Tag Archives: silver

Not Just Castings – how lost wax casting works and more

At the beginning of 2016 I undertook a placement with Just Castings in Hatton Garden. This was part of the two week intensive Advanced Diploma in Creative Jewellery Making (see previous blog entry about how great this was) which I had completed the previous summer.

Their premises have since moved to a spangly new home next door at 19 Cross Street, where their knowledgeable and patient team can answer all of your silly questions (as they still answer mine on a regular basis) about their services. These services go far beyond just casting to CAD design, 3D printing, plating and finishing. However, the moulding and casting process will remain forever the most fascinating to me.

I was privileged to spend two days learning the mould making and casting processes. I gained an overview of the CAD, 3D printing, finishing and plating, which can be done there behind the scenes, whilst two of my own wax pieces took their own journey into silver and brass.

I returned for two afternoons of finishing these pieces. This involved de-sprueing – the sprue is the entry point for the metal into the piece (before my placement I called this a spout) and polishing a silver ring, also finishing and rose-gold plating a brick bead for a necklace with Chris and Adrian at the studios just down the street. There was a  professional setter working away in the same studio, so I got to take a peek at this fiddly precise work too.

My illustration of the casting process, complete with spelling mistake and bunnies which were cast from pasta shapes.

I took a lovely little refresher tour with Theo recently, for a helpful reminder of the time I spent learning the ways of JC.  The process used is called lost wax casting. Lost wax casting is an ancient technique, but this centrifugal, mechanical process is the most accurate way of achieving intricate results. This modern way of casting has its roots in dentistry. To my delight I discovered gold tooth caps on the casting trees whilst on my placement – it’s nice when traditions are upheld. Items can be brought in three different ways to be transformed into a range of metals, but at some stage they need to be a wax. You could bring in a hand-carved wax piece, a model or master to have a mould made to then make waxes or a 3D design, which can be printed or milled from sheet wax.

It’s a positive to negative to positive process. The mould making stage is to create waxes from existing objects or multiples from the same original wax and allows for more types of items to be cast. These moulds are custom made to the size of the piece from a latex mixture.

Bespoke cold moulds setting in their frames

Once these are set and the piece from within is expertly cut out by hand, the moulds are ready to make waxes using the vacuum wax injector. The hot wax cools into shape in the rubber mould and the wax is removed and another can then be made in the same way shortly after.

Wax made using a cold mould

These waxes are then skillfully arranged on specific trees in accordance to their requirements, which metal, how delicate the piece is etc. Cast in place pieces (a technique where stones can be cast within a wax piece) go separately, as they need to be in a different oven set to a different temperature. The trees go into flasks, the holes of the metal flasks are taped up and the investment (a type of plaster, made up in the vacuum mixing machine) is mixed and poured into the canisters with the wax trees inside, then left to set. The next step is for the canisters to go into the de-waxing chamber for the majority of the wax to be steamed away. This leaves just a film of wax on the impression that will eventually be filled with metal, before going into the oven overnight to melt away the remaining wax and strengthen the investment plaster. There are three ovens running on 24 hour cycles, to allow for processes like casting in place and also so that all of the casting eggs are not in one hot basket.

Vasco creating wax trees

Once out of the oven, the canister full of negative impressions left by the wax goes into one of three casting machines. The largest being the vacuum centrifugal machine. This will spin the canister while a crucible will dispense the required molten metal into the voids to reach the hollows of the end of each branch of the tree.


Centrifugal casting machine

Back in the day I am told this was done by sling shot, so a traditional caster would be super strong from swinging their castings around their head, pretty cool stuff!

These are then cleaned with a high-pressure washer (this part reminds me of the opening credits of The Simpsons when Homer is at work) to clean off the investment plaster.

The metal tree, free from its canister and most of the plaster then goes into acid to get cleaner and get rid of any oxidisation.

Metal tree fresh from the canister

Pieces are then cut down from the trees and prepared for collection.

