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Laser technology for cutting sterling

Hello! I am a newcomer to Orchid and the jewelry industry. My
background is in interior architectural design and apparel
design/manufacturing. My emphasis is to create quality, functional
sculpture and designs that stimulate thought.

I have developed a production line of jewelry that I’m in the
process of marketing–hopefully by Summer 98. I’ve handcut all the
prototypes and handed them to a CAD designer to digitize for die or
laser cutting. I was advised by my former jewelry instuctor and
others in the industry to strongly consider these processes or acid
etching because the geometric designs deal with sheet metal and the
flat surfaces would not produce a clean cast. The laser industry
has little experience with cutting sterling or gold mostly because
of the problems caused by its highly reflective surface. Die
cutting is more restrictive in production size and start up costs
are quite expensive. Has anyone had experience or success with
laser technology for cutting sterling (20 ga and 3mm thick)? What
about acid etching? Any help is greatly appreciated!

My sample size ring for production is an 8. I can alter the size
from 6-10 without distroying the design. What is the most common
ring size in the US? Is an 8 a good base to start with?

I’m also looking for 10mm and 12mm round undrilled stones. I’m
interesed in green tourmaline, turquoise, garnet, lapis,
serpentine. I’m waiting for response from someone recommended in
Sri Lanka. Does anyone have a great source that’s dependable?

Thank you in advance and I will share my experience/resources as I
progress. I’m determined to make this happen successfully. I’ll
keep you posted. Rebecca.

Dear Rebecca, THE ONLY way to go is WATER JET cutting!!! It wont
alter in any way the hardness of the sterling, and will cut as
precise as you want to go. It cuts steel with great accuracy…no
heat! A water jet cutter is CAD driven, and can be reproduced as
many times as you may need. I’ll have to look up a company, but
when I do I’ll e-mail you.

			Duane Baysinger		
			Studio B 
			Corbin,  KY

Where can you get about renting/using laser cutting.
I’ve been searching since last winter for info. At a craft show, I
saw a huge booth selling laser cut wooden ornaments and earrings.
I was really intrigued. Also, I was incensed that I had to compete
with that booth for sales. Any kind of handcrafted jewelry takes
more labor than this booth did. These people either had some sort
of franchise- or they were geniuses.

Where can you get about renting/using laser cutting.
Check with a big name machine shop in your area or Laser company.

Where are you located? There is one (laser) in Los Angeles called
Laser Industries. Also, some guitar companies laser cut their
parts–you might do some networking there too.

Good luck and please let me know what you find out.

Laser cutting services are readily avaliable if you know where to
look. The easiest one would be to check your local metropolitan
area yellow pages. If you are in the Northwest, Laser Technologies
in Portland, OR would be my recommendation. They cut everything
imaginable from steel to titanium. They will do any size job, but
the larger the better - otherwise the programming time will cost
you an arm and a leg. If you have any questions, please feel free
to contact me. One of my closest friends is working for Laser
Technologies and I can get the answers to many questions you may

Heather Sickler
Intrica Fine Jewelry

HI! Yes, I have had International Etching Inc., 7 ninigret Ave.,
Providence, Rhode island 02907 401-781-6800 FAX: 401-781-6813, do
many designs for me in 20 ga. Sterling, but know that they also do
14 Kt. and Gold Filled. It is the best way to get started, as you
can get just a couple of 12X12 sheets, done. They are very
efficient and all the etched metal is recovered, which lowers the
cost. Check them out. What I had done was some geometric patterns
cut through such as a filigree with each pattern done in three
sizes, then they can be assembled in all kinds of ways to create a
whole line of jewelry, rings, pins earrings, knapking rings, you
name it. I have three different patterns with each one in three
sizes. These are the basic units to solder together to make up a
whole . They are very good to work with. Have fun. Pat

With all of this thread, I started wondering does anyone know
which is the more cost effective between water jet, laser, or Wire
EDM? There is a web site for EDM@

Laser cutting will not work very well if at all on silver. Silver
is too reflective and too thermaly conductive. Wire EDM is way too
slow (translates to expensive). If you want to do production
cutting of sheet metal waterjet is the best method currently
available. The setup charges are very high so it is realy only for
production situations.


James Binnion Metal Arts
2916 Chapman St
Oakland, CA 94601

    With all of this thread, I started wondering does anyone
know which is the more cost effective between water jet, laser,
or Wire EDM? 

