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Wax Carving FAQs

What is a wax model?

Is it worth it to cast my own parts for my jewelry?

Can I make my original models from PMC and have those cast for me?

If I want a tag for my jewelry, couldn't I just stamp some flat tags?

How much does a typical wax model cost?

Do you guarantee your work?

Can you mold and cast my pieces for me?

How do I find a caster?

What does the caster charge to cast my pieces?

How do I figure out how much each of my pieces cost so I can price my work?

Can I show you my sketches in person?

Will you keep my designs and concepts confidential?

You're a metalsmithing teacher. Can you teach me how to carve wax?

Can you make custom jewelry for me, or a few for gifts or some business clients?

What's your specialty? What are you good at?

Are there any kind of wax models you don't make?


What is a wax model?
A wax model is part of the lost wax casting process. Instead of working directly in metal, the design is fabricated in wax. Jewelry waxes are not the same as soft paraffin or beeswax. They are hard and designed to be carved, filed, sawn and polished. Wax has several advantages: the materials are less expensive and more forgiving - if a correction has to be made, just add more wax! Also, some designs, sculptural pieces like skulls, snakes, etc., are best made with wax which has the flexibility to be built-up into almost any form you can imagine. After the wax model is complete, it is covered with plaster investment and burnt away or "lost". The void left behind from the melted wax is the mold for the molten metal when cast. Find out more about lost wax casting and watch a short video of the process.

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Is it worth it to cast my own parts for my jewelry?
It depends on you as a jeweler, artist or designer. There is certainly value to having your own parts cast - original pieces set you apart from the mass of jewelers out there working with the same stock of findings. And it doesn't take a lot of pieces to set yourself apart - even just a few well designed parts and maybe even a custom tag or clasp are enough to catch the attention of your customers. I always recommend to any designer who is just starting to cast their own work to start small and build your inventory of cast pieces as they sell.

See the similar question, "How do I figure out how much each of my pieces cost so I can price my work?".

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Can I make my original models from PMC and have those cast for me?
Yes. Although your caster may have to adjust the piece after it's molded, to adjust for weight, etc. Try to lower the weight of your piece as much as possible in the PMC prototype. Make sure you include everything you need for the final casting, like jump rings, bails, etc. If you can't make your model in PMC however, for whatever reason, I welcome your call or inquiry online. Also, if you need advice about casting your own pieces, I offer coaching.

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If I want a tag for my jewelry, couldn't I just stamp some flat tags?
Sure thing. If that's fine for your designs, it's a simple solution. What I offer is a customized charm that could never be stamped - something with dimension and character that is expressive of your brand and style of your jewelry. Consider also the cost of stamping the tags: the stamp, the tags, and your time to stamp them (including any stamps that are not stamped correctly and are unusable). Your custom cast jewelry tags are polished, antiqued and cast for you by a caster. Just add them to your finished jewelry for name recognition and identification of your original designs.

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How much does a typical wax model cost?
You know, I have a page for this on the site. Go to "How much do your charge?" to find out more.

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Do you guarantee your work?
I will do everything I can to provide my clients with a finished model that meets or exceeds their expectations and that provides the best reproductions possible for the design. If a model is not to your satisfaction, I will adjust or re-work the model. Sometimes, however, it can happen that a designer and a wax carver can't agree on a satisfactory job, and a return is necessary. This actually has never happened, but if it does at some point, I'd like it to be clear that I can refund up to 75% of the amount for the model, upon return of the prototype or wax model, and any artwork, along with any molds made, and provided that no other molds or copies were made and retained by the client.

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Can you mold and cast my pieces for me?
No, sorry. I have a small studio and only produce custom jewelry and prototypes for lost wax casting. I have a list of some of the casters available for hire on my site.

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How do I find a caster?

I just so happen to have a list of casters available online. You may choose to work with one who is close enough to visit in person, or ship your models to your caster. There are advantages to both: proximity makes pick up, delivery and consultation easy; but you can shop around for best price and service, if you're willing to ship and work at a distance.

