Overview of Die Struck Jewelry Process at Van Craeynest
Van Craeynest has been producing jewelry of unsurpassed quality for over a century. Van Craeynest uses original designs from the Victorian and Art Deco periods to create handcrafted jewelry of enduring sentiment and unrivaled durability, sold at Emerson & Farrar jewelry stores in Redlands and Palm Springs.
Van Craeynest is one of the few jewelers in the world to make die struck jewelry. What’s more, the Van Craeynest workshop maintains the old-world tradition of apprenticeship and uses authentic tools.
Read on for a detailed overview of the die struck jewelry process – a process as complex and sophisticated as the jewelry it yields.
Metal preparation is the first stage in the die struck jewelry process. Firstly, the craftsman melts pieces of 18k gold and 90% platinum to form bars called ingots. After that, the ingots are rolled into square wire. To roll the ingots, the craftsman uses an original machine tool from the Victorian age.
A square wire of platinum or gold is compressed between hardened steel dies under 30-50 tons of pressure. This is how the wire is forced into the desired shape.
A unique set of dies is required for each design. The positive base relief of a piece of jewelry is hand carved into solid steel. The dies and other tools required to make a piece of jewelry are all derived from the original positive carving called a hub.
Die striking involves striking the metal wire ‘’cold’’. As a result, the metal’s molecular structure becomes more tightly-aligned and fibrous. In other words, the metal is made significantly more resistant to everyday wear and tear. What’s more, as the metal’s structure is less permeable, the metal is less porous.
After a piece has been die struck, it is shaped using a set of files. Each jeweler at Van Craeynest uses their own set of files. The jewelers often customize their files to achieve a specific look for a ring or other die struck jewelry.
Piercing is a technique that removes pieces of metal by cutting them away with a saw blade. The sophisticated saw blade used for piercing is the size of a needle. The artisan jeweler drills tiny holes into the metal, after which he or she threads the saw blade through the hole, assembles the saw blade into the saw frame and cuts each section out by hand.
The removal of metal using the piercing technique requires not only remarkable skill but also patience and unwavering focus. Piercing a die struck ring allows for much finer detail than piercing a cast ring, unless a cast ring is pierced by hand, which is rarely the case. A die struck piece is stronger and denser, and therefore more convenient for piercing.
Chasing and carving
The artisans at Van Craeynest give a deep texture to the metal and make intricate patterns by using two techniques: hand-chasing and carving.
During chasing, gold and platinum are squeezed, moved, modeled and shaped using a small chasing hammer and tiny hardened steel punches. The metal is modeled in the same way as clay.
Although the hammer handle is roughly the same length as a carpenter’s hammer, it’s extremely thin with a ¾” long head. Each craftsman has their own collection of around 200 steel chasing punches. A steel punch is half the width of a pencil and is used to carve the initial lines into the metal. A chasing punch is hit on its slightly rounded end with a chasing hammer, which is how a thin line of metal is pushed into the pitch. No two punches are the same as each is designed to leave a specific punch imprint.
Van Craeynest jewelers use the highest-quality diamond and colored stone mêlée. Mêlée is the term used to define small diamonds that weigh .18 carats and less, used as secondary accents or featured attraction in clusters or fields of pavé.
The master setters use old-world techniques preserved in the Van Craeynest workshop. They include bright cuts used for a bead setting, setting a tiny diamond into the pistol of a flower with intense precision, and elegantly hand shaping and fluting the prongs of an engagement ring. Bright cuts is a technique that artisans use to achieve the impression of brightness by making a series of short cuts into the metal. The exposed surfaces reflect light and appear brighter.
An art form in itself, polishing is used to give the final touches to the desired look of a piece. The purpose of polishing is to polish away large scratches with smaller scratches. The artisans use special buffing wheels and polishing compounds with great skill and precision to make minuscule scratches that can't be seen with the naked eye.
Van Craeynest workshop guards the secret of a one-of-a-kind antiquing process. The process has been perfected by Van Craeynest artisans for over 9 decades, and has remained a secret to the rest of the industry.
Quality control is the final stage in the die struck jewelry process. Each piece is subject to rigorous quality control. In that way, Emerson & Farrar can vouch for each and every piece of die struck jewelry made in the Van Craeynest workshop. Customer satisfaction is paramount, so quality control is the vital stage of the die struck jewelry process.
Van Craeynest Die Struck Jewelry in Redlands and Palm Springs
Van Craeynest die struck jewelry is synonymous with quality that will stand the test of time. Each item is a testament to the consummate skill and artistry of Van Craeynest jewelers. Pick out from among the pieces we offer on our two locations: 27 E State St, in Redlands and 125 South Palm Canyon Dr., in Palm Springs. You are sure to find a piece that will capture your fancy with its exquisite design and timeless appeal.