The History of Lost Wax Casting – Part 1

The lost wax casting process, or investment casting, is a highly versatile and precise method for creating intricate metal parts. This ancient technique, with its origins dating back 6,000 years, has been refined over the millennia and continues to be widely utilized in almost every industry, including fine art, jewelry, medical, and aerospace.

The earliest evidence of lost wax casting is the decorative copper pieces found in Southern Palestine dating to 3700BC.  (Link )

Other early evidence of this casting technique has been found in pieces of copper, bronze, and gold throughout the Americas, Asia, the Middle East, and Europe. During the Bronze Age in ancient Greece and Rome, artists created large bronze statues of gods as well as small pendants or vessels.  At the same time, in East Asia, artists were creating images of Buddha cast for temples and monasteries. Moving into the Renaissance and beyond, sculptors such as Donatello, Michelangelo, and later, Rodin used lost wax casting for their famous bronze statues.

Jewelry, sculpture’s smaller and often more intricate cousin, has also been cast for centuries. In Thailand, bronze bangles and rings were being cast as far back as 1200 BC. In South America, the people of the Andes cast gold wire ear ornaments. The European Celtic peoples made twisted neck collars that ended in cast elements of gold, as well as broaches and dress pins.

The lost wax casting process remained largely unchanged until the early 20th century. It was then that a dentist, W.H. Taggert, introduced a significant innovation, the first centrifugal casting machine. This machine used gas to propel the molten metal into the intricate crevices of the ceramic mold, marking a significant advancement in the casting process. (Link )

Then, in 1936, working for a Canadian jewelry manufacturer, Thorger Jurgersen revolutionized the casting process with the invention of the rubber mold. Before Jurgersen, the original carvings or clay were destroyed in the casting process.  With rubber molds, another wax model could be quickly and easily created, allowing multiples to be cast from the same original piece. This innovation dramatically increased the efficiency of the jewelry industry. As still practiced today, an intricate wax ring could be carved, then a mold made from the wax, and multiple rings made from the same wax carving.