Craftsman Definitions 101: Who Does What Part 2

The Final Cut

Designer At WorkDesigner is the term used for the artist that has specialized in the jewellery field or specifically trained at college as a jewellery designer. A designer is not a goldsmith or silversmith. Unless they practised one of  the other fields, they would be dependent on the work of other, upstream practitioners. An analogy may suggest they are the architects  – they don’t build buildings or create construction materials, but have the creative flair to bring ideas to life.

A Designer/Maker is a term applied to those who are both trained in jewellery making and jewellery design. They may have a more hands on approach to making their designs a reality.

Great designer/makers of antiquity, like Fabergé, have names that resonate in the modern era and their works are highly prized as rare pieces of art.

Rene Lalique Dragonfly woman corsage ornament, 1897-1898

Rene Lalique Dragonfly woman corsage ornament, 1897-1898

René Lalique, for example, began his career as a jewellery apprentice at the age of 16, and by 1881 he was a freelance designer for many of the best-known Parisian jewellers such as Cartier and Boucheron. He was most well known for his works of art in glass. By 1890, Lalique was recognized as one of France’s foremost Art Nouveau jewellery designers. Today his works in glass and jewellery art continue to influence and inspire contemporary jewellery artists.

Golden Fleece Hat on display in Victoria and Albert Museum

Golden Fleece Headpiece, 2009, in 22 carat and 18 carat gold. On display in Victoria and Albert Museum courtesty of Adrian Sassoon

In the modern era, designers like Giovanni Corvaja, standing on the shoulders of artists before them, can work virtual magic. Corvaja can stretch gold to a diameter thinner than human hair. His many works are renowned and his Golden Fleece Headpiece is a modern marvel of the jewelry and art world.

Finally, Jeweller, is a very broad term that incorrectly incorporates anyone who works in the jewellery industry.  Traditionally, a jeweller meant a goldsmith.  Today, the term could mean someone who is a salesperson in a jewellery retail outlet or someone who makes jewellery, any type of jewellery.

Dede Marconato Signature

Dede forming a sterling silver cuff using the anticlastic method

Dede forming a sterling silver cuff using the anticlastic method

Dede Marconato is a designer/maker and works at her studio bench in Sheung Wan, Hong Kong.  Dede is also a Graduate Gemologist from the prestigious Gemological Institute of America.

If you are interested in learning more information about gemstones or designing a custom piece, please contact her at info@dedemarconato.com

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Craftsmen Definitions 101: Who Does What? Part 1

Melting Gold

Goldsmith Pouring Melted Gold into an Ingot

Goldsmith or silversmith? Jeweller? Lapidary or gemologist?
Knowing who you’re dealing with is important in the world of jewelry.

Smith Smithy Smite

Smith may be the most common name in the English language, suggesting that, at one time, there must have been a lot of smithing going on somewhere in Ye Olde Englande. A ‘smith’ is someone who works with metal (with the possible exception of a wordsmith). As a verb, it means to work with metal by hammering or forging. The word “smith” was derived from the German and Dutch words (Schmied and smid, respectively), themselves derived from the word “to smite” which is to hit or to strike.

Goldsmith v Silversmith: Size Does Matter

Goldsmith Hammers

Goldsmith Hammers

As it turns out,  it isn’t how you use your tools – it is the size of them, after all.

The difference between a goldsmith and a silversmith is not the material they work with. A goldsmith can do his job in silver and a silversmith his job in gold.  The difference is in the size of the objects they normally make and the size of the tools they use.  Typically, a goldsmith uses the smallest hammers, everything from tiny riveting hammers with heads less than 1 ½ inches (3.8 cm) long to hammers with heads measuring 3 ½ inches (8.9 cm). Silversmith hammers usually start around 2 ¾ inches (7 cm) and up.

Goldmiths are skilled craftsmen that take precious metal and saw, pull, bend, roll it with traditional tools. They heat or anneal the metal to soften it and make it more malleable.  They can melt the metal back to a nugget and reuse to make beautiful objets d’art.