Wax giraffe and metal giraffe made from a pasta piece using a cold mould and lost wax casting process

This is where the process usually stops on the casting side of Just Castings, but as you will recall, they don’t do just casting! For me I take whatever silly thing I have decided to turn into metal this time and pop off to try and make it wearable (sometimes returning to get something plated), but there is still a whole separate underground grotto of finishing down the street. If decide you would like your pieces finishing, polishing, plating or stones setting these guys have got you covered there too.

Adrian finishing a ring in the workshop

So give casting a try, it’s magical, but don’t take it lightly that even if your brother ain’t that heavy you may want an estimate before you get him cast in platinum. For a really enlightening look at their processes, Just Casting have this lovely video ,and there is a handy FAQ’s section on the website too. But if in doubt just ask, they are a delight, see:

Lil Adams is the London Jewellery School Sundays Studio Manager. Lil studied Fine Art in Leeds and lived in Melbourne before travelling about and settling in London. She now works at the British Architectural Library and enjoys making jewellery with found and natural objects and is shamelessly addicted to casting (as you can see!)

Fancy giving wax carving a try? We have some classes at the London Jewellery School and online at Jewellery School Online as well as a starter kit available.

In London

We have lots of wax carving classes at the London Jewellery School for beginners and advanced learners including an evening taster class, a five-week evening class and day classes so do check out our courses and available dates on our website.




Online courses

We have a FREE wax carved ring making online course with tutor Sophie Arnott. You will learn to apply your designs to your wax piece, remove excess wax and create a full 3D design of your choosing. Following that, Sophie will show you how to file your wax piece into shape, remove any file marks and sand and refine the piece ready for casting. You will also learn how to create a ring to size and some recommendations on casters to use.

beginners-wax-carving-rebecca-steiner-jewellery-school-onlineIf you enjoy that course then consider our more comprehensive beginners wax carving online course which covers ring making, pendant making. The course launches on 26th March 2018 and is currently available at a pre-sale price of 50% off. CLICK HERE FOR 50% OFF – VALID UNTIL 26TH MARCH 2018 ONLY





At the London Jewellery School we are also selling wax carving toolkits which have everything you need to get started! The cost is £100 and includes UK postage (for postage outside the UK please email us at info@londonjewelleryschool.co.uk for a postage quote)

Click here to see what you get in the kit and to purchase

We also have a set of three wax ring blanks for sale for £12.99 plus postage, perfect if you want to get started with rings straight away!


All prices are correct at time of blog publication but please note that they are subject to change





Exciting new 10-week Silver Jewellery Comprehensive Course!

Our Silver Jewellery classes are hugely popular here at the School and more and more of you are learning how to craft your own silver jewellery during our 1-Day courses.  But some of you have been asking for a longer course that will allow you to quickly develop professional silversmithing skills by coming regularly to us for a period of time.  Due to popular demand, we have been working hard behind the scenes to create a comprehensive short silver course and are thrilled to announce the dates for our new 10-week Silver Jewellery Intensive Course!

This is a practical and intensive course designed to help you quickly build your skills with a focus on traditional silversmithing techniques and skills.

Suitable for complete beginners or those who have some silversmithing experience; week by week you will build your skills so that by the end of the course you are a confident and professional silversmith able to work independently on your own jewellery designs.

Stacked Silver Bangles
Water Casting
london-jewellery-school-jewellery-making-stone-setting-course-collet setting
Collet Setting
Spend 1-day per week with us for 10 consecutive weeks and learn all of the essential silversmithing skills including 6 stone setting techniques, and leave us as a confident and professional silversmith able to work independently on your own jewellery designs.   Suitable for complete beginners or those with a bit of silversmithing experience alike!
The new course includes the following:

Week 1 – Beginners Silver Jewellery
Week 2 – Soldering Masterclass
Week 3 – Intermediate Silver Jewellery
Week 4 – Stone Setting (week 1) – Bezel, Tube and Flush
Week 5 – Stone Setting (week 2) – Bezel, Tube and Flush
Week 6 – Stacked Silver Rings and Bangles
Week 7 – Water Casting
Week 8 – Intermediate Stone Setting (week 1) – Irregular, Collet & Channel setting
Week 9 – Intermediate Stone Setting (week 1) – Irregular, Collet & Channel setting
Week 10 – Make your own Silver Findings

The first cohort of the 10-week Comprehensive Course starts on 29th April!  We can’t wait to see lots of accomplished silversmiths blossom before our eyes!

