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Declining demand for hand carved wax

We want to do for jewelry what the cotton industry did in clothing
a while back

Not quite sure what this line means as the cotton industry I know
about here in the U.S. was based on slave labor?

Richard Hart


Do not quite. You are too good. Why not redirect who your market is

You might want to look into selling work in a nature type gallery or
doing retail shows that are animal driven such as horse shows, dog
shows etc.

Greg DeMark


Not quite sure what this line means as the cotton industry I know
about here in the U.S. was based on slave labor? 

I was refering to the advertising campaign that the cotton industry
did years ago focusing on the “made in america” labeling or “American
grown”. My point is that if a group of like minded people worked
together to develope the demand for handmade or american made
products it can happen. If Debeers can create a market for “Right
hand rings” we can do anything! I don’t believe in giving up there is
always an opportunity for talent in a market it just needs to be
presented to the public as a choice and romanced. I was told by Rick
Hamilton to post a little bio about myself so as to introduce myself
and will do that so you can get more of an idea of where I am coming

Beth McElhiney

Marketing is indeed “everything”. My brother once told me years ago
(and I don’t know if it were a made up story or what) about the
retailer who canned white salmon and it wouldn’t sell until he
changed the label to read “White Salmon - guaranteed not to turn pink
in the can” and then it very quickly outsold the canned pink salmon.
It’s all in the wording. In the aforementioned advertising, the
opposing product was not slammed, nothing negative was said about
anything, no untruths were espoused, but the customer filled in the
"unsaid" message and decided to buy “pure”. So I agree with the
posters - I think any of us that want to can create advertising that
would romance people into buying our "available only in the U.S."
jewelry which given time should counterbalance the current trend.
Well, one can think positively, can’t they?


Orchid - I was doing some research and I came across this fascinating discussion from now (almost) ten years ago.

I am extremely curious what people have to say about this now.

What has the last 10 years done for wax carving demand?


I read this and laughed (quietly), thinking how similar being a wax-carver is to being a typewriter repairman, then I realized you were asking a serious question, so here is a serious answer.

Back in the late 70s, I worked for GM in Flint, MI, had completed an apprenticeship as a die maker-machinist, and should have been very happy. Instead I went to an uncle in the jewelry business and begged him to teach me his trade. He did, but told me that it was a dying trade and of course I really didn’t believe him. I bought his small manufacturing business, worked my tail off for many years, and today I understand he was right, my business is worth about two buckets of warm spit.

In the 80s and into the early 90s, I spent my entire time carving waxes and casting new jewelry for both my wholesale and retail customers. Today I doubt I have one new carving a month, closer to eight to ten per year. Why? I can’t speak for the entire nation, but locally here in Michigan the retail customer simply no longer has the disposable income to afford those luxuries. At the wholesale level, there are no more wholesalers out there that were the backbone of the small manufacturer like myself. Those left are running a totally different type of business, contracting with Chinese companies, or reselling closeouts and distressed merchandise. The smaller chain-store operations were gobbled up by the big boys, and they also buy from the Chinese, so all I am left with are a very few individual retailers who still occasionally call, and these are some of the same retailers who used to call my uncle many years ago, and were told they were too small to bother with.

Do I hear another quiet laugh??

Jon Michael Fuja

Fayrick Mfg. Inc.

Jon Michael’s Jewelers

Hmm, custom hasn’t gone by the wayside. Just some of the methods.

There are more instances than I care to think that folks are cading and prototyping, rather than breaking out the hand tools to make some simple designs….because that’s what we’re used to now.

Myself included.

But there are times when a simple channel band or such would be far more efficiently hand carved then going thru the cad, proto for sure.

But we don’tJ

I think if you’re a goldsmith providing custom work for retail jewelers you’re just as busy as you’ve ever been. True that your modeling has a higher percentage of cad than it used to. But that’s sort of irrelevant. Your retail jeweler customers don’t care how you produced the model, they only care that your finished product it beautifully made. And beautifully made jewelry requires experienced and talented goldsmiths doing the designing, modeling, casting, setting and finishing. The jeweler can’t get that high level of quality from your average cad operator. They need someone who can oversee and execute the whole project.

I’m just saying if you used to carve everything and now you carve some and cad the rest, or job out the cad, your bottom line doesn’t change. It’s all good. Cad is just another tool for you to use.

That is unless all you do is carve wax. In that case you may be forced to change your business model. Not to worry, sometimes when big change is forced upon you, in the end it turns out to have been a great opportunity.