They assemble the pieces they have sawed and filed together with heat and gold solder.  Finally, filing and polishing results in a small object, often jewellery. A goldsmith has to understand a designer’s drawing and work out the best technique and method to execute. The tools are often made by goldsmiths for their own use. The style and purpose of these tools have not changed in hundreds of years.  Those tools include hammers, pliers, anvils and chisels.  Goldsmiths specialise in certain areas in the fields.  Some specialise in engraving, stone setting or working with platinum.

In antiquity, they were also bankers. In the modern era, goldsmiths have drills and even laser welders to create beautiful jewellery, but if a bench jeweller cannot use a hammer to make their jewellery, they cannot call themselves a goldsmith.

Mihwa Joo - Korea: Winner of Hollowware Award at 15th Silver Triennial, Sterling Silver, 215x130mm

Mihwa Joo – Korea: Winner of Hollowware Award at 15th Silver Triennial, Sterling Silver, 215x130mm

Silversmiths are skilled craftsmen that make large scale objects such as cutlery, candlesticks or vases.  The skills and techniques are similar to a goldsmith but the objects made by silversmiths are much larger.  The tools, anvils, heating devices and even workshop stations used to form the silver or any metal for that matter are significantly larger – a completely different operation.

Lapping up gemstones

Dede at her microscope

Dede at her microscope

When it comes to gems, knowledgeable buyers are one thing, skilled craftsmen something else.  Gemologists are trained to identify and grade gemstones.  Often gemologists work directly with the mines and are diamond dealers or coloured stone dealers who sell gemstones to goldsmiths or work in the manufacturing field. They may also be sorters, who take a collection of rough gems and conduct the initial sorting, separating the wheat from the chaff.

Rough and Polished Diamonds

Rough and Polished Diamonds

After that, the Lapidaries take over.  They are craftsmen who cut the rough and transform it into gemstones. Lapidaries require gemology knowledge and it takes many years to master the skill and precision needed to take a gemstone from its rough state to a beautiful gem which has brilliance and fire.  These stones will have nearly perfect angles.   Quality rough is very expensive and fine cutting can add tremendous value to the finished stone.  

Fantasy cut ametrine by Bernd Munsteiner

Artisan lapidary, Bernd Munsteiner has been cutting gems into shapes known as fantasy cuts since the 1960s.  Each stone is one-of-a-kind.  Bi-colour stones like ametrine are stunning when carved by a master.

Part Two of Craftsmen Definitions will talk about jewellery designers and their role in the industry.

Dede Marconato Signature

Dede at the Jewellery Bench

Dede at the Jewellery Bench

Dede Marconato is a goldsmith and works at her studio bench in Sheung Wan, Hong Kong.  Dede is also a Graduate Gemologist from the prestigious Gemological Institute of America.

If you are interested in learning more information about gemstones or designing a custom piece, please contact her at info@dedemarconato.com

Wedding Bands: A Once in a Lifetime Decision

His and Hers Gold Wedding BandsHis and Hers Wedding Bands


Buying perfect wedding bands is one of the most significant decisions you will make when getting married.  Symbolically, wedding bands represent a lifetime of commitment and love, so choosing the best type of metal to last forever is important.

The noble metals, silver, gold, platinum are the traditional choices for wedding bands, but palladium is on the rise. Each of these metals have individual characteristics of hardness, durability, and scratch resistance. While one metal may be harder than the others, this does not necessarily mean it will last longer than other metals.

The decision you make depends on your budget and what colour metal you prefer. With regard to cost, consider your baseline about $1,800HKD per ring for a simple 3mm wide yellow gold wedding band.

Like you and your nascent marriage, each metal also has it’s own unique characteristics – one of them will be the perfect match as your symbol of eternal devotion.

White Metals

White Metal Wedding Bands

Silver, platinum, and white gold are considered “white” metals when used for jewellery, although they are all silver in appearance. The three metals may look similar, but they are very different in content.

Stately Silver

Silver is comprised of 92.5% silver and 7.5% other metals or alloys. An alloy is a mixture of metals. The alloys are added to make the silver more durable. Look for the 925 stamp inside your ring which verifies it as Sterling silver.

