Jul 2

Die Struck vs Cast Jewelry Which is Best for Engagement?

By Calla Gold

Die Struck vs Cast Gold Jewelry

Die Struck Coin

When I was a new jeweler, I was asked to size a 10kt company ring for a friend. It was my first experience with die struck jewelry.

I was expecting it to behave like other rings I had sized. Instead it was very tough and took a lot longer to size than I had anticipated. I asked

a mentor jeweler, what was the deal with this class ring? Was it that it was 10kt? Or what?

He said, “It’s die struck, and that is way harder to work than cast gold.” I then asked, why is that. Our conversation led me on a research journey. And questions from my clients with die struck jewelry led me to write this blog post.


Defining Die Struck Jewelry

die-struck vs cast

The Oxford dictionary defines “die” as “a device that stamps or cuts or molds materials into a particular shape.” They define “cast” as “to make an object by pouring metal into a mold and letting it harden.”

Die struck pieces are basically made by mechanically hammering and pressing a thin sheet of gold or other metal onto a hardened steel die to make pattern or impression.

Often, two or more pieces are then joined together to form a large, but lightweight “statement” piece. Earrings especially lend themselves to this method of creation.

Die Struck is More Dense

Die Striking Machine

If you ever noticed that some of your jewelry holds its high polish longer than other pieces?

A higher and more lasting polish is achieved on die struck gold jewelry because the gold is pressed into a form and the pressure makes the gold more dense. That density means gold molecules are closer together. I don’t actually know why that causes the high polish to be bright longer, but I have observed this effect when working with die struck vs cast gold.

In addition to the polish advantage, die struck pieces are stronger. For thin jewelry like hoop earrings and Stampado designs from Italy, die striking is a wonderful technology.

Casting of Gold in History

Die Struck vs Cast, Cast Example

Wax Mold and Finish Casting of a Gold Horse Head

Casting has been around for over 5,000 years. An incredible variety of textures and forms can be created using the “mold” and “cast” technique. Fine detailing and wild curlicues roam the territory of this kind of jewelry.

Casting can be simply done without fancy equipment. You get a better result with up to date vacuum casting equipment, which is what I use, but our forebearers heated gold and poured it into forms in the sand and wore the resulting jewelry.

I love casting for the detail achievable and the flexibility.

Why Wasn’t My Engagement Ring Die Struck?

Vintage diamond in halo
For die striking jewelry to make sense, it must be made in multiples. Like at least a hundred pieces. The reason for this is that the making of the dies is an expensive process. A cast piece of jewelry can also be made and duplicated, but it can also be made up as a one-of-a-kind piece. Die struck jewelry is not used that I know of for one-of-a-kind jewelry.

Your Personal Jeweler,
Calla Gold

This Video which is promotional by Jabel Co, shows the die striking process nicely.

11 thoughts on “Die Struck vs Cast Jewelry Which is Best for Engagement?

  1. Thanks for sharing this Calla. Really interesting. Many people are unaware that there are often two ways to make a commissioned piece or line of jewellery. I think it is a great point though regarding the production of multiple items for die struck jewellery, with one-off pieces tending to be cast. Love the Q and A approach too.

    • Hi Mark,
      I realize I could have mentioned those company lapel pins that big companies have made by the hundreds to give out. Those are usually gold plated base metal and made with die striking techniques.
      I’m glad you liked the Dear Calla Q and A method. It was fun to answer the question that way.

  2. I like this “Dear Calla” column Calla! It’s informative, but written in a fun, breezy style. Good job, as always. I think it might be time to bring the column back!

    Linda

  3. This is a very irresponsible post, as it infers that die-struck jewelry is inferior to cast jewelry. That is patently false. The process of die-striking dramatically compacts the metal, creating greater density, and thus, greater durability than casting could ever hope to achieve. Cast jewelry has the worst density of all mfg methods. And, b/c of that poor density, cast jewelry wears out quicker & has a much higher rate of breaking, and losing stones.

    Also, what Calla did not mention is that it is SIGNIFICANTLY more expensive to make a die-struck piece of jewelry (ala a ring) than it is to make a cast piece of jewelry. Making a die-struck ring, as an example, requires nearly 50x more labor hours than casting. Casting is how you make a ring cheap. Die-striking (or hand-forging) is how you make a ring elite. This is evidenced by the fact that all of the best antique rings in existence were either die-struck or forged. Cast rings are not designed to last. They’re just designed to look good & be low cost, which is why EVERY ring sold at low-end stores like Zales, Kays, Jared, Helzberg, etc was made via casting.

    Further, Calla stated that die-struck jewelry is not “one of a kind” jewelry. But, that is false. Die-striking is used to create some of the most exquisite, custom designs on the planet. It just takes a lot of work, b/c you have to make the dies & slave over every step. The top designers in the world almost exclusively use forging or die-striking. Casting is how you make cookie cutter rings, one after another after another. In addition, die-striking is simply the process of forming the jewelry…….be it a ring, pendant, bracelet, etc. The details are then applied by hand. It’s not different than how the world’s most luxurious fabrics are machine woven, but a tailor then cuts the fabric and hand-creates an exquisite dress.

    Source: I’m a metallurgist, structural ring engineer, designer, and international manufacturer who forges, casts, and die-strikes.

    • Dear Harrison,
      I am aware that it is more time consuming, labor intensive and expensive to make die struck jewelry. Her boyfriend if he bought a piece of die struck jewelry probably bought something that had been made in multiples to bring the price down to where a boyfriend would afford it. Unless he is the Sultan of Brunei. I did not intend to cast aspersions on the craft of making one-of-a-kind die-struck jewelry.
      I do take issue with your calling cast jewelry low cost and low end. There are wonderful cast designs all over the place. I like the freedom that casting offers to me in my designing. My clients would not go for the cost of my die striking a single one-of-a-kind ring. My client’s do value a one-of-a-kind piece. Her boyfriend isn’t going to get one-of-a-kind die struck jewelry either.
      Thank you for informing my readers more deeply about the wonders of die struck jewelry.
      I respect your information.
      Your Jeweler Friend,
      Calla

  4. Die-struck construction starts with the creation of the “hub”. Once the design is created, the hub is used to create a “master die” out of another steel blank. In a complicated ring, each individual component is individually die-struck and then assembled into one piece of jewelry using various methods, like welding, soldering, sawing into the finished piece of jewelry.

    • Dear Jonathan,
      Thank you for adding the technical details of die-striking jewelry. This is obviously said by one who does indeed make jewelry in this way. This is an excellent addition to this conversation.
      Your Jeweler Friend,
      Calla

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