Jewelry Guide

Navigate through our Jewelry Guide which will help you to understand the various aspects of jewelry. Our Jewelry Guide provides detailed information on jewelry introduction, history, manufacturing process, size guides & buying tips.

Introduction to Jewelry

Jewelry is a personal ornament, such as a ring, bracelet, necklace or any other item made from jewels, precious metals or any other material. The word ‘jewelry’ is derived from the Latin word ‘jocale’, which means plaything. In the language of today, the word jewelry is used to describe any piece of precious metal or gemstone used to adorn oneself. Jewelry has fascinated, thrilled and impressed the world for thousands of years and played an important role in growth of human civilization. Jewelry is one of the oldest forms of body adornment and was in use before clothing came into existence.

In primitive times, jewelry was created from natural materials, such as bone, animal teeth, shell, wood, and carved stone. After the discovery and extraction of minerals and metals, jewelry has been created by setting sparkling gemstones into precious metals. These minerals and metals are extracted in a rough state and usually require some treatment before their use in jewelry. Gemstones are cut and polished to exhibit their sparkle, whereas alloys are mixed in with metals to make them strong and colorful.

Jewelry is made to adorn nearly every body part from head to toe. Since ancient times, it has been used for different reasons and purposes within different cultures and periods.

Jewelry has been used for following reasons and purposes:

Artistic and Fashionable Purposes

From the very beginning, jewelry has been primarily used as an artistic and fashionable item. In most cultures, jewelry is used as an ornament to enhance and exhibit the beauty of the human body.

Functional Use

Many jewelry items, such as pins and buckles were invented as purely functional or practical items, but have evolved into decorative jewelry items as their functional or practical use has changed or diminished.

Symbolism

Jewelry is often used as status symbol and considered one of the most influential ways to display wealth. Jewelry is also used to exhibit culture and feelings. For example, in many cultures, married people wear a jewelry item such as wedding ring, necklace etc.

Currency and Investment

Traditionally, jewelry was used as currency or barter goods. From ancient times to current day, it is also used as a mode of investment.

Devotional Purpose

In many cultures, it is common to wear talismans or amulets either for devotional purposes or for providing a safeguard from evil spirits and bad luck.

History of Jewelry

The history of jewelry is as old as human civilization and mirrors the growth and development process of human civilization.

Since the dawn of civilization jewelry has been an integral part of our culture and customs. We all love and use jewelry in some way or the other. Jewelry was in use long before clothing developed into fashion and is a cherished symbol of prestige and beauty.

Early History

The first signs of jewelry came from thousands of years ago and no other consumer item has such a long history. The use of jewelry began when early humans started to settle down in certain areas and began building communities. In this early period, minerals and metals were not in existence and jewelry items, such as preliminary forms of necklaces and bracelets, were made by using bone, animal teeth, shell, wood, and carved stone. After the discovery and extraction of minerals and metals, people started using gems and metals in jewelry items. Around 7,000 years ago, the first use of copper jewelry was seen.

Jewelry was used widely by almost all the early cultures and was an integral part of their customs. The first sign of crafted gold jewelry in ancient Egypt was around 3,000-4,000 years ago. In combination with gold jewelry, Egyptians mainly used colored glass instead of precious gems, as they preferred glass colors to the natural colors of gems. For nearly each gemstone available that time, there was a glass formulation used by the Egyptians to imitate it. In Egypt, jewelry was a symbol of power and wealth and worn by wealthy Egyptians throughout their lives and after their deaths these jewelry items were placed among the grave goods.

The Greeks started using gold and gems in jewelry in 1,400 BC. They mastered making colored stone jewelry by using various stones like emeralds, amethysts and pearls. Initially, designs in Greek jewelry were simple but attractive. Jewelry makers in ancient Greece mainly created two different styles of jewelry pieces; cast pieces and hammered pieces. In Greece, jewelry was worn on special occasions only. Women wore jewelry to display their beauty, wealth and social status. Jewelry was also worn for religious purposes and it was believed to provide a safeguard from bad luck.