Are you tough on your jewellery? Silver is the softest of the three metals and prone to scratches. It can look beautiful and aged but the look doesn’t appeal to everyone. Many couples choose silver because the price is substantially lower than gold or platinum. This wonderful noble metal is a great choice for the budget conscious. For some people, adding an expensive ring to the wedding planning bill is just not affordable. Some couples will buy less expensive silver with the view to upgrading their rings to a more durable metal at their one year wedding anniversary. Silver does tarnish over time, but with frequent and proper cleaning it can look wonderful for many years to come. Silver is often plated with rhodium, a hard and shiny white precious metal, to avoid tarnish.

Wonderful White Gold

White Gold Wedding BandsWhite gold is a harder metal than silver. It does not tarnish and it holds its shine very well. To increase durability, white gold is an alloy of yellow gold and at least one white metal, usually nickel or palladium. The higher the karat of gold, the softer the alloy. Of all the colours of gold, white gold is the most durable due to the mix of alloys.

Many people are allergic to nickel.  I make sure to use white gold alloy with palladium to ensure the metal is hypoallergenic. 18K white gold is 75% gold and 14K white gold is 58.3% gold. Hence jewellery made from these metals have a slightly yellow colour. To enhance the whiteness, almost all white gold is plated with rhodium. Depending on the amount of wear and tear on your jewellery, over time the rhodium plating may wear off, revealing the original metal colour. Jewellery can be replated with rhodium to restore the whiteness, if needed.  Replating may need to be done annually,  but is quite affordable for a nominal fee of $150 Hong Kong.

Princely Platinum

Platinum is the hardest and most durable white metal. It is much denser and heavier than gold or silver.  It can take much more day-to-day abuse before needing to be repaired, whereas silver and white gold need more care, particularly if they are rhodium plated.

The stamp for platinum is 950 which means 950 parts out of 1000 or 95% pure. The other 5% alloy is either iridium or ruthenium – expensive materials in their own right. In other words, the metal is almost pure platinum unlike the other metals that have a greater proportion of alloys mixed to give them more durability.

It’s rarer than gold and silver and more expensive, but a platinum wedding ring will last forever.

Premium Palladium

If a platinum wedding ring is beyond your budget, consider buying a palladium wedding ring instead. In recent years, palladium has gained in popularity as a comparable, more budget conscious alternative to platinum. In terms of rarity and price, palladium rests between gold and platinum.

Palladium is softer than gold, but not as soft as silver. Like platinum, the metal of palladium will be displaced, rather than lost, when scratched. Palladium is much lighter in weight than platinum and will scratch and bend more easily. A plus for palladium is that it retains its original shine longer than platinum, although it will eventually acquire the same dull, matte finish over time. Like white gold and platinum, palladium can be refinished to regain its original lustre.

Yellow Metals

Yellow Gold Wedding Bands

Due to its softness and malleability, gold is rarely used in its pure 24 karat form when forging a jewellery piece. Malleability means the ability to hammer, stretch and pull metal into new shapes. Instead, it is alloyed with other metals for hardness and durability. When pure gold is combined with these metals, it takes on a variety of rich shades that have become desirable in their own right.

Classic Yellow Gold

The most popular shade of the precious metal, yellow gold is used to create a majority of the fine jewellery on the market today, especially engagement rings and wedding bands. It gets its warm, lustrous hue from the silver and copper alloys with which it’s mixed. Within the yellow gold family, there can be a marked difference in colour based on the mix of the alloys and resulting karat weight. An 18 karat yellow gold ring will be richer and more brilliant in colour than one measuring 14 karats. However, a higher karat gold will generally be softer.

Whatever ring you choose, it’s ideally for life. The above guide should get you started on making the best choice for your symbol of eternal love!

Dede Marconato Signature

Two tone wedding bands made at my bench in Sheung Wan

Dede Marconato is a goldsmith and a Graduate Gemologist from the prestigious Gemological Institute of America.

If you are interested in more information about designing custom wedding bands, please contact her at info@dedemarconato.com.

