Can you tell the difference between handmade or cast jewellery?
At first glance a ring is a ring. On second glance we might notice what metal it is made from or what stones it contains. Different metals and settings will carry their own features, including durability, and price. Did you know that how a ring is made can also affect the durability of your piece and the price you pay at the end?
There are two methods for creating a piece of jewellery. The original method is of course by hand. Before the industrial revolution just about everything was handmade and a lot more expensive. Jewellery was only owned by the very wealthy in Western civilisation. Once factories sprang up casting became a more usual method for creating jewellery and the status of jewellery decreased a little along with the price.
Nowadays some jewellery is handmade and some is cast. Many people wouldn’t give a thought to the method of manufacture but there are some very key points to consider when choosing your pieces.
Handmade jewellery can actually be made quicker than cast jewellery in some cases, since your local jeweller can do it for you straight away if you catch them at the right time. You could have it within a day or two if it’s not too tricky and all the materials are to hand, whereas cast jewellery can take much longer to make from start to finish, if the piece you want isn’t already on the shelf. Big manufacturers will have processing schedules and set delivery dates, often being from other cities or even countries.
Handmade jewellery can also be made to your exact specifications. It can have whatever design you choose (although the practicality of the piece depends on the chosen design) and a jeweller can actually make a thinner piece of jewellery than can be made in a cast, so you have more options. Cast jewellery has to be on the bulkier side. You can use computer aided design programs to print a wax version of what you want and have a cast-made piece done from that, but the less durable metal in a cast piece is the drawback in this scenario.
Combining different types of metals in one piece of jewellery is also easier in many cases when done by hand.
The main benefit to cast jewellery is the price. A manufacturer can make many pieces at once without crafting each one separately, which reduces the man hours significantly. You can also get an exact replica of a cast piece with another cast, whereas a handmade piece will have tiny differences, making each one unique.
So how do you tell which is which when you’re in the store? Here are some ways that you can tell the difference.
Feel the weight.
When a piece of gold is crafted into a ring by hand a jeweller uses rolls and hammers to mould the metal into the right shape. This makes the metal more dense and as it seems less bulky will still have the same weight.
Conversely, when molten gold is poured into a shaped mould and cooled down quickly to create a finished product the result has little air bubbles on the surface and the jewellery will not only be lighter but will scratch or be broken more easily.
If you hold a handmade and a cast 9k gold ring, one in each hand, the handmade one should feel heavier
Look at the inside of the band.
If you look closely at the inside bands of these rings, you will see that the Tiffany solitaire on the left has a smooth, even surface and thickness to the band. Look at the 14k yellow gold ring on the right and you will see a hollow section behind the diamonds. This is a clue that the ring on the right is cast made.
Inspect the join between the coronet and the band.
Compare the same two rings from another angle and you can see the way they have been constructed.
The cast made ring on the left has been created out of two separate pieces with a gap between the band and the coronet. This means a jeweller can easily swap one coronet for another. It also reduces the strength of the piece.
Tiffany ring on the right is all the one piece which makes it very sturdy and strong, as well as being pretty.
Check the marks on the inside of the band.
Just about all jewellery sold will have a metal content mark on the inside if it is made of a precious metal. There will usually be at least one other mark as well, a hallmark or a stamp, put there by the maker of the jewellery. If you are inspecting a handmade piece you will see the jeweller’s particular mark and you can look that mark up on one of several online databases to be absolutely sure.
If you’re still unsure you can bring it in and we can show you how to tell the difference – and while you’re here you can get it professionally cleaned while you browse the rest of our extensive range.
Take a look at these other pieces. Practise your inspecting skills!