Jewellery exhibited at the Varna Archaeological Museum (Bulgaria) – the oldest gold objects known to date (-4600 BC).
Precious metals have been worn for millennia. The discovery of the world’s oldest gold artefact, a gold bead found in Bulgaria, is estimated to date back to 4600 B.C. At the Varna Necropolis in Bulgaria, thousands of gold artefacts with a combined weight of over six kilograms have been unearthed.
The same techniques employed by craftsmen thousands of years ago, are still in use today. An ancient technique called lost-wax casting is still one of the most common ways jewellery is produced throughout the world.
Once the design is decided upon, an original wax model is created. Wax models can be very intricate and have fine details. A mould is then created by pouring a special plaster compound around the wax model. The plaster is set and then baked in a kiln. The wax model is melted away, leaving a cavity. Molten metal is then poured into the cavity, producing a metal duplicate of the original wax model.
This is another old jewellery manufacturing technique which is commonly used. It involves melting the precious metal and shaping into the desired form through the manual process of hammering, filing, extruding and soldering. A precious metal ingot is fed through a rolling mill until it has the required shape or thickness of plate and wire. The plate and wire is carefully cut, bent and shaped by hand before being soldered together to create the ring shanks and stone settings. Complex handcrafted jewellery pieces can often be made of more than a hundred components.
The most notable advancement in jewellery manufacturing technology has been the introduction of three-dimensional (3D) modelling. Accurate, detailed 3D models are created using computer aided design software.
3D resin models are printed using high-tech 3D printers and cured under UV lights. A precious metal duplicate of the resin model is then made using the Lost Wax process.