British Hallmarking – 700 Year Old Tradition

British Hallmarking, Dede Marconato

Precious metals are rarely used in their purest form and are usually alloyed with other metals to either enhance the beauty or wear-ability of the metal. It isn’t yet possible to detect an article’s precious metal content by sight or touch, but only through testing that requires damaging the piece in question, previously leaving consumers vulnerable to charlatans and malefactors. Thus, Hallmarking was introduced. Hallmarking is the world’s first known instance of consumer protection law, dating back to about 1300 AD. It is a quality control mark on jewellery made of precious metal. Countries having no precious metal control tend to suffer from undercarating.

In the UK, it is a legal requirement under the UK Hallmarking Act (1973) to hallmark articles containing precious metals if they are described as such. Sometimes known as an assay mark, the hallmark is applied after independent testing at an Assay Office.

Dede Marconato pieces can now be traced by the assay mark and have historical reference.

Dede Marconato Signature

Quality Assurance, Fairtrade and Ethical Mining

Lava Collection, Fairtrade Gold

Quality Assurance
Silver and gold are purchased from the United Kingdom ensuring quality of the metal.

Fairtrade Gold and Ethical Mining
Dede Marconato Contemporary Jewellery is pleased to be registered in Hong Kong with Fairtrade Gold. Fairtrade Gold is the world’s first independent ethical certification system for jewellery. Clients can now choose to use Fairtrade gold in commissions in Hong Kong.

Fairtrade Gold jewellery is more expensive than non-certified jewellery, but clients can be confident that the gold has been sourced in an ethical manner, miners are paid fare wages, and work in safe conditions. The Fairtrade premium allows miners to invest in social, environmental, and economic projects that benefit their communities. Physical traceability for Fairtrade gold is compulsory at all times.

Fairtrade and Fairmined certified gold is unique in offering the first transparent and traceable supply chain for gold. Certified gold is kept separate from non-certified gold during processing, refining, and manufacturing.

Dede Marconato Signature

Handmade vs Manufactured

Handmade Pieces by Dede Marconato

The art and craft of hand fabricating jewelry is an ancient one. In a truly hand-fabricated item, every element is formed, assembled, joined, and finished entirely by hand or with hand tools. Manufacturing, on the other hand (pun intended) often means the metal is never even touched by a factory worker until it is time to polish it.

Following the guidelines of the US Federal Trade Commission at Dede Marconato Contemporary Jewellery each piece is hand crafted by me using traditional techniques.

Handmaking each piece ensures that quality will never be compromised. Clients can be assured that when they wear a piece made by me, it has been crafted with meticulous care.

I conceptualize, design and make one off custom pieces as requested by the client.  My artisan collections are limited editions ensuring exclusivity of the design.

Dede Marconato Signature

 

 

 

Dede Marconato, Jewellery Designer, Hong Kong

Dede at her bench in Hong Kong

Dede Marconato is a goldsmith and a Graduate Gemologist from the prestigious Gemological Institute of America. She works exclusively from her jeweller’s bench in Sheung Wan, Hong Kong. If you are interested in more information about designing a unique custom piece, please contact her at info@dedemarconato.com

The Design Process

Dede Marconato Design Process

I am fortunate to have lived as an expatriate for over half my life and to have travelled extensively.  The visual senses are consistently provoked. When we travel, the accumulation of experience influences our perception.  For myself, this drives the direction of my designs. These experiences influence the beauty and versatility of each piece of jewellery art.

Each piece is an original creation designed to emphasize the natural beauty of the metal. Most pieces are conceptualised from elements in nature or architectur. Sometimes,  I am inspired by powerful women and their connections to gemstones, such as Pele, Goddess of Volcanoes.  My ideas, however abstract are enhanced by drawings and followed by development of structural and technical components before working with the metal.

Each piece is then crafted through traditional techniques, assembled, polished, and finished by hand. There are no shortcuts to exceptional jewellery. The commitment to perfection is an involved and labour intensive process, but wonderfully gratifying when the final piece evolves into a work of art.

Dede Marconato Signature

 

 

Dede Marconato, Jewellery Designer, Hong KongDede Marconato is a goldsmith and a Graduate Gemologist from the prestigious Gemological Institute of America. If you are interested in more information about designing a custom gift or jewellery, please contact her at info@dedemarconato.com