Each year at the Society of North American Goldsmiths Conference (SNAG), attendees look forward to the pin swap event where makers each bring a set of unique creations to trade with other makers. These small mementos are a fun way to share work and create connections on the first night of the conference, a good icebreaker. This year, the members of Rio Grande’s Jewelry Tech Team set off to make something special for the New Orleans-inspired masquerade theme. The design started simply with a drawing on a napkin, a scenario many artists are familiar with. Take a peek inside how this clever design came together, from design to production and finishing.
The first step was to finalize of the concept of the initial “napkin” idea. The team was to create a decadent mask pin inspired by New Orleans. Their goal was to incorporate the SNAG 2017 event, Rio Grande branding and another surprising design element to tie it all together, and then create a prototype to be used for casting.
The team decided small-scale casting was the best way to create 200 pins. Fabrication and soldering were immediately dismissed. Fabrication is slow, results in a higher cost per item, and makes consistency among the pieces more difficult to achieve. Casting the pieces was a natural choice that allowed for faster production, consistent details, and a lower cost per piece.
To begin bringing this piece to life, a CAD rendering was used to formulate, refine and complete the design. The elements went through a round or two of modifications, and then the finalized CAD rendering was ready to be 3D printed. The printed 3D model was then cleaned and cured, ready for molding. Room temperature vulcanizing rubber was used to create the mold because it barely shrinks, is easy to cut, and offers accurate parting lines. This mold was used to produce the wax models, which were treed and set in investment for casting.
With the molds of identical pins all set, the Neycraft Spincaster was the tool for the job. Our Jewelry Tech Team likes it because it’s easy to use, has a small foot print, and has a fast cycle time. It can also cast 5–6 ozt of silver, and has a protection shield to guard against ejected metal, investment or other debris. [You can see our video series about the Neycraft Spincaster on YouTube. They explain everything from seasoning the crucible, to set up and casting your pieces.]
When casting was complete, each bronze pin was clipped from the tree, the sprues were ground down, and it was bead blasted to remove additional investment. The pieces were oxidized, and finally embellished with color. From start to finish, the team used old techniques along with the latest technology to produce these pins.
Have you noticed yet, the surprising masquerade design element in this piece? From the front, it appears to be an embellished Rio mask, but from the back side, you’ll notice that the handle is really a jeweler’s torch! It is certainly a clever disguise.