On Earth Day, you’re sure to find plenty of ways to be environmentally conscious, the most prominent of which is recycling.
Fortunately, Bill Jones, CEO of Sissy’s Log Cabin, his son, William Jones, who is vice president, and another vice president, Michael Bohner recycle the other 364 days of the year as well. The trio and a host of qualified staff offered Arkansas Money & Politics an exclusive look at how jewelry is recycled to reshape and recreate old jewelry and family heirlooms into lifelong treasures.
“Gold and silver and platinum are all millions of years old, and there’s no telling who has worn it in the past,” Bill said. This process of combining and recycling pieces into something new emphasizes the uniqueness of the jewelry industry.
“People often ask me what they should bring in for us to recycle, and I usually tell them to bring the whole jewelry box. Everything that you don’t make a habit of wearing, we can melt down and create something for you,” Bill said.
Once customers have the jewelry that they want to recycle, they’ll meet with Christo Kiffer, Master Jeweler Designer. Kiffer walks Arkansas Money & Politics through the design process.
The process starts by meeting with customers and getting an idea of their needs. This means determining what designs and shapes and gem placements customers are expecting. Keeping in mind materials available along with sizes and designers, Kiffer creates a sketch of the envisioned piece. He will then create this jewelry in a program, and sometimes create a 3D print replica of the piece. Then, he will meet with the customer once more to get their approval or additional edits for the design. Once approved, the manufacturing will take one to two weeks to complete.
“The main aspect of this part of the process is the interview and sketch gathering ideas,” Kiffer said. “We keep in mind the weight, sense of geometry, exactly how many jewels and their sizes. Sometimes we need to make adjustments while keeping elements of the original expectation.”
Bill Jones explained that while the lost wax process is hundreds of years old, modern technology has aided the process in becoming more efficient.
“We used to sit down and draw something, take a block of wax and carve the ring from it and go from there,” he said. “But now we have a matrix on the computer where I can build it and show it to you, 3D design and everything.”
William Jones walked us through the manufacturing process behind the scenes.
Once the design is decided on, a wax model of the jewelry is cut and put into plaster. Once the plaster is heated, the wax model melts away, leaving a cast of the ring. After the recycled metals are heated to a liquid form, they are poured into the plaster mold, filling the impression that the wax model left. This process is known as the lost wax process, since the wax melts away and leaves an impression to work with. One the metal has cooled, all of the gemstone placements and further work are done by hand by a team of jewelers.
“A jeweler is a blend of sculptor, welder and artist,” William said.
Bill mentioned that sometimes metals have to be refined first if they’ve already been recycling too much.
“Every time you burn or melt gold, it becomes redder and redder. That means the metal has been used too many times,” he said. In this case, newer metal is incorporated to strengthen the old metal.
The Jones Family has recycled pieces from class rings, gold teeth, wedding rings and bracelets – anything that you can possibly imagine, Bill says, and they’ve one national contests with the creativity and unique incorporation of gemstones such as tourmaline, sapphire, tanzanite, amethyst, and pearl.
“That’s the beauty of jewelry,” Bill said. “It doesn’t matter how old it is, it can be reused, recut, refined, and recreated. You can’t put a value on jewelry like that, and that’s the beauty of custom making– it creates memories for a lifetime.”