Simply making jewelry is relatively easy, but creating fine jewelry is a difficult process that requires adherence to high standards in three areas: the selection of materials, the planning of the design, and the careful fabrication of a wearable piece. In this section we will consider the skills and workmanship necessary in the making of fine jewelry.

Jewelry manufacture begins with the procurement of the component materials. If interior materials are used, an exquisite piece of jewelry cannot be created, no matter how fine the design and workmanship. The situation is comparable to the ingredients used in cooking. If the ingredients are not fresh, the result will be unappetizing, even inedible. In the case of gemstones, materials of both high and low qualities are sold as jewelry, and it is not always as easy to tell the difference.
Design comes next. Jewelry designs are similar to choices on a restaurant menu. Many delicious items are available, but one must choose between something heavy of light. Since the choice of gemstone jewelry is one that will last a lifetime, the basic idea is to choose an elegant design that takes full advantage of the gemstone’s beauty, a design that one will not tire of.

Regarding craftsmanship, look for things such as firmly set stones, prongs that will not catch on clothing, and a careful finish. Making jewelry is like preparing a material in that care must be devoted in ways that are not immediately apparent. The better the manufacture of high-quality jewelry is understood, the deeper the subject becomes. Fabrication can cost several thousand dollars, or even more than $10,000 in especially intricate pieces.

Currently, most jewelry is manufactured be casting. In Japan, casting has been used on a large scale since the 1960s, and after improvement upon improvement, quality has now reached a world-class level. Since casting involves making an original model and producing copies of it, this process offers the advantage of allowing standard-sized gemstones to be procured in advance. Matching the stones that fit into a setting becomes an important operation that greatly influences the quality of the jewelry produced. A well-balanced piece of jewelry requires the selection of stones that physically fit into the setting, match in quality, and are confirmed to have as little variation as possible in tone of color and cut. Furthermore, the main stone in a piece of jewelry (or the single stone in a solitaire setting) must be of the proper quality and meet minimum size and weight requirements, and its beauty must fall within the intended range. It is important to compare the quality of main stones with master stones of known quality.

The quality scales in Chapter 1 presented a complete picture of quality in terms of the three zones of gem-, jewelry-, and accessory quality in an easy-to-understand format. On one hand, the quality scale illustrated the manufacturers’ emphasis on gemstone quality. It is also useful in planning the quality of gems used in jewelry of different quality levels. For example, the appearance of a piece of jewelry will change drastically depending on whether a light ruby of grade 4-S or a darker one of 6-S is chosen. The 4-S will be lighter, but it will have a very refreshing beauty, whereas a 6-S will possess the traditional high-class refinement of ruby. A 6-S ruby is currently considered more rare and expensive, but in terms of actual beauty I believe that a 4-S may be superior. Unless it has a lively mosaic pattern, a 6-S gemstone often appears too dark, while S-grade gemstones with tones of 4 are often a beautiful, bright color. In the future, more people may come to prefer the beauty of a 4-S ruby, increasing their scarcity and making them more expensive.

A balance between the quality of the component materials and workmanship is also important. Fine materials in an inferior design with poor workmanship cannot be considered quality jewelry. Design and craftsmanship that match the beauty of the materials are requirements for good jewelry. It goes without saying that, regardless of unique materials or unique settings, the beauty of jewelry is fully realized when the overall quality level meets certain minimum requirements. Whether in the East or West, the hallmark of a first-class manufacturer is evidence of a superior piece of jewelry, and one can appreciate the tradition and skill that a re represented by such a stamp.

As with other types of manufacturing, there is a trend in jewelry manufacturing toward moving production to developing nations. There is, however, a limit to this movement to areas with lower production costs. First, as seen in the automobile industry, products of fine design and workmanship often come from the country where the end-users are. Second, material costs represent the major share of the total cost in manufacturing jewelry set with gemstones. Using a piece of jewelry priced at $1,000 as an example, $200 represents the upper limit of labor cost in the piece, but the materials cost of $800 will be the same no matter where in the world the jewelry is made. Even if the labor can be reduced to one-half or even one-fifth the cost, when figuring in the additional expense of manufacturing in a location removed from the final consumer, it becomes evident that the advantages are limited. Also, regardless of the price of the product, distribution costs are still the same as for a domestic product once it is imported into the country of cost or location of manufacture, it is important to make jewelry that can be treasured 50 or 100 years from now, and to create an environment where the consumer can select such jewelry.