Although cast items have become increasingly common in recent decades, due in part to the fact that they are relatively inexpensive, the benefits of die-striking continue to attract the attention of anyone involved in making fine jewelry. Die-striking, in fact, is enjoying a renaissance of sorts, as contemporary jewelers rediscover and recognize the durability and strength imparted by the process
Stuller is the leading manufacturer of die-struck findings, and our metallurgists and engineers are constantly involved in experimenting with ways to perfect and extend die-striking methods using modern technology. Part of the challenge of contemporary die-striking is that it requires extensive technical expertise and robust manufacturing capabilities. Here at Stuller, we have both.
Many jewelers gravitate to die-struck pieces because of their density, durability, and strength. The intense pressures of die-striking result in completely porosity-free items. This lack of porosity and permeability translates into a heightened ability to resist corrosion. Die-struck jewelry, for the same reason, polishes more quickly and retains its polish longer.
The exceptional strength created by this process also appeals to jewelers. Die-striking can impart extra peace of mind, because, in a general sense, die-struck pieces hold stones more securely over time. In addition, their strength makes die-struck pieces the preferred medium for hand engraving, which requires the utmost stability in a piece in order to achieve the best results.
The Basic Process
Die-striking is essentially a contemporary form of forging. First, a steel engraver carves the desired design into a heat-resistant block. This shaped block, or die, is the hub. It imprints the design into another steel blank, the master die. The master die, in turn, provides the model for working dies, the female dies used in production. Next, powerful drop-hammers or presses repeatedly strike the workpiece between the hub and the working die. This relentless force results in pieces that possess the attributes described above: heightened density, durability, and lack of porosity.
As John Butler, metals technology expert at Stuller, explains, these extreme conditions actually alter the metal’s underlying molecular configuration, making for a more fibrous, tightly-aligned, and directional grain structure, which augments both strength and ductility. In addition to the core operations of striking and compression, other parallel techniques further enhance the piece’s superior metallurgical structure, adds Dr. Shan Aithal, Stuller’s chief metallurgist: “We work with grain refined alloys, and we employ multiple cold work and annealing cycles, all while continuously casting our feed stock. This results in an exceptionally-conditioned, void-free metal.”
All of these operations build toward a strikingly simple outcome: superior findings that bench jewelers can work with in supreme confidence.
Brief Glossary of Terms:
In manufacturing, a heat resistant device used to shape material; in jewelry striking in particular, a heat-resistant steel block used to compress and shape metal.
A die on which a steel engraver imprints an initial design; used to stamp the desired shape into a steel blank, which is then known as the master die.
A female die imprinted with the piece’s design; used as the model for working dies; carefully preserved for future use.
A working duplicate of the master die; struck against the hub to compress the workpiece.
In die-striking, the piece of molten metal repeatedly struck and compressed into form between heat-resistant dies.