Die Struck vs Cast Gold Jewelry
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
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
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
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?
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,
This Video which is promotional by Jabel Co, shows the die striking process nicely.