What do a simple engagement ring, a gently domed cluster of diamonds, and an extravagant hand-engraved bracelet have in common? They have all been engineered for beauty. At Jabel beauty starts with precision, through our unique die striking method of jewelry making.
Die striking is a process that begins long before any steel is machined, any gold is shaped, or any ring is hand engraved. The process begins with a sketch of the finding, or the piece of fine metal that will be formed into a piece of jewelry. While we refer to it as a sketch, it is truly more of a blueprint where critical measurements are formulated and stone sizes are predetermined. All details must be approved by the steel engraver to ensure the finding will function the way it is intended.
Once the sketch is completed, an expert toolmaker steps in to bring the design to life by crafting all the dies, trim tools, rolling plates, and more. In order to do so, the toolmakers need an expert level of knowledge regarding steel and its physical properties. Not all steel will respond equally to the immense amount of shock the metal will endure throughout its life.
Once the toolmaker decides the type of steel that is needed for shock resistance, they move on to the hardening process. Each individual tool necessitates separate hardening properties. An accurate metal hardness is essential to ensuring that tools do not crack or distort under extreme pressure.
These include hubs, masters dies, working dies, cutters, rolling plates, trim tools, and more. Each of these dies may be needed to create a simple, unadorned engagement ring.
The hub is a tool that begins as a solid block of steel. The block is hand-carved and formed into a die with 3-dimensional relief; think of it in terms of an embossed version of the design. The block is heat-treated to soften the metal for malleability, allowing the steel engraver to begin raising the planned finding from the block. The hub is totally handcrafted using engraving tools, files, and various other hand tools.
While the hub is created in relief, the master die is the exact opposite — it is carved into the steel, like debossing. To do so, the toolmaker slowly begins to sink the Hub into the softened material of the Master. The hub is once again processed and the steel is cut away. The hub again is pressed into the cavity left from the removed material and additional material is removed. This process is repeated until the mirror image of the hub is fully embedded into the master block of steel, and the two dies fit together with exact precision.
The master dies are only used to create the working dies, which are exact replicas of the design. Therefore, the working dies are the exact replica of the design. The working dies are meant to be used until they reach the end of their life, eventually cracking or distorting. Though the steel used is exceptionally strong, each strike that the die have to endure is struck with up to 50 tons — yes, tons of force! When they finally give out, another working die is made from the master.
By reserving the master as a reference, it ensures that the exact design of a ring, pendant, or earring will be identical, within a fraction of a millimeter, for centuries to come. We know this because Jabel has designs, such as the elegant ribbon ring, that was originally produced in 1925. It is still available to the exact original specifications today.
Working dies can either be made by hand, similar to the master die, or produced using copper pieces called electrodes. The electrodes are burned into a block of steel using an Electric Discharge Machining (EDM) process. This process is performed in a tank filled with special conductive oil. Additional working dies are machined and stocked in case of breakage. These tools can crack and open up from as much as 50 tons, or 100,000 pounds, of force per strike.
Blanking dies are used to create the overall shape of the finding. Whereas the working dies add detail and additional density to the design, the blanking dies work in conjunction with roll plates.
This basic steel tool does exactly what it says, it trims away any excess metal. During the die striking process, the steel is compressed over and over again, sometimes allowing metal to almost "overflow" from the sides of the die. The trim tool carefully cuts away any excess metal without harming the shape of the finding.
Now that we have all the tools and dies needed to make our heirloom quality jewelry, you might think we are ready to go — but we are not. Due to the excessive amount of force that the metal is stuck with, the physical composition of the gold and platinum must be precise! We call these metal recipes alloys. Each alloy must be blended to ensure heat tolerance, as the rolling process will require several rounds of heating. The alloys must also be able to tolerate the excessive force used in striking without becoming brittle and cracking. Lastly, the alloys must have the beautiful lustrous finish that Jabel is known for.
Jabel uses palladium to ensure the malleability of the metal throughout the die striking process, but it also gives our 18KT white gold a noticeably brighter and cleaner finish.
Now that we have our gold, it is time to begin rolling the precious gold or platinum bars into sheets. To do so, a press operator begins by first running the bars through a heating furnace and then a rolling machine. Just like rolling out dough, but at a scorching temperature of 1200-1400 degrees. The heating process keeps the metal soft and malleable, as the rolling will need to be repeated over and over again, slowly bringing the metal to its desired thickness.
Next, the blank is placed into the cavity of the roll plate where it is squeezed through a rolling mill. As the metal passes through the mill, it compresses into the plate, further shaping the metal blank into the finished finding.
There, our expert jewelers assemble the findings into spectacular pieces of jewelry. Our setters encrust the designs with brilliant diamonds and richly colored precious gemstones. Our polishers skillfully buff away any marks left from the setting tools. Finally, if engraving is required, an artisan hand engraves intricate patterns with only a swivel block, rudimentary tools, and hand-eye coordination.
Our process ensures that every stone set in our jewelry is done so with confidence. Our jewelry is meant to become a family heirloom, and we know that it will stand the test of time because Jabel has been crafting jewelry using this method for over 105 years. That is over a century of love stories, great-great-grandchildren, and loyal, independent jewelers that have trusted us.
We hope this brief description of the Jabel die struck method explains why we are so proud to supply you with our product. We truly believe that we manufacture the best “American Die Struck Jewelry Since 1916.”