I have always hand carved my waxes and I enjoy doing it. My custom design customers are retail and they don’t care how I produced the wax model. I am busier than ever. I have to assume that if I was straight wholesale I would have seen a reduction in my wax carving due to CAD CAM. I came very close to deciding to learn it 10 years ago and buy the equipment. In the end I decided I just didn’t need it. I can hand carve a very complex wax in 2 to 3 hours. I don’t think I could do it any faster on a computer and if I need to repeat it I can rubber mold.

It all depends on who your customer is.
I’m guessing that in mass manufacturing there are very few hand wax carvers
In high end jewelry hand rendered and hand made is still very desired. The
.01% don’t shop at malls or buy “brands”. They want " bespoke" with great
attention to detail and personal attention.
Have fun and make lots of jewelry.
-Jo Haemer

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Yes, this is sad. Given the choice, I would pay good wax model carvers good money first before computer made designed. Hand wax carving is awesome and I wish I had those skills. The problem you face today, is that software programs like “ZBrush”, make incredibly detailed organic models in very little time.

The ZBrush created models can then be 3d printed in wax or castable resin in ultra high resolution. I designed (with help), this pendant. My good friend and excellent jeweler ICEMAN prints them for me in castable resin. But out of curiosity, I asked SolidScape to print one out with their Max2 printers and Oh my god… the wax model was silky smooth and a perfect organic rendition of my model. This is a rendered 3d model, but the wax printed one from the Max2 printer is nearly identical.

The conch pendant was made by 3d scanning a real conch, and then I had someone use ZBrush to clean up the model. It’s 20mm long at his longest dimention. It’s incredibly organic. I would rather pay someone to do it by hand, but I can’t afford what it would cost to pay someone to do this by hand. One day, when I don’t do this for a hobby, I’ll gladly pay someone like you to do it by hand.

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It took me about 8 years to decide to purchase a CAD program…Matrix…

I had made a wax carved project ring inspired by a famous maker as a practice project for pave…there was an oval center stone, and numerous pear shaped stones around it, with pave filling in around the pears and the shoulders…i was using stones I had on hand…not the same size as my inspiration ring…working layout and scale on paper versus the wax model were my issues…during the course of completing the project, things came up that made me think CAD would be a good thing…

At that time, the biggest roadblocks were high cost and steep learning curve. I didn’t know enough about CAD generally or Matrix specifically to even know what questions to ask or features I wanted…And my Art Professor brother said “learn to draw! you will need that for CAD anyway”…

so, I went off on the drawing tangent and veered away from CAD for the moment…

somewhere along the line, a friend of mine showed me his CAD work and Rhino software…“It’s a game changer” he said…I was mesmerized…but also intimidated by what seemed to be a complex program…

fast forward 8 years later…

An event in my life opened up a block of time for me, and I sort of said “now or never”!

I watched every Youtube video I could get my hands on for both Rhino and Matrix, as well as RhinoGold, and 3Design…

I called all of the CAD software companies and had conversations with people…

I finally had enough understanding to feel comfortable moving forward with a purchase of a CAD program…but! which one?

…My brother also gave the advise to find the one with the largerst user base, and online community, because “you will need it”…

I did the free 90 day download of Rhino and just could not seem to wrap my head around the tutorials…

Still…I decided on Matrix…I find the Matrix user interface to be very user friendly, and the various builders and libraries are fantastic time savers…I surface model more than I use the builders, but I still think Matrix was the right choice…for me…in large part due to the excellent online training available.

Serendipitously, shortly after my purchase, and after reading the manuals cover to cover, Gemvison Matrix launched an OnLine Academy. It is an AMAZING resource of on demand training videos at all levels.

I was able to learn more than the fundamentals in a very short period of time.

…the availability of an immense online video training library cannot be overstated…concern about being able to learn the program after spending a good sum of money on it was foremost on my mind when making my decision whether or not to jump into CAD…

It is a very good fit for me and my brain and the way I think and plan and design.

I personally gravitate toward precision and symmetry…I seem to measure things a lot in my process…I like to be able to scale things accurately…however, CAD is by no means only rigid…

…I did a dragon signet ring in CAD where the spaces between the toenails were .30mm…I was not skilled enough to carve that fine of a detail in wax…i did initially start out carving the dragon signet ring in wax…I wasn’t able to make it work…

I think almost anything is possible with CAD and 3D printing…and then on to casting as usual, etc…

There are many different programs… are all a bit the same and a bit different…different strengths and weaknesses…and then there are the more organic programs like Z-Brush, and the rendering programs, and…the list goes on and on!