You can find out more including dates, prices and payments plans on our website here.

Tool Time – Barrel Polishers


For the next post in our series about great workshop tools to add to your collection we are going to be talking about Barrel Polishers (also called Tumblers)!

When you first start to make silver Jewellery you will probably polish by hand using sand paper of varying grits to get a nice smooth finish on your piece, and a liquid metal polish such as Glanol which comes as part of our fab new polishing and finishing kit.  This process can take quite a while to do by hand, and we have no doubt that soon you will be looking for a tool to speed up your polishing and finishing time.

There are a few options in terms of polishing machines you will want to consider such as a pendant motor, micromotor or even a bench polisher, but one of the most common polishing tools that are purchased first for a new workshop is the Barrel Polisher (also known as a Tumble Polisher).  So what does it do?

A barrel polisher allows you to quickly and economically polish small quantities of Jewellery and Jewellery findings and components at the same time.  You place your Jewellery in the vaned container or ‘barrel’.  And depending on the finish you want you either add steel shot and a teaspoon of polishing compound such as BarrelBrite and just enough water to cover everything and have approximately 1cm of water above the steel shot; or cutting powder, ceramic cones and water for a matt finish.


Shot and Barrelbrite in the barrel.


Jewellery ready for polishing, plus enough water to cover the shot added.

You seal up the barrel so it is watertight as per the manufacturer’s instructions and place onto the rotating motor.  Typically the motor just plugs in at the wall and starts as soon as you turn on the switch at the socket.

Make sure that your barrel is not wet at all or it might not turn properly and don’t touch your barrel with wet hands when it is on.

Ideally tumble your pieces for as long as possible – I always aim to tumble my pieces for at least four hours but I often check them every hour to see how they are looking.  Please note it is best to open and drain your tumbler over a large plastic bowl or container so that you don’t lose all your shot and have to spend ages picking it up.

I normally tend to tumble either smaller pieces or larger pieces together as mixing them can cause damage to the smaller pieces.


The biggest benefit of barrel polishing your pieces is that you can polish multiple pieces at once – you can have your work polishing in the background whilst you do other things so it is a real time saver!

One of the key benefits of tumbling your Jewellery and findings is that the steel shot gently work hardens the outer layer your pieces which is essential for things like ear pins and ear wires.  I normally still gently hammer or twist my findings in addition to tumbling so that I am 100% sure they are hard and robust but the tumbler hardens them a little too and makes them lovely and shiny.


It is important that you bear in mind that for very smooth surfaces the little pins in the steel shot mix can occasionally leave little dents in your pieces.  For this reason you may prefer to remove the pins from the shot if you are polishing pieces with no texture, or chose another means of polishing your piece.

For intricate pieces you might find that the pins don’t quite get into all the nooks and crannies so you may need to either finish your pieces by hand, or look at investing in a pendant or micro motor.

If you intend to use different compounds to enable to you finish your pieces to a matt or polished finish I recommend having different barrels for different compounds so that you don’t get any contamination.  I have two barrels – one for getting a matt finish and one for getting a polished finish.

Barrel polishing won’t unfortunately remove any scratches so you still need to spend the time removing scratches beforehand using your files and your emery papers.

I wouldn’t recommend tumbling pieces with stones set or beads already set as there is a risk that the steel could crack the stones.

