What Makes Us Special
Step into the Studio Workshop at Van Craeynest. You have entered a different era where the passing forward of knowledge, skill sensibilities and philosophy becomes embodied in the work, the beautiful objects we produce. Traditions used here thrive through an Old World apprenticeship system. Many of the technologies used to produce Van Craeynest jewels are now dead arts, kept alive only through our tutelage. The tools we use are as authentic as the jewelry we create. Most of the tools in our extensive collection date to the beginning of the previous century and are the only surviving examples.
Chasing is a technique of modeling and moving gold and platinum in the same way that clay is modeled. No metal is removed during chasing. The craftsman uses a small chasing hammer and tiny hardened steel punches in order to squeeze, move, mold and shape the metal. The hammer handle is about the same length as a carpenter’s hammer, but very thin and the head is only 3/4" long. These steel chasing punches are about half the size of a pencil and each artist owns about 200 different ones. Chasing is used in conjunction with carving to make patterns and deep texture in the metal. Carving and chasing requires a very high skill level and an enormous amount of patience.
Piercing is the removal of metal by cutting it away with a hair sized saw blade. It is done by drilling very tiny holes into an area of metal, threading the saw blade through the hole, assembling the saw blade into the "saw frame" and cutting out each section by hand. This requires a high level of expertise, and is remarkably focused work.
Die striking is a method of making jewelry in which gold or platinum is forced into shape between hardened steel dies under 2-10 tons of pressure, depending on the press that is used. The metal is struck "cold" and its molecular structure is actually changed during the process. It becomes much harder and tougher. Each design has its own set of dies. The die making process consists of hand carving an original positive baserelief of the ring into solid steel. This original positive carving called a hub is then hardened and all the dies and other tools to make the ring are derived from it.
One can make beautiful jewelry by casting, but you cannot pierce the metal as we do - it is not strong enough, and there may be porosity. Die striking compresses the metal, casting expands the metal - the extra density and strength allows us to work more extensively with the metal allowing much finer detail.