I found the general information on this link to be useful in my research…

(there are more parts, and related topics on this site)

I think having bench experience is important when modeling in CAD…and, even though objects are initially designed/ built on a computer…in CAD, and then a resin is printed on a 3D printer…the object is still cast as normal and still needs to be finished and perhaps stones set…this is where I think the humanistic touch can be imparted…

…i still fabricate…I still carve wax…I also do CAD…just another tool in the tool box…


I’m a wax carver who uses cad as well. Thirty plus years at it. Love both wax carving and cad modeling.

My big picture concern is that we are losing well rounded jewelry making knowledge and skill because so many relatively inexperienced people are jumping right to cad. It’s cookie cutter capabilities allow that. Where before you had to learn to handmake each component, step by step, in order to create a unified and beautiful whole. Now with a few clicks you can create a reasonable facsimile of the same thing.

What that gives us is a generation of jewelry makers who don’t have the jewelry making background and knowledge they need to make pieces of the highest quality. That’s why we see so much of the horrible looking pseudo bead setting and bright cutting in cad produced jewelry. The market is flooded with it and the buying public sees so much of it that they begin to believe it’s the best they can expect.

Like I said, I’m a cad user and lover. It’s just a problem that I lament.

Check into 3DESIGN CAD software. Designed by Jewelers fir Jewelers. Many specials.

Mark- "My big picture concern is that we are losing well rounded jewelry
making knowledge and skill because so many relatively inexperienced people
are jumping right to cad."
I have friends who do complicated and technical castings in platinum etc.
They’re pretty well known internationally. The folks in the lab are often
amused by what CAD “designers” send them to cast. Stuff that has to go into
a time warp black hole in another universe to work.
This is why I still teach traditional old school skills that I learned
from guys who learned before WWII. My years at the bench are nearly over
due to age and job related physical issues. I’m hard wired for Alzheimer’s
and Dementia. It usually begins when we turn 80 in our family. So I only
have 15 years left to share what I know. I feel like I’m racing against
time. Especially when I think about just how fast the last 15-20 years of
my life have flown by.
Yes CAD has it 's place but must be augmented with good basic bench
Have fun and make lots of jewelry.
-Jo Haemer


What’s happening now with CAD is there same thing that happened with print 20 years ago when computer graphics swept the industry. I had friends who worked in print shops, who had to untangle the unprintable and error filled files that art directors sent them to print. There is no substitute for basic knowledge.

Janet Kofoed

Janet Kofoed! You are so-o right! CAD is the future and it is here NOW for good!!. I used to print out all of my setting essays & had reams of paper sitting around in boxes…hundreds of sheets of paper. They were printed and stored away, just in case a file got lost! Now everything is now collected into a little USB-key, small enough to put into your pocket. I wonder what will happen in the next 10 years?
Many years ago I told my wax-carver to get off the bench and get into CAD, he just scoffed at me. Well the picture has changed, he is now 100% into CAD, doing things faster, cheaper & with more precision! My other CAD-fellow now does over 3,000 Cad machine-carvings a year. All he does is sit at his computer and let his machine run all night, voila! 30 rings by the next morning…all ready for customer pick/up or for the caster!
.My “Guinness World Record” (May 30th, 2013) creation was ‘built on CAD’, so intricate that the hand-carving process would not have worked, resulting in no award a.k.a.“The Worlds Most Valuable Poker-Chip Ever Created!” Imagine all of the 538 claws/prongs individually hand-created, a mind boggling disaster!..Gerry Lewy!

I agree (and sympathize with Jo).

I think that overnight finding suppliers provide a great service but also have created a similar problem. They are creating a generation of assemblers.

When I started as an apprentice in the late 70’s you couldn’t get findings faster than 4-5 days. So you often had to fabricate all the components, heads, shanks, everything. It was time consuming but also a great skill that we all had.

Now very few goldsmiths can do that. It’s all assembly of premade parts. Often not quite the right parts. If you asked them to fabricate the correct head and gallery they wouldn’t have the slightest idea how. Or understand why they should know how.


I agree , I’ve been a goldsmith for 40 years in all phases. I am almost ready to get into the CAD as I can incorporate both skills. Unfortunately like many other things technology tries to wipe out human skills. So never totally give up your talent and artistry
John Scully @ designsbyscully.com

I agree. Wax carved jewelry is made from the heart with passion… it is a talent hard to come by. Happy Holidays to all…

Andy “The Tool Guy” Kroungold
Director Tool Sales & Stuller Bench
Stuller Inc.
P 1-800-877-7777 ext 4191 or 4194