|Even if the blueprints are superb, a house will not be comfortable to live in if the construction is poor. It is not acceptable for the completed building to have a floor that is below the ground level, for the house to be crooked, or for the doors to have a poor fit and not close properly. The same goes for jewelry: Gemstones may be set crookedly, rings may not wear comfortably, or the surfaces of precious metals may be poorly finished. Such results are due to a lack of experience and ability on the part of the crafts man. The quality of the make of jewelry becomes apparent when pieces are compared.
Jewelry cannot be mass-produced, because it is not possible to properly match quality and set aside large quantities of gemstones, even small ones. Each gemstone is unique in terms of beauty, tone, and degree of imperfection, and their size, shape, and appearance will differ slightly. Because the shape and quality of rough material varies, there is a limit to the material that can be set in a machine and polished automatically. Because the raw material itself is expensive, it is important to minimize weight loss as much as possible without sacrificing beauty.
Setting stones in jewelry is a manual job performed by skilled craftsmen. This operation requires the skill of taking three-dimensional gemstones and, using tiny prongs or extremely fine wires of precious metal, setting them so that they can withstand decades of use. It is not as if gemstones are glued to the setting. No matter how far civilization progresses and how technologically advanced we become, this operation of setting gemstones will never change.
The gemstones set in exceptional jewelry are not simply held in place, but are beautifully incorporated into the construction, and they will not move or fall out simply because of some minor incident. Jewelry is fundamentally made by hand, because stone setting is a manual operation. How the stone setting brings out the beauty of the gemstone, or at least does not detract from it, and how it does not impair the wearability of the jewelry, are important points when considering how well a piece is made. No matter how well the rest of the jewelry is made, a poor job of stone setting: (1) an unreasonable conception that is difficult to execute, (2) a gemstone of a size or thickness that is outside the acceptable range, and (3) a setter whose skill is simply not up to standards. The quality if workmanship in jewelry pieces can be as different as night and day. For example, the cost of having a stone set can range widely depending on the quality of work. From the inexperienced worker who takes less than one minute to set a single stone by simply bending the prongs, to am experienced craftsman who may take ten or twenty minutes to carefully set the gemstone, the difference in cost can be up to 100 times.
|Casting techniques are sometimes used in cases where hand fabrication would normally be more effective. Casting allows repeated improvements to be made to the wax and silver models, allowing for more precision, and enabling the creation of wonderful jewelry. It is thus used to improve the quality of gemstone-oriented jewelry, and also can allow a degree of the cost savings of mass-production when making precious metal adornments.
Ultimately, the quality of jewelry fabrication comes down to whether or not it is carefully made according to the intent of the conception. Instead of evaluating the actual process of making jewelry, the following discussion will cover the points to consider when judging the quality of fabrication.
Judging the quality of jewelry requires first looking at the piece with the unaided eye and seeing if the height of the prongs and bezel are balanced, and that there are no problems with their angles and symmetry. The gemstones should each be beautiful, and the precious metal should be finished appropriately. Furthermore, the back of the piece should be checked to make sure that it is carefully finished, and that the manufacturer’s hallmark ensuring the quality of the piece is properly stamped or engraved. Next, putting the jewelry on and judging its wearability will give a good idea of how well it is made. Differences will become apparent when comparing a piece of jewelry with one’s own jewelry or with other pieces in a store. Actually, reputable stores and manufactures will have previously inspected jewelry under magnification to check whether the assembly or stone-setting processes have damaged any gemstones, or if any gemstones with defects are present in the jewelry. They will also check for loose or moved stones, and whether the heads of the prongs and the lines if the jewelry are smoothly polished so that they do not catch on clothing, all according to their established standards. Putting too much emphasis on pits and scratches during inspection under magnification misses the point, and trustworthy stores and makers will properly check a piece for such details that are not visible to the unaided eye. Aside from the judgment of quality, the fineness of precious metals such as gold or platinum cannot be determined by appearances, so makers need to take appropriate measures for quality control and periodic inspection.