What you are seeing are our collection of jewellery moulds, the inside of a ring mould and some of our master-model pieces. These are from a time before CAD when jewellery was created the old school way, using a lost wax casting technology that dates back to the 3rd millennium BC. A jeweller had to carve intricate pieces out of wax before it was cast into jewellery. One problem, or major annoyance, was when a jeweller was learning the artform. He would often carve a perfect piece only to make a small mistake having to restart the whole process – sometimes after spending days, hours or even weeks on the carving. It was an artform that needed creativity, patience and some seriously steady hands.
A young jeweller’s concentration was put to the test because a piece was carved in a workshop that was often the opposite of a peaceful and serene environment. Rivalry existed in workshops with many goldsmiths establishing a pecking order - especially after a younger jeweller joined and irked the master jeweller by showing off his exceptional talent and ambition. Goldsmiths would often argue over their skillsets, each believing they were better than the other, and harshly critique each other’s work. So much so that the foreman had to intervene when tempers flared during such disputes.
The young jeweller would eventually settle in and become used to his surroundings, even enjoying the commotion and banter created in such an environment. After a bit of practice and honing of his skills his newly carved wax models were complete and ready to move on to the next stage.
A mould was created from the wax carving followed by the casting of the master-model. The mould and master-models enabled a jeweller to mass produce those pieces or even keep a record of a piece that may one day need to be replaced after being lost or severely damaged. This process was fantastic for designing bespoke engagement rings because the ring could be designed and tweaked right down to the customer’s specs before being cast from a precious metal.
The Largest Collection
Did you know that we have one of the largest handcrafted jewellery mould and master-model collections in Dublin – around 2500 of them? Some of them are more than 100 years old and are still in use today, even on a weekly basis. They were designed by the leading artists of the day and made by master goldsmiths from as far back as the Victorian era to the 1960’s – 2000’s. Many of the master-model patterns were kindly donated by retiring jewellery manufacturers who had a soft spot for Martin Gear after getting to know him from when he was boy running messages for the family business. It is a living history and a tradition which he hopes to continue and who knows, one day these items and the remnants of his shop may day be displayed in a museum. A place where millennials and newer generations will gasp at the long-lost skills of past jewellers and wonder how someone could achieve such minute precision by hand.
The Jewellers' Mark
Each craftsmen’s work was unique and recognisable just like handwriting is to each one of us. Martin is renowned for his jewellery and insists, above all else, on the strength of a piece. His design approach is the longevity of each piece and he often redesigns an item several times to ensure that it stands the test of time, regardless if he has to use extra materials. All his work bears the unique mark "mtg" which is an abbreviation of his name, Martin Trevor Gear. The unique mark was issued to him in 1996 by the Royal Company of Goldsmiths' Assay Office in Dublin Castle.
For his work to be assayed (determining the content and quality of a metal/ore) his team must first stamp his unique mark on each item and sign a declaration of finesse claimed. The Assay Office checks each piece, weights and measures it before sending it to an independent laboratory for quality control. After which it receives its hallmark, the official stamp of approval.
The Irish Hallmark
The Irish hallmark is considered one of the world's highest standards. This is due to there being no tolerance and if an item is even one percent off it is immediately marked down to a lower quality (a lower karat), crushed beyond use or even held pending further testing and dispute resolution. The Irish Assay office is one of the world's oldest assay offices having recently celebrated its 380-year anniversary (established 1637).