Metal Studio Jewelry Blog

Sprue clearly visible these account for some loss

Explaining Gold "Loss" in jewellery production

One of the most common questions I get asked is about gold 'loss' during the process of making a piece out of gold. Typically when making a custom piece from gold we will charge a fee for 'loss'. This is dependant on the project and how much finishing work will be needed to complete the project but is commonly in the 15% range. 

So for example if you order a ring that comes to a total of 10g of gold it is industry standard that the final charge would be written up as around 11.5g of gold used. 

So why is this? 

When working with gold there are a number of reasons that a professional jeweller would experience loss and have to charge for this loss accordingly. 

1. Gold Mix
Every gold project that we do at Metal Studio Jewellery starts life as a solid 24k gold bar. We custom mix all gold to match the order. Whether we are working in 22k gold, 20k gold, 18k gold, white gold or rose gold. During the process of mixing the alloy there are two places where some gold loss might occur. One is as fine micro particles that attach to the heating plates and tools and the other is in the actual mix. When we custom mix gold we always mix on the side of caution having a bit higher gold content in the final product is more acceptable than having a lower gold content. So while this gold is not actually lost it can account for some of the weight differential. 

2. Casting Sprue
Many of the custom gold jewellery pieces we do are carved into wax (because it is softer an easier to work with) then cast from gold. When casting with gold a negative mould must be made and there must be a way to pour the gold into the mould so that it fully fills out the mould. These channels cut into the mould are called sprue and can depending on the piece can use a lot of additional gold. Small pieces can use up to double the amount of gold as the final piece. 
See the picture of sprue visible in the process of making a custom 22k gold dragon bangle

Most of the sprue can be simply cut off and recuperated but the small knubs that are left behind after casing must be smoothed down by filing and sanding. Tiny dust from the gold becomes captured in sand paper and files and under desks and on tables. While effort is made to recuperate as much of these filings a possible they are not easily recovered and generally left to accumulate over time so they can be recovered in larger amounts rather than recovered from individual projects. 

3. Polishing filing and finishing
As the final custom gold jewellery takes shape there is much finishing that needs to be done. The first step is to file away excess material. Once this is done multiple increasingly fine polishing is done to the piece to bring it up to a mirrored shine or a lovely textured finish. The finer the finish the smaller the gold dust that is created. Some of this escapes into the air and is truly lost. Some of this ends up stuck in tools and can slowly build up until it reaches an amount that is work the effort of recovering it. 

Large gold factories have sealed workshops and special vents traps and filters to capture this gold dust. Workers wear specialty suites that are vacuumed at the end of each day to recuperate this gold because of its high value. Unfortunately as a custom hand crafted studio jewelry shop we don't have the means or the need to invest in these expensive and hard to maintain filters and procedures so we are forced to account for a bit more loss than factory made jewellery. 

While we are eventually able to recover some of this 'lost' gold we are not able to do it on an ongoing basis for individual projects so in order to be able to complete the project we have to charge a small amount to account for this 'loss'. This is an industry standard practice. We try to keep the loss to a minimum and to compensate for some of the loss by adjusting the artisan fee accordingly but charging for loss is the only way we can produce custom projects without being out of pocket for gold that could be tied up in dust for a year or more. 

4. Loss from wear
While not part of the production process there is a forth place where gold can be lost on a final product. This is gold loss from wear and tear and can contribute to a surprisingly large amount gold loss over time. This is especially prominent in gold necklaces and bracelets that have chain parts that rub against each other. This rubbing process creates very fine gold dust that is washed away. The more a piece is worn and the more metal on metal rubbing there is the more potential loss there can be. Rings are also especially prone to wear even though they don't have metal on metal rubbing because of their location on the finger they experience large amounts of wear and tear over time all leading to gold loss. To prevent this I suggest wearing large 'investment gold' pieces as little as possible. Or using a harder (lower k value gold) as the harder metal is less prone to wear over time. 

If you have questions or concerns about gold loss or would like to talk about a custom jewellery project please feel free to contact me. 

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Simple garnet earrings one of our most popular gifts for January birthdays

A Guide to Birthstones and Choosing the Right Gemstone for your Jewelry

One of the most common questions we are asked is about choosing the right gemstone for a piece of jewelry especially when the piece is for a gift. There are a number of ways to go about selecting a great gift or picking a great heirloom jewelry piece for yourself. You could start with a favourite colour combination and we can make suggestions from there. For example if you already wear a lot of blue and know it is a colour that works for you we might suggest a sapphire. 

Another option is to simply pick a piece of jewelry that stands out to you. We find that people naturally tend to be drawn to certain gemstones. Most clients we talk to say they have a favourite gemstone and they tend to own multiple pieces with their favourite gemstone. 

Probably the most popular options though is a piece of jewelry that features the recipients birthstone. This is especially the case if you are giving the gift for a birthday or to celebrate an anniversary. 