The Romans borrowed styles from other cultures and created their own styles from them. They used a variety of materials for their jewelry from their extensive resources across the continent. They used mainly gold with more colored stones such as topaz, emeralds, rubies, sapphires and pearls in their jewelry than previous cultures. The most common artifact of early Rome was the brooch, which was used to secure clothing together. The other jewelry items they created were rings, necklaces, clasps, earrings, pendants and bracelets. In Rome, women wore a vast range of jewelry whereas men primarily wore rings. Like the Greeks, the Romans also wore jewelry as a safeguard from bad luck.

Jewelry in Asian countries, like India and China, has a history of around 5,000 years and it was an integral part of their culture. In China, silver jewelry was preferred over gold and often decorated with blue color. Chinese women wore all types of jewelry to show their beauty and wealth. The most common piece of jewelry worn by the Chinese was the earring, worn by both men and women.

India is considered the first country to mine diamonds, dating back 300 BC, and have continuously developed jewelry since that time. Before 2100 BC, the natives of the Indus Valley Civilization used to trade jewelry beads as at that time, metals were not widely used in jewelry items. These jewelry beads were made by using some simple techniques which also involved heating and polishing of a stone for color improvement. By 1500 BC, the natives of the Indus Valley were using metals such as gold to create earrings, necklaces, rings, bead necklaces and metallic bangles. Women wore jewelry items like gold rings, bracelets, earrings, necklaces, brooches, chokers, forehead bands etc. Unlike many other ancient cultures, Indus Valley jewelry was never buried with the dead and natives of Indus Valley used to pass these to their children or family members.

Recent Times

By the 17th century, the Renaissance and exploration had vital impacts on the growth of jewelry and it began to be established as one of the most important parts of fashionable clothing. By this time, wide ranges of gemstones were available due to the increase in exploration and trade. In the 17th century, craftsmen studied as well as explored many ancient cultures and made some important technical improvements in gemstone cutting, which helped to enhance the popularity of gemstone jewelry. Beautiful floral art was peaking at that time and flower designing became a dominant theme for fine jewelry.

By the 18th century, diamond jewelry became very popular and began to reflect changing trends in fashion. In this period, some new stone setting styles, including prong setting, was invented, which emphasized the brilliance of a diamond.

In the 19th century, the Industrial Revolution brought enormous change to the whole world including the jewelry industry. Mass production of jewelry and the inception of imitation stones made jewelry available to everyone. In this period, jewelry and jewelry accessories became very popular in the middle and lower classes. In the 20th century and afterwards, jewelry design and development accelerated and is now available in more stylish and trendy forms. This century was characterized by the beginning of a new era in jewelry making. New technological improvements in stone cutting, polishing and setting were developed. New metals such as platinum and palladium were used in jewelry. In addition, new casting technologies along with new sophisticated machinery allowed to produce more versatile jewelry by using different patterns, shapes and styles.

In today’s world, jewelry has become part of our day-to-day life and our culture. Jewelry making has improved exceptionally well due to involvement of computers and technology but most of the cutting, polishing and finishing work of a gemstone is done manually by experts.

Jewelry Manufacturing

Jewelry making is the art of creating jewelry by using various tools and techniques and when this is done on a large basis for commercial purposes, it is known as mass jewelry manufacturing.

Process of Jewelry Manufacturing

The process of jewelry manufacturing or jewelry making involves following steps:

Designing

Jewelry designing is the process of creating, crafting, producing or rendering designs for jewelry. Jewelry designing is the preliminary step to manufacture any jewelry item. Jewelry designs are usually created or crafted by a jewelry designer, a professional who is trained in the jewelry architecture and hold functional knowledge of metallurgy and design elements such as composition and wear-ability. These designs are created on the basis of future trends and customer’s taste in selected target market.

Casting

Many jewelry items, such as pins and buckles were invented as purely functional or practical items, but have evolved into decorative jewelry items as their functional or practical use has changed or diminished.

Pre-Casting Requirements

Process of casting requires following requirements to be finished:

Creation of Mold / Cast

Creation of cast or mold is first and foremost requirement for casting. Mold is the reverse shape of the jewelry part which is made from a refractory material, for example, sand. Molds can be created, either for temporary use or for permanent use.

Creation of Metal Alloy

Generally in making jewelry, precious metal such as gold is not used in its pure 24 karat form due to its softness. In such a case, metal is melted and mixed with other hard metals like copper, silver and nickel to obtain the desired karat specification.

