To make caps for irregular pearls, (and briolettes, beads and some
odd shaped stones), I dip the pearl in molten carving wax. In order
to get the wax to cover, sometimes you need to dip the pearl past
the widest part of the pearl. Then I use a carving tool or an
onglette graver to cut the wax where i want to remove the excess wax.
It’s really important to NOT cut through all the way to the pearl.
The cut creates a cleavage plane and makes it easy to peel away the
excess material. I like to do this when the wax is still warm, it’s
easier to flex it and get the pearl out.
Wax shrinks as it solidifies, and when the wax is cast it solidifies
another 1 percent. To compensate for this shrinkage I use what ever
shaped carving tool that matches the surface- and I scrape the
inside of the setting open until the pearl has a little wiggle room.
Then I shape up the outside of the settings with my carving tools. We
do this technique in class- it’s a lot of fun!
Carving waxes melt around 240 degrees, it’s dangerous to heat it on
a stove- as you can’t have a water bath under the pan. When wax melts
it migrates toward the heat source- and it is really easy to catch
it on fire. I prefer to use an electric wax melting tray.
I hope this helps!
-Kate Wolf in Portland, Maine, hosting wicked good workshops by the bay.