Finally please use stainless steel shot!  It is a bit more expensive to buy (do shop around) but it more rust resistant and so will save you money in the longer term!

Which one to buy?

There are a number of tumblers on the market that vary quite substantially in price.  The best piece of advice I can give you is to buy the best tool you can afford at the time.

I initially bought the Metal Barreling Starter Kit With 3lb Machine from Cookson Gold with the plastic barrel and lid.  However I found it was prone to leaking and you do have to heat the lid with warm water before use otherwise it was impossible to get the lid on without cracking it.  You can get replacement barrels, lids and belts for this machine.

Basic Barrel Polisher-CooksonGold

Metal Barreling Starter Kit With 3lb Machine from Cookson Gold

After about a year I upgraded my tumbler to one of the rubber ones.  I upgraded to the Cookson Gold Gold Pro one and I love it!   It comes in 2lb or 3lb sizes and you can buy the tumbler on its own or as part of a starter kit.  I have since purchased a second barrel to use with cutting powder and ceramic cones so that it is more versatile.  It is a great option for a good workhorse at a reasonable price.  FYI – I don’t tend to keep my shot and water in the rubber barrel – I transfer it between uses into a large jam jar.


Gold Pro Barrel Polisher by Cookson Gold

If you will be using your tumbler round the clock however, you may want to consider one of the semi-professional machines from Evans or Lortone or a Rotabarrel for the serious workshop!

Barrel Polisher

Author: Karen Young

 London Jewellery School Blog_Karen Young Bio

Men’s Jewellery part three!

London Jewellery School Blog - Men's Jewellery - Part 3

With the approach of father’s day I have been looking at trends in men’s jewellery. In the first post I concentrated on the cufflinks, and in the second I covered bracelets, necklaces and tie pins.  

This post focusses on Men’s rings.

Rings for men are getting more and more adventurous and so I have included a variety of different textures, materials and finishes.

1. Stone set Men’s Rings

London Jewellery School Blog - Men's Jewellery - normal_black-diamond-ring
Black diamond white gold ring from Shona Jewellery


London Jewellery School Blog - Men's Jewellery - ring-1

Tension set ring from Vincenza Taormina

London Jewellery School Blog - Men's Jewellery - Gold Tanzanite Ring

Tanzanite gold ring from Gemporia


2. Signet rings

London Jewellery School Blog - Men's Jewellery - Monkey-Dragon-Chinese-Ring-&-Wax-sm

Family seal ring from Dexter signet rings



London Jewellery School Blog - Men's Jewellery - mens_sterling_silver_onyx_cushion_signet_ring

Sterling silver and onyx signet ring from Newburys Online



London Jewellery School Blog - Men's Jewellery - normal_men-s-solid-silver-square-sovereign-signet-ring

Men’s gold signet ring by Otis Jaxon silver jewellery


3. Mixed materials


London Jewellery School Blog - Men's Jewellery normal_bronze-triple-karma-ring

Karma bronze and silver spinning ring from Charlotte’s web


London jewellery school blog - men's jewellery - normal_native-silver-and-wood-ring

Walnut wood ring from Shiruba Tree



London Jewellery School Blog - Men's Jewellery - Michael Kors Ring

Michael Kors mixed metal ring from Ernest Jones



4. Personalised

London Jewellery School Blog - Men's Jewellery - normal_sterling-silver-secret-message-ring

Sterling silver secret message ring from Martha Jackson sterling silver


London Jewellery School Blog – Men’s Jewellery - normal_mens-coastline-map-ring

Coastline map ring from Hannah Louise Lamb



London Jewellery School Blog – Men’s Jewellery - normal_personalised-mens-sterling-silver-spinner-ring

Personalised mens sterling silver spinner ring from Little Silver Star

Do you make men’s jewellery? We’d love to see your creations! Do share them with us in the comments below or via our instagram, twitter or facebook pages.