While the origin of birthstones is biblical the modern-day use of birthstones does not necessarily carry any religious symbology. 

Garnet necklace with a sterling silver chain

1. January ~ Garnet 

Garnet is typically known as a deep red gemstone with a very clear internal structure. While the majority of garnet is deep red in colour it can be found in colours ranging from orange into the green spectrum. Garnets can be found in deposits all over the world. Garnet is overall one our most popular gemstones because of its stunning beauty and because of its highly accessible price when compared to ruby. 

--> Click here to shop some of our most popular garnet jewelry

Purple amethyst sterling silver skeleton ring

2. February ~ Amethyst or Pearl

Amethyst is a variety of quartz crystal that comes in various shades from light to dark purple. It is a crystal that is found in abundance in South America. One of the most interesting characteristics about amethyst is the way that it is formed and found naturally. Amethyst crystals form inside geodes which are hollow rocks that have crystal structures growing inside them. The outside looks just like a regular rock but break the rock open and there are stunning crystals growing inside of the hollow rock. 

--> Click here to visit our collection of Amethyst jewelry

dainty silver bracelet with aquamarine beads

3. March ~ Aquamarine

Aquamarine is a variant of Beryl with also includes morganite and emerald. The light blue coloration of aquamarine comes from iron present in the gemstone during formation. Aquamarine is typically a very light blue in color but ranges in colour from clear to darker blues. One of Metal Studio Jewlery's most common uses for aquamarine is in beads that accent other pieces but we also do bead work that use colour graded gemstones to create a gradient of colour in the jewelry similar to the bracelet pictured at right. 
Australian opal engagement ring with 22k gold band

4. April ~ Diamond

Due to careful marketing on the part of the diamond industry diamond is often referred to as the only April birthstone. However the high price of diamond often puts off customers looking for more affordable birthday gifts. While Metal Studio Jewlery does have some diamonds in the collection we often prefer to make diamond jewelry by customer order rather than stock pieces. 

A secondary option for people wanting a piece of diamond jewelry but not looking for the high prices of cut diamonds are rough diamonds. Rough diamonds are how all diamonds come from the earth before they are cut and polished. Rough diamonds have simply not been cut prior to setting giving them a rough look. Rough diamonds are becoming increasingly popular especially as wedding or engagement jewelry

--> Click here to visit diamond jewelry on the Metal Studio Jewlery website. 

Another very good option for April jewelry gifts is Opal which is the other lesser known birthstone of April. Opals are one of Boom's favourite gemstones and we have a large selection of opals. Opals are stunning gemstones usually found either in Australia or Ethiopia however the look of Australian and Ethiopian opals is very different. 

Australian opals tend to be found in very thin slices and are often bonded with a substrate to form larger flat pieces with stunning blue and green colouration. Australian opals tend to have very vibrant fire and a lot of movement that moves through the gemstone as it passes through different light sources. 

Ethiopian opals are usually found in larger deposits and because of this are often cut into solid pieces and not backed with a substrate. They typically have more red and orange colouration and a white to creamy yellow medium. 

--> Click here to visit our collection of opal jewelry. 

Simple Emerald ring in gold plate silver twist design

5. May ~ Emerald

The gemstone of May is one of the most rare and valuable gemstones. Emerald is a deep green variant of Beryl. The stunning green colour has made these gemstone highly sought after and their rarity makes them highly valuable. Excellent quality specimens with few inclusions are more valuable than a similarly sized diamond. 

--> Click here to visit our collection fo Emerald jewelry

Alexandrite ring in gold band with side set gemstones

6. June ~ Pearl / Alexanderite

Alexandrite is one of the most recent additions to the list of birthstones. While most gemstones on this list have been used as decoration throughout history, Alexandrite was only discovered in 1830 in the Ural mountains of Russia. Alexandrite is a fascinating gemstone because of its fascinating property of changing colour depending on the light source. While in mixed or bright daytime light Alexandrite appears to be deep purple, in fading light or by candle light it changes to a vivid yellow or orange. The change is very dramatic with not just a flash of yellows coming through the gemstone but the entire gemstone changing colour. 

Alexandrite is incredibly rare and valuable. While we don't currently stock alexandrite we are able to obtain pieces on a one off basis for custom orders. 

Pearl is the other more common birthstone of June. While not technically a gemstone because of the way it is formed pearl is nonetheless valuable and highly sought after. Pearls are often farmed inside of oysters. A small particle of sand or other foreign body is placed inside of a live oyster. In response to the invasion the oyster will coat the inclusion in a layer of calcium. The longer the inclusion is allowed to grow inside of the oyster the bigger it will become. While pearl is quite common larger pearls or uniquely coloured pearls, especially ones that are perfectly round are very valuable. 

--> Click here to visit the Metal Studio Jewelry collection of pearl jewelry

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