Ricky, When I mentioned the waterjet technology, it was for
someone who wanted to cut shapes in sterling that wouldn’t adversly
effect the hardness wether by heat or work hardening. Water jet is
not as precise as laser or EDM as far as the finness of the cuts.
If you want filigree, EDM or laser is the way to go. You will have
to harden the metal after you recieve the cuts from the jobber. As
far as the cost, one water jet source I contacted told me to expect
around $125.00 per hour, but the machine can cut a tremendous amout
of material in an hour. The most cost is in the CAD that is needed
for the water jet. I think the EDM will work from a blueprint, but
I am not sure. If hardness or distortion is not an issue, laser
or EDM is best.

Duane Baysinger
Studio B

You still need cad programs for EDM… the rate is about 100.00 per
hour… and there are shops all over the world… I’m in one now… Good
luck! Bob

Thank you for your suggestions! I’m in the process of getting quotes for
water jet cutting since the laser co. I contacted (Laser Industries in
Orange County, Ca-they’re listed in the 800 directory) will not cut
sterling via laser but will via water jet.

With all of this thread, I started wondering does anyone know
which is the more cost effective between water jet, laser, or Wire
EDM? There is a web site for EDM@

I’m in the process of getting a quote from a laser company for waterjet
cutting of sterling and stainless steel. I’m also requesting laser
cutting for the stainless since this company does not laser cut sterling.
However, Pat Diacca Topp wrote that Intl. Etching Inc in Province, RI does
cut sterling. I will check them out too. As for EDM–I checked out there
web site and I had one big question–What does EDM stand for? It looks
like they are a machine shop that does die cutting. A friend of mine that
owns a machine shop encouraged me to look into laser cutting. The die are
very expensive and limit the production size as well as wear out over

I will update you on the quotes later. Thanks for another source.

Hi Rebecca Engel-
EDM stands for Electrical Discharge Machining- I’m not up on the prices on
lasers and water jets, although I need to be for something coming up, so
please keep us informed. I’ve been doing die work a long time, and mostly
to cut out parts or flat sheet, try having a cutting die made. Someone was
saying on this list about the kerf of the waterjet being .030", almost
1/32". An EDM can cut a line that is .008. What may be more cost effective
for you is to get hardened steel and have it cut into a cutting die and
use either a kick press or hydraulic press to punch them out. No offense
to your friend, but you would be suprised at how much machinists don’t
know about this type of thing! It is all very specialized. I worked for a
famous buckle and western jewelry company at one point. We were using some
dies that were made before 1930 on a daily basis- they still are today.
Dies will last a very long time if used properly and cared for. They are
usually made for a precise use and if you stay with that, it will last.
Also with a cutting die, there is no waste as you remelt the scraps, roll
it back out and cut again. I’m just of the opinion the it would be more
cost effective at this time for jewelry sized parts to have a die cut by
EDM and press them out yourself. The system of pancake dies ala Bonnydoon
is good, but if you will be wanting something to last and doing many
pieces, I suggest do it this way. Everyone keeps saying about the CAD cost
of it. I agree somewhat, and this is why I’m doing college again for
Autocad, but I think that most companies have the ability to convert a
BMP, DFX, HPGL, or IGES file into a program that the controller can
recognize. The shop rate for machine cutting, whether water, laser, or EDM
I suspect will run about $90-100/hour, as is the going rate for this and
also CNC machining. This is also a substantial part of my business, making
dies and molds. I recently made a metal mold for McDonalds corp. that
makes their logo for affixing to the top of signet style rings with two
posts on the back for attachment. Cutting dies are the easiest to make.
Have you ever seen a PRCA championship buckle? How do you think that they
get all of those letters, ect. cut out? I’ll give you a hint, it ain’t by
waterjet! Have you ever heard of Edward H. Bohlin Co.? E.H. Bohlin was a
die maker who was famous for making western articles for Tom Mixx,
W.S.Hart, Gene Autry,etc. They’re still using his dies today, if fact they
have changed hands severaltimes in the last few years. He made a complete
set of dies to make a sterling saddle- horn, swells, seat, everything is
silver. You should see one, they go for up in the percents of millions
now. Good Luck to you and if you need any help with die work, ring me up!
Regards- Ricky Low