Every single piece of Inchoo Bijoux is entirely made by hand in our workshop in Montreal, Canada. We take great pride in working with traditional and modern techniques and keeping all facets of the process in house. Here are some videos that we assembled from different creators on Youtube, to demonstrate the jewelry making process. We are currently filming& edition this entire process as shown here, in our workshop. We decided to post these as a temporary solution in the meantime!
So let's start!
Most jewelry pieces that exist on the market have started by a piece of wax that has been carved by fine attentive to detail hands. The process can start with waxes in different shapes that serve as a base. Shapes like cylinders, tubes, blocks, wires and so forth. These waxes are finely sculpted to bring as much detail and dimension to the future piece. Some jewellers specialize in just this aspect of metalsmith. In our team, Joelle is our master wax carver! She can create insane details in wax like I've never seen before! Astrid also wax carves, most older collections were made by her (now shes too busy with admin!). To give an example, our Snakes and Roses were made in wax originally!
When it's impossible for us to start a piece in wax, at Inchoo Bijoux, we also design using 3D designing. Some parts can be too tricky to make directly in wax or in metal. Catrinoire is the head 3D designer at the workshop! Take stone setting for example, as it needs to be very precise: Our Glam Claws, Coffin Rings are made by computer to have the most precise fit to the gemstones. Highly detailed pieces like our Palmistry Hands or our Sacred Heart earrings were also made via 3D to have a perfect symmetry. It is possible to also make pieces directly in the metal, like Simple Bands, or even more complex pieces : Our Spinning charms, our Celestial Collection and our Gold Moons on Silver Bands.
Once we created a wax, we go through a first casting process. This process is one of the most stressful of all. After spending hours on beautiful wax sculptures, you have to sacrifice it, in a plaster filled case and hope for the best! if the casting goes well, a beautiful "master" will be born. If something happened, an air bubble, a slight error, the master is fucked. I invite you to watch the video "The old secret of Casting Silver Jewelry" featured here. Imagine that those little pine cones are your beautiful wax sculptures. After being put together into a "casting tree", you see that they pour plaster into the cast. Then cast is placed in a Vacuum that is meant to take out all the air from the plaster. This process is crucial to make sure there are no bubble sticking to your pieces. The next step, yes you've seen well, the cast with your wax is heated in a high intensity burner. That process melts, dissolves, disintegrates your wax. At this point, your beautiful wax doesn't exist anymore and you hope for dear life, that the print that it left in the plaster is flawless. Once the hot plaster is out of the oven, you have seconds to pour your hot melted silver/gold into the plaster. The liquid metal will flow in each crack and fill every gap that was left from the melted wax. My favourite part is once the metal has flown inside the plaster, you deep dive the plaster into cold water. The temperature shock disintegrates the plaster and you are left with a metal tree where each branch is what used to be the waxes.
When starting from a 3D model, our 3D design is printed in high quality jeweller wax and goes exactly through the same process. This following video shows you the same process with a few more details.
Now that we have our first "master", we are going to need to mold it, to be able to reproduce it indefinitely. This video shows the mold making process with Latex that is heated. To use latex molds, it's important that your original piece is already in metal, as the Mold Vulcanisator heats the latex to make it surround the piece the most accurately possible. It is possible to make molds with silicone too, this process can be made from a wax and almost any type of material. The mold is separated in 2 pieces, these pieces fit like a puzzle together. Each mold has an opening, this opening is so that we can shoot melted wax in it. The liquid wax will flow like water in each curve and dry out fast. This new wax piece, once released, has every print, every detail that the original piece had. Then we re-shoot wax in our mold as many times as we need pieces. Once the pieces are dried out, they are put together in a tree like shape, with dozens of copies, ready to be casted, like our original wax. The result that comes out is now a multitude of replicas of each piece, these are called castings.
The casting process is one of my favourite jewelry techniques. It's truly a magical process to pass from wax to nothing and then have these pieces in your hands. At Inchoo Bijoux, we have the infrastructures to make the whole process in house. Our machines aren't as big as the ones showcased in these videos, but they do exactly the same thing. We also work with Casting specialists when we have bigger quantities to make, as their infrastructures are way better to manage this process. In Montreal, here, we work with MD Casting, the whole team is dedicated and has 25 years of experience.
We are not over yet! Once these casting trees are taken apart in pieces, we hand select castings before starting the cleaning and finishing process. The most common unpredictable error at this stage is air bubbles that might have formed during the process. It can be at the moment of the liquid plaster or a bit of air that got stuck while the melted silver was being poured inside. It happens, and it's part of the process and risk! As long as it happens to a Casting and not a "Master"! We will use different techniques with files, hand tools and tumblers to make the jewelry as ready as possible for the polishing process. Every facet of the castings are checked and cleaned.
If there are steps that involve soldering parts to a casting, these are steps that can be found here! I'll put videos and explain more of the soldering processes below.
Soldering is one of the funnest parts of making jewelry, there is an indescribable pleasure when you reach your solders melting point and it just flows. Immense joy. Ahhh haha! Here is a quick video i found online of someone making a simple band from scratch! There soldering techniques are different from our set up here at Inchoo. We work with Clean Propane and a Medical Oxygen machine. Our process makes a lot less waste, and we can work upto 2 people at once on the same machines! The bottles used in this video are not reusable, they are single use and hold a very small quantity of gaz in them. There are a lot of the persons posture and tool that are a bit unsafe, we don't recommend doing what they are doing in this video. The tools used for polishing aren't used in their proper way either, which can be dangerous.
Stone Setting is one of the jeweller worlds biggest struggles. A lot of artisans don't do their own stone setting out of fear of ruining the gemstone, setting it crooked or breaking a part that makes you have to redo the whole piece. At Inchoo Bijoux, we do all of our stone setting in house and every member of our workshop team is qualified in stone setting. We can set any type of setting, from bezel to pavé, including channel settings! This video demonstrates a classic prong setting engagement ring. When we work on custom orders, wedding jewelry or vintage repairs, if we ever have a doubt or a worry, we work with Balter, one of Montreals finest stone setters. We take great pride in setting all our stones, not a single piece of our Gemstone Jewelry has glued stones (except Pearls that are chemically bounded). We work with traditional techniques to make your pieces last in time.
Polishing is one of the last steps of the process! It's the action of adding a compound with a fast rotating cotton brush or felt, the friction and heat with microscopically scratch the surface of the ring in the tiniest lines, practically invisible to the eye. The better the polishing, the best mirror finish you get! A good mirror finish will reflect you in it, almost like an actual mirror. It's funny because, as a jeweller you want the best mirror finish on your pieces, but once you get to photography, the mirror finish reflects every single thing in the room! Can you spot my reflections, camera in some of our jewelry pictures ? It's super frustrating, but it also means that we did our job right! HAHA! Some of our pieces go to a process called oxidation before being polished. This is a chemical handling that we do on certain zones of our pieces to make the textures look deeper, it looks really good when pieces have lots of volume! A good example of oxidation that has been done before polishing would be our Baroque Cross Skull Earrings, Moth Earrings, or our Leopard Print Collection!
Making jewelry from scratch involves lots of different processes. Every piece has it's own challenges and paths to get to the finished process. Some of our pieces have a bit of all these techniques shown today, some have been optimized to become just a few steps.
Thank you so much for reading! We find it important to share the work and process that happens behind every piece that is made by our team. There is a big mystery around jewelry makers process and how they get from scratch to a final product. We find it important to have a transparency and give you an understanding of how the things you buy are made.
If you have questions regarding the Metals we use, our gemstones, please visit our F.A.Q.
We are also available to answer any questions!