Different Types of Jewelry Shop Equipment
Written by Annabelle
March 11, 2020
Ever wonder how a jeweler works on your precious items, or want to peer into a jeweler’s shop? You may not have thought too hard about it, but a jeweler is an engineer, mechanic, and scientist all rolled into one. Aided by their knowledge of metals and stones, a jeweler utilizes a variety of different machines to get the job done. Not all jewelers have the same skill set and equipment, however; read on to learn more about what’s inside a jeweler’s shop and how you can find the right jeweler for your needs.
What Equipment Does a Jeweler Need?
Working with jewelry requires not only a pair of good hands, but also a basic knowledge of the physical properties of metals. Without veering too far into chemistry, certain metals require different levels of heat in order to become workable. A jeweler-in-training learns about these specific temperatures, as well as certain chemical compounds that preserve components such as colored stones and diamonds that are exposed to the heat during work. Basic metalworking techniques such as cutting, hammering, and soldering are also essential to a jeweler’s skillset.
A jeweler can’t do everything with his hands, however- special equipment is required to size, clean, and polish your jewelry. Depending on the size of their workshop, jewelers can range from small artisanal benches to medium-sized operations or large, industrial facilities. We’ve compiled a list of equipment that you can expect from each type of jeweler.
Equipment for Small Artisans & Bench Jewelers
Small shops generally don’t have massive equipment lying about their shop. Most of these jewelers will have a jeweler’s bench, or a small table specifically designed for a jeweler to perform basic repairs such as soldering, stone setting, and ring sizing. This bench is equipped with a few tools, such as a set of special pliers, different rotary bits for polishing and finishing, a ring mandrel for sizing, a jeweler’s saw for cutting open material, a mallet, and several torches for soldering. A jeweler’s bench is a versatile and essential piece of equipment, and even lends its name to such jewelers who are called bench jewelers.
Aside from the basic necessity of a bench, there are a few other pieces of equipment that can be found in a small artisanal shop. These include the following:
- Ring Stretching and Shrinking Machine: This machine is used for shrinking and stretching simple bands from one to two sizes. The jeweler inserts the ring and cranks a lever to press or pull the metal accordingly.
- Polishing Wheel: A polishing wheel is a motorized machine that turns a wheel at a high speed. Different wheels can be inserted to create different polishing effects on jewelry, like a shiny polish or a matte polish. These wheels are made from abrasive material such as steel wool.
- Ultrasonic Cleaner: This cleaner is used to remove metal residue and dirt in a tank full of solution. The jeweler submerges the item into the tank, and soundwaves generate bubbles that knock grime out of all of the nooks and crannies within your jewelry.
- Steam Cleaner: This nozzle of high-pressure steam not only ensure that there's no dirt left in your jewelry, but also sanitizes it thanks to the high heat that can kill off bacteria and germs.
Equipment for Jewelry Shops
Slightly larger facilities such as independent, family-owned jewelry shops have the same basic equipment, with a few additions to round out their capabilities that differentiate them from the small artisans. Aside from two to three jeweler’s benches for the repairmen, polishing wheels, and cleaners, you can expect some of these shops to have the following:
- Laser Machine: In contrast to soldering at a jeweler’s bench, which can be time-consuming, a laser machine allows a jeweler to weld with more precision and accuracy. It also lets a jeweler work around heat-sensitive designs such as fragile precious stones and enamel. This machine is not commonly found in smaller shops due to the fact that it is a relatively costly investment.
- Gold & Rhodium Plating Tank: A small plating set-up allows a jeweler to touch up gold-plated jewelry after repair, as the work will remove coloration. Items containing white gold will need rhodium plating to restore its original shiny white color, making this a convenient part of the finishing process.
Equipment for Jewelry Manufacturing and Repair Facilities
At this level, a large-size jeweler pretty much has it all! Many of these facilities are the final destination for jewelry repairs, as they have all the necessary equipment to handle any kind of jewelry repair. These jewelers (like Quick Jewelry Repairs!) often double as manufacturers, greatly expanding their capabilities in the process. On average, they can have over 100 jewelers with jeweler’s benches, a dedicated polishing department, and specialized equipment that cannot be found in small-medium sized shops.
- Stainless Steel Sizing Equipment: Unlike silver, gold, and even platinum, stainless steel is almost impossible to size without the correct equipment. This is why many people believe stainless steel rings are not sizable, as smaller jewelers will turn down these jobs. A large jewelry repair and manufacturing facility, on the other hand, has the machinery needed to heat stainless steel into a malleable state for sizing and soldering.
- Enameling Kiln: Enamel is a colored hard “paint” that’s used to accentuate and create designs on jewelry. When it breaks over time, the original enamel needs to be entirely removed and reapplied to restore the appearance of the jewelry. The enamel is applied to the item and cured at very high temperatures in a kiln.
- Engraving Laser Machine: To put custom inscriptions on your jewelry, a laser engraving machine is required! This laser can be programmed to engrave custom fonts, images, and icons with much better precision than other engraving machines.
- CAD/3D Printer and Casting Equipment: The final set of equipment that really separates the big jewelers from the little shops is custom creation production. Many pieces of custom jewelry are created via 3D printing, which involves making a computer file that is “printed” in wax from a 3D printer. The wax is then used to cast the item in metal.
While many artisans can easily access and create their own 3D design files, these jewelers send these files to a casting house for the final product. A larger facility can make a 3D design and cast it all in the same location, lowering the cost for the custom creation project.
Now you're all up to date on the different types of jewelry shop equipment that can be found at different kinds of jewelers! If you're looking for a jeweler who has full in-house capability, hit us up in the comments below.