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What does the caster charge to cast my pieces?
That is up to the caster. The caster will charge you for molds, labor, the metal and any additional services like soldering, polishing by hand or antiquing. Most pieces are cast and then finished with mass finishing machines, like tumblers. Some casters will allow you to purchase and supply your own metal for casting. Others will not, because they only use their own supply of quality casting alloys.

Keep in mind that the more demanding you are of the quality of your castings, generally the more you will have to pay. And beware cheap rates for casting - something has to be cut somewhere for a price drop, and it's usually quality, confidentiality or timely delivery. Domestic casters in the United States and Canada generally charge more than overseas competitors, but you get higher quality, protection of your copyrights, and save a lot of time and headaches because you won't have to deal with the red tape and bother of having your work made overseas.

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How do I figure out how much each of my pieces cost so I can price my work?
Do your research: talk to your wax carver and caster. Try to get estimates for the steps you will have to take to cast your own pieces: wax, mold, casting (labor, metal and any extra services like antiquing, soldering or special polishing). When I am creating a wax model for a client, I can estimate from the weight in wax the weight in metal when cast. Pics of the model, dimensions and weight can be forwarded to you or your caster for more accurate estimates for production costs.

Typically, you would divide the cost of your original wax model by the number of copies you expect to cast. This could be the first batch or an estimate of how many you expect to cast in total. The more copies the less cost per piece, obviously.

Molds usually cost between $22 - 35 each. Usually each piece is molded separately, unless it is a set or pair, like toggles or earrings.

Once you add up your costs for the casting, plus any other components in your jewelry, a common mark-up formula is x3 for wholesale (1/3 cost of goods - 1/3 overhead - 1/3 profit), and then multiply that by 2 for your retail price. Then compare the price you calculated with your competitors prices for similar work and your estimate of the price your customers will pay for the the value of your design. And beware of the beginners's curse - if you are prone to charge too little for your time and expense, stiffen your spine and double your price - despite your toes curling through your shoes with fear, you may be pleasantly surprised when your customers pay the higher, more accurate price without even batting an eye.

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Can I show you my sketches in person?
Certainly. Call or email to arrange an appointment. My studio is in Berkeley, Ca. Directions are available.

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I'm worried about showing my designs to someone else.
Will you keep my designs and concepts confidential?

Every step of your design is confidential and is never shared with anyone else. Jewelry is a competitive world. Unscrupulous jewelers will buy and mold your work and make money on it, without a care about legalities or even being caught. Unfortunately, court is expensive and slow to prosecute copyright offenders. Your wax carver and caster should be selected not only for the quality of their work, but also their confidentiality. I strictly protect your work and do not share your ideas with anyone else.

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You're a metalsmithing teacher. Can you teach me how to carve wax?
Yup. I have classes, retreats and offer private lessons. I can even offer private lessons for jewelry artists looking to find out more about using lost wax casting techniques to leverage their time and create original designs for their lines.

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Can you make custom jewelry for me, or a few for gifts or some business clients?
Sure thing. Browse my portfolio of work to get a sense of the style of work that I do. Email me at joe@silverajewelry.com to get a quote. And read the following two answers: What's your specialty? What are you good at? & Are there any kind of wax models you don't make?

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What's your specialty? What are you good at?
I love to carve waxes with nature themes, like animals, reptiles, flora, etc. So, in other words, I really like designs with mermaids, snakes, frogs, dogs, etc. I like to think I have a special ability for capturing the character or personality of the subject. I also like to set unusual, interesting stones with settings I make in the wax, because they blend so well with the theme of the design. Browse my portfolio and judge for yourself.


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Are there any kind of wax models you don't make?
Yes, I don't like to make commercial style production jewelry. What is that? Channel set baguette rings are a good example. No judgments - I think it's an excellent skill to create custom waxes for production settings - it's just not my... bag. I do like creating stone settings, just more unusual or interesting (to me) styles, like what you might see in traditional or modern takes on Arts and Crafts or Art Nouveau style jewelry.

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