Wax Sculpting a Dream Pendant for Virginia

Virginia’s Ambitious Design Idea

Art Nouveau Hand Mirror

Virginia’s Lovely Art Nouveau Hand Mirror

Have you ever loved a thing of beauty so much that you wanted more of it? Virginia — an art collector, master gardener, and lover of beauty — adored her antique hand mirror and dreamt of having a pendant that resembled it.

She worried, though, that the large hand mirror’s intricate design would be too complex to recreate in a pendant, which would have to be much smaller. On top of this, she wanted the roses from the original design to be replaced with pansies.

She explained her vision to me in a hesitant voice that suggested, “I’m worried that this is asking way too much.” To Virginia’s surprise, I told her that I was in!

And I knew just the wax sculptor to talk to…

My Secret Treasure – Wax Sculpting Artist, Peggy Croft

Peggy Croft, The Talented Wax Sculptor

Peggy, The Talented Wax Sculptor

Pansies have a wonderfully three-dimensional, curvaceous loveliness to them. This would be no ordinary design. I needed Peggy Croft, my go-to wax sculpting artist, to achieve the look that I wanted.

My visions and dreams long ago exceeded my manual ability. As a jewelry designer, I have a team of people that help me create what I see in my mind. By having talented artists and craftspeople on my team, I’m able to give my clients the jewelry of their dreams.

Why Not Just Use CAD or Hand Wax Carving You Ask?

Intricate Art Nouveau Wax Sculpture

Peggy’s Intricate Wax Sculpture. We Left Openings On the Left and Right Side For Two Separately Sculpted Pansies.

Wax sculpted pansy

One Of The Separately Sculpted Pansies.

When a design like this is being conceived, I know I’ll want to edit it and make changes along the way.

With CAD, I can’t get an organic feel for how the real thing will look in three dimensions. Even though CAD is wonderful for making design adjustments. It has its limits. Often it’s just too hard to program in all the subtle details involved in a complex design.

Hand wax carving faces the opposite problem — it’s great for developing small details, but, once the wax has been carved, little can be done to adjust it. You can spend an hour meticulously carving out a section of the mold, only to look at it and say, “Hmm, that should have a steeper curve.” At that point, you’re out of luck because you’ve already carved away the wax.

With wax sculpting, you add wax and then carve into it. If you don’t love what you just did, you edit it. You remove the work you just did, or you add wax to one section and re-carve it thicker, higher or with more curve. This method allowed me to avoid the shortcomings of both CAD and wax carving.

Creating Separate Elements to Strengthen Her Design

Art Nouveau Pendant Close-Up

All Of The Fine Details Had To Be Carefully Arranged To Allow For A Successful Casting

When creating a design, it’s important to consider how the chosen metal will look when it’s cast. For every swooping detail that pinches down into a narrow area, you run the risk of an incomplete casting detail. One failed area can wreck your whole piece.

With this in mind, we decided to carve the two largest pansies separately and connect them to the metal base after casting.

Working with Talented Artists Allows Me To Create More Freely

I spent hours searching for images of pansies and carefully selecting just the right designs to include in the pendant. Peggy’s talent allowed me to design ambitiously without fearing that she could not create my ideas.

When two artists come together, there can be clashes between what is dreamt of and what is possible. There is also the possibility for good collaborative sparks to fly. In this project, I felt alive and invigorated as I watched each step come together.

I appreciated Virginia so much for supporting the creation of fine art. I appreciated Peggy for her skills in bringing a vision to fruition.

Putting Peggy Out in Front

Artist signature on art nouveau pendant

Peggy’s Signature On The Back Of The Pendant

Many jewelry designers use Peggy in the background. She creates the actual model envisioned by the designer, but the public never knows of the hours she spends carefully crafting beautiful pieces of art.

When Virginia and I started on this project, I told her right off the bat that I couldn’t do it without Peggy. Because Virginia really appreciated Peggy’s skills as an artist, she asked to have Peggy sign and date her piece.

Keeping Virginia in the Loop

There are so many steps in the creation of jewelry art. It was a pleasure to show Virginia pictures of the process: the wax, the fresh cast piece, the polished piece… The progress pictures added richness to the process for both Virginia and myself.

It was a wonderful moment when I finally showed Virginia her new necklace. When she held it up beside the mirror, we were both speechless and smiling.

Creating the Jewelry of Your Dreams

Finished Art Nouveau necklace from Calla Gold Jewelry

The Finished Necklace!

There may be a day when a jewelry dream you want can only be achieved with the help of a wax sculptor. When that day comes, you now know what kind of a team you’ll need!

Reaching for the stars and perfect pansies,
Calla Gold

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About Calla Gold

Calla Gold is a Personal Jeweler and Author who takes pride in working with clients one-on-one to integrate their personal sense of style and taste into custom designed jewelry and repaired jewelry pieces.   Unlike typical Santa Barbara jewelry businesses, Calla Gold has no brick-and-mortar location. Calla Gold comes to you, bringing you the jewelry collection you want to see and collaborating with you to create unique custom jewelry. Calla also works with at-a-distance clients.

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Jennifer Goddard Combs
8 years ago

I am so impressed that you were able to design such an intricate and special piece for your customer! I also enjoyed learning more about your “secret treasure” wax sculptor – how lucky for Virginia that she had two talented women to make her dream come true!

Santa Barbara Matchmaking
Santa Barbara Matchmaking
8 years ago

First off I had no idea that wax sculpting was even a thing. When we first looked at wedding rings, I had it in my head that I wanted an iris worked into it. I never found that design and the two people we asked about it were not helpful. Now I know how this idea could be made real. Although it’s not longer iris’ that send me. Virginia’s pansies and that lovely woman’s face are such delicate and beautiful designs! What an amazing project and such a lovely read about your secret treasure, Peggy! I hope you shared this… Read more »

Patricia Schwartz
8 years ago

I love the work you did here, Calla! Is it ever hard for you to communicate your vision of the design to the artists you work with, or do they generally pick up on your ideas naturally?

Dani Antman
8 years ago

Hi Calla,
Wow what an achievement! How beautiful the translation from one artistic item to a piece of jewelry. It makes me wonder about other sources of inspiration for custom pieces. Learning about wax sculpture for intricate jewelry designs was one of those, you learn something everyday, experiences. I’m so glad to expand my knowledge this way. Is this one your most unusual design using wax sculpturing?

Jill Ross Beres
Jill Ross Beres
8 years ago

Fortunately I’ll be meeting up soon with Virginia. I can’t wait to see it!!!! The art of it is sure to be sublime.