1. What part of the process do you find the most difficult?
Patience. I often must focus on not rushing through any part of the
process to get to the end result of what I see in my mind as
finished jewelry. I sometimes find it difficult to “make haste
2. What are your reasons for making your own stock?
The same reason I cut most of my gems from the rough. I derive
intense satisfaction from taking raw materials and making something
that another person likes enough to part with their hard-earned
money. To me, it’s the highest compliment.
3. How and where did you learn to produce your own stock,
and how long did it take you to become proficient at it?
At home in books, mostly. Also from asking questions of everyone I
meet who does it. I had a conversation just today with our
old-school bench jeweler about refining platinum sweeps. Because I
learn as much as I can before plunging too deeply, proficiency did
not take long…a few days with each metal to get the process right.
Years to become expert, though.
4. What machines or tools work best for you, and which are
They all work well, but I suppose the tool that works easiest for me
is the rolling mill. Hardest is usually hammering. This is where I
sometimes want to rush, and so, lose focus. I take extra time when
5. How do you feel your finished product compares to factory
made wire or bezel stock?
As good as any, and better than some. Once a good ingot is made,
forging and annealing bring the crystal structure of the metal to a
nice, dense condition. I can work it into any shape and hardness
from dead soft to “harder than a chemistry exam.” What could be
better than that?
6. What products do you make yourself that you cannot
find ready-made for purchase?
Practically everything. I usually cut stones for "best effect,"
which usually means nonstandard or non-calibrated sizes and shapes.
For example, instead of wasting a lot of factory made bezel wire
that is wider than necessary (by filing, sawing, etc.), I can
usually roll and shape precisely what I need with very little waste.
In turn, that waste is saved for the next time I cast an ingot. It
spends a little money in terms of my time, but saves a lot more in
fabrication charges for factory-made sheet, wire and bezel.
While these materials are all available for purchase ready-made,
they are usually not available in the sizes/shapes I need. And even
when they are, I just prefer to do it myself. Trade-in value for
scrap is low, and I save a lot by reusing scrap along with new
grain. So I guess it’s a question of both economics, and the thrill
of doing every step from scratch.
James S. Duncan, G.G.
James in SoFl