A visit to the Kama Schachter factory in Mumbai reveals the expert skills and intricate steps involved in producing a piece of diamond jewelry.
By Zainab Morbiwala
Each piece of jewelry available at any retail selling point has a story to tell — a story that goes far beyond what meets the eye. The secrets to a piece of jewelry that mesmerizes and charms the buyer with its originality, design and beauty lie with the well-trained, skilled and creative artisans who prepare and polish the diamond and place it in its setting. Throughout the journey that produces a piece of jewelry, the focus is consistently on the cut, color, shape and weight of the diamond, the compatibility of the setting and how it brings out the beauty of the stone and the creative message and inspiration of the designer.
The Kama Schachter Jewellery factory at Mumbai Industrial Development Corporation (MIDC), Andheri in Mumbai occupies approximately 23,000 square feet of space for production, design and retail operations. Established in 2011, it now employs more than 500 people in over 23 divisions.
|Photos courtesy Kama Schachter
In its efforts to build its reputation for quality products, increase its production volume and enhance employee loyalty and retention, Kama Schachter Jewellery relies on company policies and practices that are friendly to and supportive of employees.
In addition to offering classes in the English language, workers at the factory are also offered free yoga classes. There is no requirement for enrollment but many workers do take advantage of the classes, according to the company. Each Indian festival is celebrated at the factory and workers are encouraged to be part of the celebration. Cricket matches and various competitions such as chess and carom billiards are held at regular intervals to motivate the workers and keep them refreshed. In support of the environment, the factory is equipped with the Effluent Treatment Plant (ETP) for waste management and all the chimneys have scrubbers to control air pollution.
Manufacturing jewelry is a process that involves meticulous procedures, exacting standards, state-of-the-art technology and artistic craftsmanship. The production process at Kama Schachter that takes a piece of diamond jewelry from preliminary design to the final owner consists of many steps.
A recent visit to the factory was scheduled to tour the steps in the company’s production process. Thorough security is in place to enter the factory premises, including a check by the security officer and removal of footwear for incoming visitors, who are provided official factory footwear when they enter the premises.
This crucial first step involves the development of the idea for the jewelry by the designer, who evaluates the material and look of the piece that will be translated into reality. Once the idea is conceived, it is sketched on paper and entered in a computer using Corel software. Kama Schachter’s team of seven designers is responsible for producing fresh designs at regular intervals.
Computer-aided design (CAD) technology is used to produce a virtual model of the design, from which computer-aided manufacturing (CAM) technology produces an actual resin model of the jewelry. Kama Schachter Jewellery has 14 CAD operators who can produce a total of 400 new jewelry models each month, for an annual total of 4,800 new models. The company’s CAM system can produce an average of 60 resin models in a cycle of eight hours, which translates to 1,560 models in a month and 18,720 in a year.
Molds make it possible to create multiple pieces of jewelry of the same design. These designs remain protected and embedded in the mold so it is possible to create replicas of the same designs in the future. Kama Schachter uses the vulcanizing method of mold making, which uses heat and pressure to produce the rubber molds. The factory has a huge library of 30,000 molds.
Wax setting is a groundbreaking process for setting stones in gold that is ideal for mass production. There are two steps involved: wax injecting and treeing. In the first step, hot wax is pressure-injected into the mold cavity to create wax models for casting. In the second step, the wax pieces are soldered onto a wax rod, or tree, which is attached to a rubber base and placed inside a stainless steel flask or cylinder.
Metal is cast by melting it and pouring it into a mold. Casting is a process to make more than one piece of exactly the same design. It involves the following: investment, burnout, alloying, melting, graining, cleaning and squelching. During the overall process, flasks containing the wax trees are placed in cylinders and filled with molten metal, to which alloys are added for additional hardness. Kama Schachter has a capacity to produce 10,000 castings per day, but can scale up production beyond that number if required.
Grinding smooths the surface of the gold or jewelry piece. Once the raw casting is clipped off from the casting tree, it has a tiny nub left over at a place where the gold piece was attached. The polisher grinds off this nub using a motorized grinding machine. A final polishing is then done by holding the piece against a spinning grinding wheel.
Filing removes excess metal or solder from a piece that is being worked on. The casting layer is removed using a succession of different tools to give a smooth, even finish to the piece. The filing process is followed by buffing, in which papers of varying roughness are used in succession to remove the casting layers and add shine to the piece while smoothing its surface. The buffing process reaches the delicate areas of a piece and offers a superior finish for intricate designs.
Polishing is done in two stages: before and after the metal setting. Jewelry pieces with diamonds require prepolishing before the diamond is set. This is because once the diamonds are set, the area below the diamond portion cannot be polished, which may affect the shine of the diamond. If jewelry is not prepolished, the areas where diamonds will be set will look dull and unfinished. The final polishing of the piece of jewelry is done after the setting of the stones and it can be done either by hand or by machine. In prepolishing, the focus is on polishing the intricate and difficult-to-reach areas of the jewelry. In the final polishing, the focus is to add shine to the entire piece.
Embedding a stone into a piece of jewelry is referred to as setting. Before setting, the stone is mounted on a shellac to secure the piece in place in the required position. The shellac is then heated so that it melts and the secured diamond is mounted on the jewelry piece. Once the diamonds are fixed, the extra shellac is removed from the piece. Kama Schachter Jewellery’s manufacturing unit has a capacity to set approximately 75,000 stones per day, with a staff of 300 highly skilled setters who have established a factory quality-control record of zero incidents of misplaced stone settings.
Rhodium plating — done on yellow as well as white gold — gives the piece a reflective surface and provides resistance to scratches and tarnish. Once the piece is polished and plated, it is stamped with its metal karat number. Kama Schachter Jewellery’s manufacturing unit uses laser machines for stamping for added clarity of the stamped letters.
The three basic methods of quality control (QC)inspection at Kama Schachter Jewellery’s manufacturing unit are measurement, visual inspection and mechanical inspection. In addition, every piece of jewelry undergoes diamond QC and rhodium QC checks. The diamond is inspected for its overall condition — to be sure it is not broken, chipped or damaged in any part of the process. Then the diamonds are checked for both spacing — the diamonds should be equally spaced — and shade — the diamond shades should match perfectly and dark shades are not acceptable.
This department packs and ships finished jewelry according to customer specifications. For instance, ensembles with rings, earrings and pendants are packed together. The shipment is usually done through courier.
A piece of jewelry may be just an object for adornment, but for Kama Schachter — and every jewelry manufacturer — each piece attests to its reputation for artistry and quality and helps to build its brand. It is not the cost of the metal nor the value of the diamonds that determine the real worth of a piece of jewelry. It is the effort and dedication of skilled workers, from designers to dispatchers, that make a piece of jewelry truly priceless.
Article from the Rapaport Magazine - July 2014. To subscribe click here.