Author: Anna Campbell

LJG Guest Blogger - Anna Campbell of Campbell Hall Designs

Pre-Sale of new Online Silver Jewellery Workshop

JSO Silver Jewellery Workshop Banner

Here at London Jewellery School HQ, we love nothing more than seeing our students flourish and grow on their Jewellery making journey.  But time and time again you were telling us that although you love our courses, you don’t always have time to attend a class in person.  Or that the dates and times of classes don’t fit with when you want to learn.

So we listened, and we are in the process of creating our most popular courses in an online format available at www.jewelleryschoolonline.co.uk

And we are so excited that one of our most popular day and evening courses for beginners – The Silver Jewellery Workshop will be launching in an online format from 16th April! This fantastic, self-paced online course can be accessed anytime and anywhere via laptop, tablet or smartphone and you can dip into it anytime as a refresher.

And to celebrate we are offering the course at a special pre-sale price of £44.50 (50% off!) until midnight on 15th April.  Once the course launches on 16th April, the course price will revert to its regular price of £89.

By the end of the course you will have learned how to make two pieces of handmade silver jewellery – a soldered, textured ring and a silver cut-out charm or pendant for a necklace. Michelle will show you how to create your pieces with a few tools and materials which we can help you source so that is easy for you to make and create at home.  You can either make your pieces alongside Michelle, or pause the tape, get making and restart the videos when you need to.

Jewellery School Online_Silver Jewellery Workshop Examples

To get more information including the course outline, and to enrol at the special pre-sale price please go to http://learn.jewelleryschoolonline.com/courses/the-silver-jewellery-workshop?product_id=76745&coupon_code=PRESALESJW2016.  Or, go to http://www.jewelleryschoolonline.co.uk and use the discount code PRESALEJW2016 at checkout.

And, if you have already signed up and taken the beginners silver jewellery 1-day or evening class previously here at the School, you will get free access to the course once it is live!

As part of the course you also get access to our wonderful online community on Facebook where you can share your progress with fellow students, ask questions and get support from the School’s expert jewellery tutors.  All this will make sure that your learning continues long after the course has been completed!

We would love to see you on the course and in the online community soon!

Happy making! x

Inspirations: Etched metal jewellery

Etching is a method for adding complex and detailed patterns to metal using acid and acid resitant materials to create markings in silver. It allows you to create interesting effects and can be seen under transparent enamels. Variations on the technique can be used to create different effects.


etched copper jewellery

Jennifer Stumpf combined metals combined etching and handstamping as well as metals in this piece


etched jewellery

This pattern from paisley fabric etched into copper by Roslyn van der Wal shows how complex designs can be used


etched silver jewellery

This Branch Bracelet by Sandra Noble Gross shows the versatility of the technique


etched copper jewellery

The texture of etched pieces such as these copper earrings is often brought out using patinas. Here BlueSkyBlackBird has used a traditional blue-green verdigris.


etched metal cuff

This Dia de los Muertos cuff from Joolz by Lisa uses “coloured patinas” – inks designed to adhere to metal – to highlight the etched pattern


etched metal jewellery

These earrings found on Art Jewelry magazine’s forum use a similar technique

Inspirations: Daffodil jewellery

To celebrate St David’s Day with all our Welsh students and friends we are offering some inspiration with daffodil themed jewellery – especially so many of you enjoyed our look at tulip pieces the other week.


recycled daffodile silver jewellery

These daffodil brooches have been recycled from old, out of circulation English bronze ‘Thrupney-bit’ coins and  unwanted antique fork prongs by The Hairy Growler. Daffodils seem to be a popular theme for using recycled silver.


daffodil jewellery

A 14ct band by Stuart Devlin, in the form of seven daffodil heads each centred with a brilliant cut diamond


daffodil resin jewellery

This vintage 1930s yellow celluloid daffodil necklace makes a great statement piece – and leaves us wondering what we could achieve with resin.


