The Process of Silver Jewelry Manufacturing: From Mining to Finished Product

Producing silver jewelry is not easy. From beginning to end, each silver piece has undergone a huge transformative process that begins eons ago with geological processes deep within the Earth. Starting with lumps of rock, we extract, treat, and shape natural silver into the creations we see today.

Keep reading to understand exactly how silver jewelry is manufactured. And be sure to visit ELF925 to browse our collection of high-quality 925 silver jewelry and experience such pieces for yourself.

How is silver jewelry made?

How we make silver jewelry has changed throughout the ages. Our earliest signs of silver jewelry go back to 4th century Turkey. There nearly 2500 years ago, people discovered how to extract silver from rocks using lead.

Nowadays, the scale and refinement of the process have changed, but the idea remains the same: silver is extracted from rocks and then melted down. This is then melted or cut into beautiful designs to adorn our bodies as necklaces, rings, bracelets, and more.

Modern state-of-the-art silver jewelry factories involve dozens of employees, each with specialized roles. These teams work together to streamline the silver jewelry-making process and produce millions of beautiful pieces each and every year.

Silver jewelry process

1.   Mining

Whether a small ear stud or a showpiece of a necklace, all silver jewelry starts off life deep underground in the form of silver ore. Silver deposits are extracted through either large open pit quarries or underground tunneling.

Mining operations rarely seek silver ore directly due to its scarcity. Instead, silver is typically a lucrative byproduct of mining more functional metals such as copper, zinc, and lead.

2.   Processing and alloying (assaying)

This silver-rich rock is then filtered using flotation to separate pure silver from waste rock and other minerals.

There are different flotation methods available. All essentially involve crushing rock and ores into finer pieces and then using water, chemicals, and agitation to sift through the extracted material.

Through this process, waste rock sinks, and concentrated sulfide rises to the surface. This sulfide is then melted down to remove impurities to form what’s called a doré bar: a semi-pure lump of gold and silver.

Doré bars are then smelted down by manufacturers or metal merchants to remove residual copper. This separates the silver and gold within the bar.

3.   Alloying

In its pure form, silver is a beautiful but soft metal. While pure silver jewelry is produced by silversmiths, it can be enhanced by adding a small amount of copper to it.

Adding copper to silver produces an alloy called sterling silver.

This is a stronger, shinier form of silver that’s preferred by most manufacturers and consumers. Sterling silver is less likely to tarnish or dent during everyday wear, as copper makes it more durable.

Genuine sterling silver jewelry is called “925 silver” because it contains a minimum of 92.5% silver.

To make sterling silver, pure silver is heated to its melting point of 960.5ºc (1760.9°F). Copper is likewise heated to its own melting point of 1093ºc (1999.4°F), upon which the two are mixed together.

4.   Design and mockup

At this point, silver jewelry manufacturers take over the process. All pieces start life as a design, typically hand-drawn by artists specializing in jewelry creation.

Whole silver jewelry designs are produced with both aesthetic appeal and the manufacturing process in mind. However, modern silver jewelry factories like ELF925 can produce even the most intricate designs on a large scale.

Designs are digitally converted into computer files using CAD (computer-aided design) software. This allows designers to see 3D renders of the jewelry piece and consider the final product.

5.   Wax carving

Once the design has been decided, a 1:1 scale wax model is then produced. Modern factories typically use a wax-making machine to carve intricate patterns and shapes into wax based on the 3D design model.

This stage involves multiple stages of refinement with skilled hand-carvers finalizing the model.

6.   Molding

The wax model is then used then produce a mold. It is embedded into a container that is filled with plaster. This is then superheated to burn off the wax and leave a detailed hollow impression of the model within the plaster.

This mold is used to produce a silver master model that, in turn, is used to produce a rubber mold. This rubber mold is a perfect replica of the silver model and can be used repeatedly to manufacture silver pieces.

7.   Assembly

Next, silver jewelry is cleaned up by skilled silversmiths with rough edges rounded off, and pieces checked for flaws. They are also given a pre-polish to remove residue leftover from the molding process.

Pieces then have any pendants and other metal details attached. This is achieved with a silver alloy that has a lower melting point. Details are effectively soldered onto the pieces making them securely set.

8.   Polishing and stone-setting

With the piece almost finished, it’s time to bring the jewelry to a high polish.

To achieve the shiny surface that we associate with silver, each and every piece is buffed and polished using rotary machines. Pieces undergo several rounds of polishing from coarse to fine, with a final soft polish bringing out a high-luster finish.

This also removes scratches and imperfections that may have occurred during the manufacturing process.

Once the piece has been polished, stones and gems are set into sockets and then given one final polish.

Where to find quality silver jewelry

Located in Thailand, the jewelry-making capital of the world, ELF925 prides itself on its cutting-edge processes, timeless designs, and dedicated team of silversmiths.

Visit ELF925 and see why we’re one of the world’s leading jewelry manufacturers.

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