How does each piece of jewelry come to be?
It begins with creativity and inspiration from real life experience... I’ve learned inspiration can strike anytime, anywhere so I always carry a sketch pad with me! Natural shapes or architectural design can inspire me to try to capture a vision… Enjoying the company of family and friends sharing laughter and great times can spark a creative idea... I’ll admit my furry family members are my most consistent muses, they continue to enrich my life in their special ways.
I begin with a rough sketch.
That idea and creation will either catch fire or fizzle out. Inspiration can start on my sketch pad, scratch paper, napkin, and now even my phone. Some ideas can sit for years before they finally come to life. The ones that catch fire become more detailed as they come alive. After the initial idea, I use graph paper to rough out the details to scale. It is necessary early in the process to conference call/consult CAD (Computer-Aided Design), to discuss the technical details for the design vision.
CAD inputs the design and sends a preliminary proof.
Then I analyze the design for attention to detail, feeling and realism. I give CAD my feedback and adjustments; CAD makes the modifications and sends a revised proof. This is a very dynamic step in the process. Some designs only require one or two revisions; some of our more intricate designs can take over twenty revisions ...and some just fizzle out because the design cannot be brought to life. We never settle! We continue revisions until we feel confident the jewelry piece will meet our high expectations. Dazzling Paws Jewelry designs need to be boldly realistic and stunningly appealing.
Once the design is approved,
the real work begins- manufacturing! The computer generated design is sent to a Milling Machine where a wax model is cut with great precision making a positive jewelry impression that is sent to production. TRIVIA: our wax model process used to be hand carved which took a very long time! Our Crouch Border Collie pendant was hand carved and took one year to complete. We switched to digital in the mid 2000’s as we felt the advantages outweighed hand carving. Digital gave our jewelry pieces a more consistent look in both depth and detail accuracy. Digital also presented us with new possibilities. We were able to explore more realistic and complex designs while being able to reproduce them with amazing precision and consistency. The results dazzled our customers and the sky became the limit.
Next in the process, a mold is made from the wax model.
The mold is a negative impression of the design. All molds are individually numbered for identification. Production for any jewelry piece starts with a term called "shooting waxes". At this stage the mold is injected with hot liquid wax through a passage called a sprue. The wax will harden instantly when air hits it and the added sprue will become a handle.
Each jewelry piece is shot individually using the same mold for a consistent look.
As an example, if we place an order for 100 pieces of a design, 125 waxes are shot to ensure we will receive 100 pieces that will meet our quality standards.
After a wax is shot, a person hand peels out each individual wax model impression from that mold. As the person shoots and peels each piece they continue to check Quality Control, with a keen eye for the details including proper shape. If the wax model does not pass inspection; it is recycled and melted back to hot wax for reuse in a future wax model.
Now all the individual wax model pieces are arranged and attached to a tree.
The person attaching each piece needs to make sure that none touch each other or it will destroy the wax model.
White Plaster "investment"Wax Trees in cylindersThe wax trees are placed into cylinders where a white plaster substance called an “investment” is poured over the trees.
Each cylinder goes into a pressurized machine that vibrates vigorously.
Vibration makes air bubbles rise to the top so they expelled, leaving the pure liquid investment to wrap snugly around each piece. The cylinders now have a wax tree inside surrounded by a hard white plaster substance and to sit and cure (harden) for 24 hours.
Once fully cured, the investment cylinders are placed in a kiln for the burn out process to start.
The kiln is fired up and burns out the wax trees which takes another 24+ hours and leaves a negative impression of the jewelry piece inside the cylinders. This part of the process must completely burn out all the wax for the next step to be successful.
The cylinders are turned upside down and you can see where the wax tree impression once existed. The recycled sterling silver is heated up and poured into the empty cylinder space. Sterling silver flows into the previous wax tree to create a positive impression of the jewelry piece. The cylinders are again set aside for 24 hours to cure. After curing, the cylinders are submerged in water so the investment substance can begin to break away from the sterling silver trees.
A strong sprayer, like a power washer, is used to spray off any white investment substance that still remains surrounding the sterling silver tree. The sterling silver jewelry trees are then in a very raw form- not polished, tumbled, or oxidized.
Grinding and sanding off a sprueThe trees are ready for a person to hand clip each jewelry piece off the trees. As the jewelry pieces are clipped, another quality control inspection is performed. The person hand checks each jewelry piece while grinding and sanding off the sprues that once connected the jewelry to the trees.
Now the individual raw sterling silver jewelry pieces receive an oxidation bath. It is the oxidation that creates our antique finish. The jewelry pieces go in a silver color yet come out solid black and continue on to a generous sized tumbler.
The jewelry pieces are tumbled with little shots or walnut shells depending on the finish we ultimately want to achieve for each piece. This tumbling method creates a rapid, yet gentle friction action that cleans and polishes the jewelry piece’s high points while allowing the grooves to maintain an antiqued look. We choose a shorter or longer tumbling process depending on our desired look for the finished jewelry piece.
Achieving the proper polish and shine effect can take up to another 48 hours with some pieces even requiring hand polishing. If a black spec should appear in a piece, it is not a flaw or an imperfection; it is due to a low point in the metal which is part of the character created through the hand crafting process. Light scratches may also occur during the tumbling process. Our engraving machine does not cause scratches.
Certain jewelry pieces will move onto a soldering stage where the earring posts are hand soldered. Our two-tone jewelry is also soldered together to craft two-tone earrings or certain pendants like this halo in our "I Believe in Angels" popular memorial piece.
Each jewelry piece goes through a final Quality Control inspection. If the piece does not pass, it will be recycled for reuse in a future jewelry piece. Once inspected a person hand counts, bags, and tags all the jewelry pieces.
The entire production stage of how our jewelry is made can take anywhere from 4 to 6 weeks! At Dazzling Paws Jewelry, we also inspect every piece of Sterling Silver jewelry while we inventory and put them away. Each piece has to meet or exceed our own high standards of quality. We do not hesitate to pull a piece and send it back, if we are unhappy with the quality.
The jewelry piece that you have purchased from Dazzling Paws Jewelry has been handcrafted by 15-20 US employees during the creation process. We are so very proud to bring you a product that is Made in the USA!