contemporary daffodil jewellery

Not all daffodil jewellery has a vintage bent though. This gold pearl and silver necklace is by Judith Neugebauer



daffodil jewellery

Silver pierced daffodil pendant by Mikylla Claire Jewellery

daffodil jewellery

You can make this wire and bead ring and other daffodil items in this great tutorial by Sue Mason-Burns for Making Jewellery (don’t forget it’s Mothers’ Day on Sunday)


beaded flower bracelet

Or try a beaded bracelt like this one (video tutorial)


Inspirations: Unusual stone setting

Tutor Anna Campbell has been looking at some more unusual stone setting for design inspiration

I am pretty addicted to pinterest and love that we have so much access to inspiration as jewellers there. I have recently been drawn to unusual stone settings and I find it useful to consider how the jeweller has done it as it gives me a jumping off point for ideas. Here are a few innovative designs that I love. How would you go about making these settings?

innovative stone set jewellery

Thomas Giesen – acrylic ring with amethyst ball


innovative stone set jewellery

Round brooch on 18 carat gold by Daphne Krinos


innovative stone set jewellery

Turquoise necklace by Cobalt blue


innovative jewellery stone setting

Swarovski crystalactite ring from Maison Margiela


innovative stone set jewellery

Labradorite pendant by Anna Vosburg


innovative stone set jewellery

Glauco Cambi bracelet with magnetic closure


innovative jewellery stone setting

Odyssey orbital ring earrings by Silversong jewelry



innovative stone set jewellery

Quay ring with pink tourmaline by Sarah Herriot



innovative stone set jewellery

Pebble stack pendant ‘heart cairn’ by Binks Edmonds

Do you use pinterest? Follow the London Jewellery School pinterest board for more design ideas and inspiration


“New way of thinking about silver jewellery” – water casting reviewed

Our new class Water Casting in Silver made it’s debut recently and received some of the best feedback we’ve ever had. One of the students in the class, Annie Mason, shared some of her reaction to the class with us.

There is something vary satisfying about working with molten silver. It reminded me of playing with a lit candle – you have no idea of what shapes will form when you pour molten silver into a bucket of water.

You soon discover that pouring from different heights and at different speeds produce different effects. It is fascinating to experiment.

water cast silver

Ring made by Annie during the class

Then there is the challenge of deciding what you are going to do with the shapes that form. Of course, the great thing is that if you are not inspired by any of the shapes, you can just melt them down and cast again.

It is the organic nature of the results that really appeals to me – the pieces loo like they’re flowing or living, as if formed by nature. And I’ve realised that if I love a particular shape, I can then get a mould made and more cast so I can create sets.

The class has given lots of new ideas – it’s safe to say I’m hooked.

water cast silver

More pieces from Annie’s castings

So many of you have expressed an interest in water casting that we plan to schedule some additional workshops – if you are interested keep an eye on the class page.

Inspirations: Wood in Jewellery

At London Jewellery School we’ve been looking for more opportunities for our students to create mixed media jewellery which means we’ve been looking at wood jewellery quite a bit. So we thought we’d share a few ideas on how you might work in this beautiful natural material.

The grain and colour of wood makes it a very attractive material which doesn’t need much adding to it. For example, Gustav Reyes talks about creating wearable wood sculptures.

wood jewellery

This simple wooden piece by Gustav Reyes is simple but stunning


The most traditional material to combine with wood is metal as in a lot of pieces by Kara Ross.

wood jewellery

“Shirt Cuff” bracelet by by Kara Ross. Sterling silver, ebony and faceted gemstone.


But it can work well with other materials such as resin.

wood jewellery

Britta Boeckmann produces all sorts of jewellery combining resin and wood.


Or you can embed or attach gemstones.

wood jewellery

Oak embedded with malachite and mother of pearl by Simply Wood Rings


wood jewellery

Amber and wood carved necklace by AmberSculpture


With advanced wood carving skills you can create chains and charms, producing a whole range of jewellery elements.

wood jewellery

Wood carved necklace – with school days dangle charms from Oxford Jewel