One way jewelers without the hand engraving skills to just carve this
sort of thing have been doing it for years is to draw the design in
black on white paper, then take this careful drawing (which can be
enlarged) to a graphic arts business which does photoetched
zinc/magnesium printing plates. These types of printing plates used
to be used for almost all newspaper and magazine printing, prior to
more modern printing methods, and are still used for certain types of
small run printing. It’s a photoetch process, not a laser engraving,
and the detail, while not fantastic, is still very good. Limits are
generally that it’s a two dimensional design, not a full 3d or low
relief carving, and the etched depression has sloping sides, not
vertical. But it still works just fine for many such uses. What you
do is take the resulting flat zinc plate that the graphic arts firm
produces, and make a rubber mold of it. You can mold it flat, or for
a wedding band, cut out the pattern and bend it round for your band.
The plate is about 2 mm thick, so right off the bat, it’s pretty close
to what you might need for a wedding band model. After you mold it,
and inject your wax, you then have a wax model with a precise
duplicate of the design. You’ll no doubt wish to then modify the wax
and work with that model in order to finish the details of the ring,
like the seam, edges, other details, and the like, before casting it.
But all in all, this is a major time saver over trying to hand carve
such designs directly in the wax.
And there’s a variation to be aware of too. The above process gives
you an etched design where the “precision” surface, ie. the orginal
graphic design, is the top exposed surface. The etched depression,
with it’s sloping sided and somewhat more random depth (depth of the
etch gets less with narrower lines, as the sloping sided meet before
the maximum etch depth reached in wider areas) is just a random
depression, not quite flat on the bottom, etc. The trouble with this
is that in the finished design, buffing and wear and tear on the ring
will reduce the essential detail of the ring’s design. You can, if
you wish, reverse this, such that the precision graphic image is
reproduced in a precise flat bottom on the sunken design, and the top
surface of the relief is then more random, and as such, buffing, wear
and tear, etc, doesn’t affect the detail of the design. Used this
way, you are slightly more limited in the way you can finish the ring,
since you don’t want to obscure the bottom of the depression. so
paint-on antiqueing, or enamelling, for example, is a poor idea.
to reverse the design, leave the original zinc plate flat. Take a
fairly thick piece of a soft sheet wax (Either the pink or green
sheets work. Also used to have some even softer red, that worked well
too) Cover it with a single layer of saran wrap (kitchen plastic
wrap. any brand). The saran wrap is the mold seperator here.
Sandwich the wax sheet and the etched plate between a couple flat
pieces of plywood or metal sheet heavy enough to resist bending, and
squeeze the sandwich in a vice or press. The plastic wrap will let
you cleanly remove the embossed wax from the zinc plate without
damageing the design. And it will peel off the wax as well. Now
you’ve got a wax piece with the precision design pressed into the wax,
not on it’s surface. The new outer surface of the wax will often be
distorted and have an interesting punched-in look too, that you may
like as well. Again, now you’ve got a wax piece to be further
processed into your finished wax model for casting.
And one other variant on all this. Instead of a zinc plate, if
you’ve trouble getting that done, you can also have a rubber stamp
made of the design. Ask the people making the stamp NOT to mount the
finished stamp piece on a handle. That leaves you with a somewhat
thin rubber piece with your design raised up on it against a mostly
flat background. Again, depending on whether your artwork was a
positive or negative will determine if the raised surface is the
background or the forground of the design, just like with the zinc
plate. The rubber is flexible, and can be super glued to other wax
parts if needed, in order to turn the whole into a model for casting.
While the rubber doesn’t burn out as cleanly as wax, it does burn out.
One limit to this is that you can’t easily make a mold of the model
before casting. Vulcanized rubber would stick to the rubber stamp
material, and silicone rubbers often won’t set up in contact with the
rubbers used for the rubber stamp.
If you do a lot of this type of “engraved” design, you might wish to
investigate a system of do it yourself photopolymer materials that you
can turn into these relief models in your own shop. These are plastic
plates, similar to the printers zinc plates (but plastic
photopolymers), that you expose through a negative or high contrast
original, with ultraviolet light, then process in shop to produce your
model. The system includes both the polymer plates and the needed
ultraviolet light box, and is sold by several of the jewelry tools
suppliers as the “modelmaker” system. Cost is around 400-500, I
think. Takes a little practice to get exposure times down right, but
these things DO work. They’re relatively fast (you can make a model in
an hour or so, starting from the artwork) but if you don’t use it
much, not so practical, since the unused polymer plates don’t have
unlimited shelf life.
Hope this helps.