Casting Your Jewelry Not as Difficult as You Might Think

by Virginia Vivier.
(Sunny Tucson, Arizona USA)

I enjoy making one-of-a-kind pendant designs more than duplicating the same ones over and over.

Original Fine Silver Pendant

Original Fine Silver Pendant

A few of my designs are more popular than others and customers expect each one to look the same as in the website photo, which can be hard, since I make each one individually.

I fire each silver design in my small jewelry kiln, sometimes with less-than-perfect results. This causes a delay in shipping the order to my anxious customer, and wastes material (and my time) by
having to do it over. At least, the silver can be melted down and reused, but not my time!

I don’t have the funds to invest in casting equipment. Even if I did, I don’t have the expertise (or time) to learn how use it. So for years, I have been plugging along, creating my designs, one-at-a-time.

I had a conversation with an Etsy Seller that I admire very much,
and he told me that he had his designs “cast” by a company in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

I was so surprised because the detail on each piece was so perfect, and the cost was much less than if he made them one-at-a-time, by himself! He encouraged me to call his casting company and see if they could help me.

I was very pleased by my conversation with the owner of the casting company.

He referred me to a model builder who could take my graphic design and turn it into a model to be cast. Or, I could send my original silver pendant directly to the casting company andthey could make a model from my pendant design.

Since I wanted to make the new pendant smaller than my original design, I decided to work with the person who could design a 3D model from my graphic file.

My graphic file sent to 3D Model Designer to add tube bail

My graphic file sent to 3D Model Designer to add tube bail

I asked him to make it smaller and add a tube bail at the top. I calculated specific dimensions for thickness, depth, diameter, etc., and included those instructions with the file. This is crucial in getting exactly what you want.

I was blown away when he immediately sent me a photo of his interpretation of my design. Wow! It was perfect.

Completed 3D model design ready for casting

Completed 3D model design ready for casting

The next step is to send the model to the Casting Company and have it cast in Fine Silver. (They also cast in bronze and Sterling Silver.) The price was very reasonable and I could order any quantity I wanted, even just one.

The only down side is that it takes about 3 weeks to get the finished product, so I hope I ordered enough to maintain the Etsy orders that are coming in. I would hate to put off a customer and ask them to wait 3 weeks if I ran out.

Now, I can provide a consistent, high quality pendant design, at a lower cost, than what I was making originally, one-at-a-time.

There are casting companies all over the USA, just Google them. And, 3D modeling has become more popular now, than ever. The casting companies can make a model for you, or you can ask them to recommend someone in your area.

If you have a burning design idea you want to create, but don’t have the equipment (or expertise), to create it yourself, there are other possibilities to see it become a reality! It’s worth looking into!

Virginia Vivier
Esprit Mystique at Etsy
Witches Hammer at Zazzle

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Comments

  1. I love the ancient motifs you use in your jewelry, Virginia! I think the one you show here is a Viking compass? I have Scandinavian heritage and love the compass design.

    And thank you for sharing this interesting info. I’m fascinated with the various ways technology keeps making things like this more possible for one-person jewelry businesses. It will be interesting to see what we’ll be able to do 10 years from now!

  2. Hello,

    The work is lovely, but I’m confused about one thing. I thought that Etsy was only for handmade or vintage items. I see that you are the designer, but the actual piece is made by a casting company now. Doesn’t that mean that it cannot be sold on Etsy since it’s no longer handmade?

  3. Marian,
    Etsy now allows for the manufactured aspect of your design, e.g., images printed externally, jewelry casting, etc. A special form with details must be completed by the artist/designer.

  4. Dear Virgina, thank you so much for sharing your experience. I’m in the research process myself (working with metal clay and having the same issues as you did) and your post gives me hope ;-). I hope to find a 3D-Model Designer and Casting Company in Europe/ Germany. If you have any suggestions, any help is so appreciated! I love your pendants – do you have a Facebook page?

  5. Hi Gisela,

    Yes, I have a Facebook page: Facebook, EspritMystique, my Etsy shop name. (I experienced too much spam and ads on my personal page, Virginia Vivier, so dropped it.)

    I’m hope you can find someone (locally) who will make 3D models for you! You might try contacting your local small jeweler and ask him/her. I’m pretty sure he/she could provide you with contacts. Another place to look is the “Orchid” group (www.Ganoksin.com). They are a global jewelry making community that has been around for a long, long time. They help folks who are new to silversmithing/jewelry making with tips and techniques. Just join as a new member and your questions will be welcomed. That’s how I found out about 3D model making.

    Let me know how you progress? I hope you find it as exciting as I do.

    Warmly from sunny Tucson, Arizona,

    Virginia

  6. Hi Virginia,
    thank you so much for your help! It’s indeed very exciting and I sure will let you know.
    All the best from Germany,
    Gisela

  7. Virginia I would like some help in finding the company you use to cast your pieces. I’m new to this and very interested in learning more about the process.
    Thank you,
    Beena

  8. Hi Beena,

    I’d be happy to share the folks I’ve been working with. Ted Karl, located in Colorado, makes wax models for casting from designs you send him. You can get his contact info off of his website:
    tedkarlcad.com/

    I send my wax models to Hutch Casting Company in Albuquerque, NM. You can get contact info from their website:
    hutchscasting.com/contact.php

    Jump in and try it! I do suggest that you only cast 3 or 4 until you are confident that they will sell, otherwise you have invested some hard earned $$$ that will gather dust. Another thought – if you cast your designs in sterling silver, they can be melted down if they don’t sell. That way, you can recover some of the material cost. (If you cast them in bronze, the material costs less, but is not worth sending to a refiner for recycling if it doesn’t sell.)

    I hope this helps!

    Virginia

  9. Justin Zullo says:

    Hello Virginia!

    I live in Colorado and I’ve been looking for a casting company to work with. I got burned by a local company and so I’ve been looking for someone more reputable. I was hoping you would be willing to share the name of your casting company with me!
    Thank you,
    Justin

  10. Justin, thanks for asking – please see the comment that’s just above yours; Virginia shares the info there. 🙂

  11. This is a very helpful post. Thank you! Would you be willing to share the name / contact info for the Albuquerque casting company?

  12. Robin, thanks for asking! You’ll find that information in Virginia’s comment to Beena, 4 comments above this one. 🙂

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