you happen to know any second-year dental students, that’s worth a try too!

  • This is also a really cool idea.. not with wax but also very beginner friendly once you round up a few things. The description is also very thorough. Jewelry making is pretty easy and fun once you get into it~ I’m an art ed teacher and for those who say they can’t you’d be surprised!

  • Would so love to repurpose all my hideous ‘8os jewelery like this. Oh those huge Alexis Carrington earrings! But how to start? How to find the right jeweler? Ideas?

  • If you’re in an “artsier” area maybe there are local jewelers or students? i know not everyone might trust a university student but in milwaukee we had an amazing jewelry dept that did casting.. you could check it out if there are art events and check out their own work to inspect quality as well. There are always “starving artists” looking for commissions.

  • The necklace looks wonderful on Alissa! Ryan you did a great job designing and executing the necklace.

  • I love the necklace, Ryan. Will you be making other necklaces? I would love to try my hands at this. Also, I love the pictures of Alissa.

  • When it came to deciding on what kind of wedding rings we wanted. We looked around at different styles. My husband knew the sentimental pieces I wanted to use; gold pins of my grandfathers, a sapphire ring my Dad gave me that really I wasn’t going to wear everyday. You would be surprised how many pieces you can get together and how easily a jeweler can work with you. And just how surprised I was when he presented it to me made. Having rings made from all different generations into something of your own. I say never be afraid of having a hand me down remade as the sentiment will always be there. Lovely necklace.

  • Your local bead store will have all the findings (jump rings, headpins) etc. and will often have classes so you can learn to make your own jewelry. You can also get tools and lot’s of help with your projects. Try your local store first for friendly advice!

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