by Lady Mockingbird.
Do you have a jewelry concept in your mind that will require a huge investment in tools and equipment or even skills you don’t yet possess? Have you considered the possibility of partnering with a small-run manufacturer?
Peripherally, I was aware that there are jewelry artists who work wholly in wax models which they then send out to a casting company where the company will either do lost wax casting or will make a more durable precision mold that can be used to make multiple perfect copies of the original wax carving. But I really had no clue where to begin when I wanted to turn my own specific clasp design into something consistently reproducible.
I did a ton of research on the jewelry manufacturing process (designer’s idea through to production) first. Then I looked for companies that specializing in jewelry manufacturing. For me, it was important that whichever firm I chose be based in the US, have policies for maximizing use of green and/or ethically sourced materials and be willing to do very small manufacturing runs. Many of the jewelry casting companies I phoned weren’t interesting in production runs of less than 1000 items. But I was patient, and kept searching until I found 3 suitable businesses. From there making the right choice was simple. Getting the ball rolling took longer than I’d imagined, but in hindsight the time the company and I took was key to getting the design right.
I sent off a rough mock up I’d made by scoring, cutting and folding sheet metal, plus some scale drawings. The casting company has an auto cad department and they worked up full design specs in auto cad and sent them to me for review. We went back and forth a few times, with tweaks first to the auto-cad design and then through a few prototype iterations. To save on the initial cash outlay I worked it out with the caster that I would do sprue removal, assembly, and all the final finishing. I now have 4 working and completed proof-of-concept sample clasps. Going from rough design to finalized sample production was far less costly than having had to purchase auto cad software, commercial grade 3-d Printer, special lathe for carving aluminum mock-ups, brazier, casting investment materials, crucibles etc.
But I am at the point where the project lives or dies. A production run is expensive even if done using base metals, and I want to do it in both solid sterling and brass or bronze. So, I’m working on raising funds. A Kickstarter campaign is my first fundraising attempt. If this doesn’t work, I’ll look at applying for a small business loan. Going with a loan is a bigger financial risk than crowd-sourcing so I’m keeping my fingers crossed.