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Multiple deadlines: A jeweller’s nightmare

Technology—solutions and problems

It would have taken me six months to hand-fabricate this piece.
It would have taken me six months to hand-fabricate this piece.

A necklace by definition incorporates a chain or some other holding device directly into the piece. It is much more difficult to create than a simple pendant, which is merely suspended from a chain.  

Our customer chose a 6-mm white gold collar around which to build her special necklace. She also wanted the necklace to be 19 in. long. I photographed the correct length collar lying on her neck so that I could see the exact curvature from both side and front views. These images were then transferred into the computer. Using CAD, I was able to recreate the collar and thus construct the necklace around the image.

With the collar model created, it was time to tackle the necklace. The design called for 116 sapphires and 14 diamonds to be methodically placed into individual crowns that would then appear to be a solid band of colourful stones. I was first told to join each of the crowns together using tiny jump rings. This seemed impossible, given the desire to keep all the stones tightly packed together, not to mention it was a ridiculous amount of work. I argued for creating seven separate segments that would be hinged to allow the necklace to move as the neck moved. I won the argument, but on the condition the hinges be hidden behind the stones.

A perfect shop has both a mill and a growing machine.
A perfect shop has both a mill and a growing machine.

Time was ticking as I set to work—14 of my 54 days were already gone. Each new day was divided among the jobs I already had scheduled and working on the sapphire necklace.

CAD technology proved invaluable when it came to designing the crowns for each custom stone. By capturing an image and projecting it on the computer screen, I was able to recreate each of the stones in a digital format. Once the stones were digitized, I made a customized crown to fit these small odd balls. I have often spoken that I have a love-hate relationship with CAD/CAM. For this job, I can tell you honestly that I loved it.

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The quote

We were three weeks into our project when I finished the CAD design for the first of the necklace’s seven sections. This was a significant turning point for two reasons. First, we still did not have an accurate estimate assigned for this project. Until I could determine how the piece was to be made and the amount of labour needed to produce it, I could not judge how much it would cost. The first section took seven hours of CAD time to design. Based on that, I estimated the necklace would take 50 hours to design, 15 hours to manufacture, and 90 hours to set the stones. That’s 155 hours, and Christmas was just six weeks away.

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