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Saturday, April 28, 2012

Old Techniques Brought Back to Life

I've been making jewelry for so long that I have done pretty much everything in the field at one time or another.  But I have also had certain techniques that I have done in the past and then they get pushed aside, either because I just haven't been moved in that direction, or I've forgotten about it, or I've changed how I do certain things, or just because I haven't gotten around to it.  Anyway I used to make jewelry with a certain technique that I kind of came up with on my own.  I'm not sure it's completely unique to me but I haven't seen it out there, at least not done in the way that I do it.  I recently had a customer who came in who had lost an earring that had this particular technique on it and she wanted a new pair of earrings with the same feeling, although a different shape.  I usually call it my 22k gold dust effect and that is kind of what it is.

Some of you may know that I use a special, often hand produced, 22k gold alloy that the recipe for was originally given to me by a school that taught antique jewelry techniques called the Kulicke Stark Academy of Jewelry Arts.  (I believe Jean Stark, one of the original owners is still producing her granulated jewelry.)  However, over the years I have made some slight personal alterations to achieve the effects that I want (mostly that I actually enrich it to a point where it is more like a 22 1/2 kt. gold). One of the reasons I like to use this mix so much is because I can fuse it together (heat it until it almost melts to form a bond) instead of using solder.   This means that the pieces are often pure 22k but more importantly I can get a particularly nice granular finish on the metal that I can't achieve in any other way. It usually looks like it came straight out of an ancient tomb and it's a great effect.  Also it's always a challenge because bringing something up to almost the melting point without having the metal slump down, actually melt and lose all of the design is difficult and once you screw up there's no going back.  But I like to make jewelry because it is often a challenge. If I wanted to do something boring with my life I would have done something like dig holes all of my life (not that there's anything wrong with digging holes but it doesn't exactly challenge the brain cells).  But the dust effect I do is even a little trickier because basically what I do is file a bunch of my 22k gold so that I have a pile of 22k gold dust. Then I take a sheet of my 22k gold, either with or without previously fused decoration on it, and drop the dust on it. Then I have to heat it until it forms a bond with the solid metal below, again without having the whole thing melt into a blob, or in this case just melt into the solid piece beneath so that it doesn't look like I have done anything.

So I had the opportunity to produce a new piece using this technique for this customer and having been reminded of how nice it looks I'm going to try to get something out in the case soon too that has it.  The  picture above is a picture of the earrings I did for the customer. There are small diamonds in bezels in them as well.

The picture to the right is another custom pair of earrings I made for a different customer at the same time using their turquoise beads.

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