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Our Process

Whether you are familiar with TierraCast products, or you’ve only recently browsed our catalog, you’ll see that we offer both wire products and cast pewter components. Even though the two product groups are manufactured in very different ways, we take pride in our attention to detail in all the stages of the manufacture of both types of components. It just never occurred to us to make them any other way.

Wire Product

Hand-made Quality
Our earwires are assembled by hand in the US.

The majority of our wire products, whether they are earwires, jump rings or eye pins, are formed to our specifications and finished for your satisfaction. We start the process by purchasing quantities of “raw” unformed wire on large plastic spools from established suppliers. These spools may contain ounces of sterling silver wire or as much as five pounds of copper wire. We never “shop the sales” in search of the cheapest supply of the basic wire, but continue established business relationships with reputable suppliers.

TierraCast then contracts with specialty wire forming services to receive our spools of raw wire and form them exclusively for us, using our exact design specifications.

These relationships with our business partners ensure we can depend on product quality and reliable delivery for everything from copper jump rings to sterling silver earwires. We know our sources on a first name basis and we can count on the consistency of the forming services we use, lot after lot, year after year.

All of the wire products receive some form of initial handling in our finishing area before being packaged for sale. All wire products are cleaned of any oil residue left over from the forming process, and many are de-burred to smooth any sharp edges that can result from the forming process. Base metal items like copper and brass jump rings receive the same preparation and quality of precious metal plating that we apply to our line of cast pewter components. Our collection of earwires, complete with decorative components and loops, are assembled by hand here at our facility, not imported from overseas.

Cast Product

Design Expertise
Applying years of experience and training in fine jewelry techniques, co-founder Alan Joseph shepherds new designs from concept to production readiness.

We hope you’ll agree that the heart of the TierraCast product line is our ever expanding collection of cast pewter components. Every single stage of the development of each new cast design happens right here in the United States. We finalize the design, create the original master, cast, finish, plate and package each item, either on the premises or within a few hundred miles of our Santa Rosa, CA facility.

Even when the product is a simple cast spacer bead, our staff puts considerable effort into the design, the creation of a master pattern, and the verification of the successful production efficiency of any new part. The life of a new cast design begins long before the first parts are produced on the shop floor; planning for the introduction of new parts usually begins three to five months ahead of the scheduled introduction date and involves many of the staff before the first parts are actually cast.

Suggestions for new cast designs come from many sources, including our regular contact with our customers. These ideas are then evaluated and refined in the hands of our in-house staff to ensure that the proposals present no copyright conflicts, and are consistent with broader design trends in fashion. We then determine if the item can be produced to our high standards at a price that works for us all.

Once the specific design has been finalized, we select the best person and the appropriate technique to create the initial master pattern. Sometimes these masters are produced entirely by our in-house pattern staff, other designs are best executed by one of the jewelers with whom we contract to carve the new design in wax. It’s common for a new master pattern to receive the hands-on attention of four or five of our skilled staff before we consider it ready for production.

An Eye For Detail
Scott carefully uses wax injection in one of the stages of preparation for a new TierraCast part.

Both of the founders, Steve and Alan, as well as other key members of the pattern and production areas, had initial training in fine jewelry techniques, including experience in production of cast sterling and gold jewelry. From our beginnings in 1978, we’ve consistently attempted to bring the same eye for quality of design and finish to the cast pewter products we now make, as we did to the cast sterling and gold items we no longer produce.

Once the master pattern is completed and has passed all the pre-production tests, we hand the production masters over to the molding department. Each mold that will be used to cast the product is hand made by Mario, employed at TierraCast for almost 20 years. Once he’s satisfied that the production molds are ready for the shop floor, the parts are then cast using the Centrifugal Rubber Mold Casting technique.

Our Quality Control actually begins with close attention to the detail and the finish in the master pattern but continues right along with the casting of lot quantities of 500 to 25,000 pieces per style. From the very beginning of production, our staff pays close attention to the quality of the parts that pass through their hands. Only those parts that pass the initial inspection move on through one or more stages of machine finishing to de-burr and polish the pewter casting before plating.

Quality Results
Our products never leave our shop unless they meet our high standards of quality & design.

All cast components are electroplated by experienced professionals who have been handling our product for many years. Once again, this established relationship ensures good communication with our business partners for consistent quality of plate surface, color matching and shipment delivery.

Once the plated parts return to TierraCast, many of the designs undergo a final finishing step to “antique” the surface. In the case of copper plated components, the plated layer is thick enough to allow the item to be chemically darkened (or patinated) and then the highlights are relieved by machine finishing once again – the result is an item with a surface indistinguishable from solid copper, with a soft natural patina. Gold, silver and rhodium surfaces are darkened with a specially formulated metal marking ink, also relieved by machine finishing processes, that produces highlighted detail against a dark contrasting background.

Throughout all these steps our staff is constantly inspecting all production runs for complete castings, good surface quality, proper plate adhesion and uniform antiquing appearance. If any given production lot does not meet our standards it never leaves the shop. It may be melted and recast, receive additional pre-plate finishing or a second antiquing application to bring it up to standards. TierraCast does not sell “seconds”. Even if we find product that doesn’t pass QC toward the end of the production cycle, we don’t salvage it; it is “scrapped” and eventually recycled for its metal content.