Methods of Casting

Casting can be done by using various methods and some of these popular casting methods are described as under:

Lost Wax Casting

This is one of the most commonly used casting techniques. Under this casting method, an object is made of wax and coated in clay. When the clay is fired, the wax melts and is drained away or evaporates leaving an exact impression of the object in the hardened clay, which is then filled with molten metal.

Sand Casting

This is the oldest and most popular casting technique. Under this technique, natural sand (lake sand) or green sand (mixture of sand, clay and some water) is packed onto wood or metal pattern halves, removed from the pattern, and metal is poured into resultant cavities. And finally, mold is broken to remove casting. This technique requires a lead-time of days to obtain castings.

Shell-Mold Casting

Shell-mold casting is similar to sand casting except that a mixture of sand and 3-6% resin holds the grains together. The process is useful since it is very cheap and yields good surface finish and complex geometry. Under this technique, firstly a two-piece pattern is made of metal, which is heated and coated with silicone spray. Each heated half-pattern is covered with a mixture of sand and resin binder. The binder glues a layer of sand to the pattern, forming a shell. The pattern is removed once the assembly is baked and then the two half-shells joined together to form the mold. Molten metal is poured into the mold and when the metal solidifies, the shell is broken to get the part. The sand-resin mix can be recycled by burning off the resin at high temperatures.

Plaster-Mold Casting

Plaster-mold casting is also similar to sand casting except that plaster is substituted for sand. Plaster compound is actually composed of 70-80% gypsum and 20-30% strengthener and water. The plaster cast can be finished to yield very good surface finish and dimensional accuracy. Plaster casting is normally used for nonferrous metals such as aluminum or zinc or copper based alloys. It cannot be used to cast ferrous material because sulfur in gypsum slowly reacts with iron. Once used and cracked away, normal plaster cannot easily be recast.

Ceramic-Mold Casting

Ceramic-mold casting is similar to plaster-mold casting except that ceramic material is used instead of plaster. This method also provides very good quality castings.

Die Casting

Die casting is the process of forcing molten metal under high pressure into the cavities of steel moulds. The molds are called dies. These dies are reusable and able to provide very complex shapes also.

Centrifugal Casting

Centrifugal casting is the process of casting in which molds are attached to the outside edge of hollow tube. Metal in liquid form is poured into the tube and it is spun at high-speed centrifugal force that pulls the molten metal into the molds.

Continuous Casting

Continuous casting is a casting process in which metal casts are produced on continuous basis. In this process, liquid metal is poured in a mould from one end and that metal is solidified immediately and comes out as a metal cast from the other end. This process generates metal casts with uniform chemical composition and properties.

Devestment

Devestment is the process of removing the casting investment from the casting flask and tree. Generally two methods, such as wet devestment and dry devestment, are used for this. In wet processes, water is used to break apart the investment while in dry processes, a flask-stripping device is used to push and shake the investment.

Finishing

Finishing is the process in which surface of a piece is cleaned or polished or textured. Finishing is the most important step of jewelry manufacturing process and usually all jewelry items require finishing. Finishing is very essential part of a jewelry manufacturing process as it gives beauty and brilliance to a jewelry piece. Finishing is achieved under various stages, which are described as under:

Metal Finishing

Metal Finishing covers any operation or activity that alters the surface of a metal piece to achieve a certain property or look. Metal finishing is preformed after a metal cast has been formed. Metal finishing covers many processes like cleaning, soldering, plating, texturing etc. These processes are described in detail under Stone Setting & Finishing Guide.

Stone Finishing

Stone Finishing covers any operation or activity that alters the characteristics of the gemstone to achieve a certain property or look. Stone finishing is preformed after a gemstone is mined. A well cut and polished stone is considered to have a beautiful finish. Some of the popular stone finishing ways are described in detail under Stone Setting & Finishing Guide.

Stone Setting

Stone Setting is an art of securely attaching or fixing a gemstone into jewelry with an aim to display maximum beauty of a stone. Each and every piece of jewelry that contains a gemstone has a setting and this setting plays an important role in enhancing the charisma of a jewelry piece. Jewelry designers have developed various fascinating methods of stone setting like prong setting, bezel setting, channel setting, pave setting, tension setting etc. These settings are described in detail under Stone Setting & Finishing Guide.