28 February 2010

The Golden Drips

Some days I feel like a blob of drippy gold... ( is that a good thing or a bad thing...? )
Wary Meyer's excellent golden drip makes me smile because its very familiar to me;
actually melt actual gold all the time...
Let me tell you the story, it starts here, in this shape:

pure gold, well... 99.9% pure they say.
It has an amazing lustre and weight,
sans pareil!
But it is soft. Too soft for what I want it for this time. So I'm going to mix it with a some silver to give it a little hardness. I do this
a l'anncienne-

This mixture was carefully weighed and apportioned to make a 20k alloy (833/000).
Now we gon' melt it!

Gold melts at 1064˚ C / 1948˚ F.... so gimme some heat, 'k? This a little Flame- sure, but its got a capitial 'F'. Its fuelled by Oxy / Razor™ gas. ( my keyboard skîlls are also on ƒire)

This next part is where it gets elemental. The metals are turning to liquid and mixing together. This is hard to photograph and control at the same time! 'Scuse me for a bit, I've got to concentrate.

Ok, its done.
This black crater is in fact a charcoal block. One can easily gouge a little crucible into it, to hold the eponymous golden drip. It also catches on fire- which consumes local oxygen, lessening oxidisation of metals (ie, the non-gold parts of this alloy tend to go black). Known in the biz as a reducing atmosphere. (dont forget to quench your block afterward though, or you'll come back to a pile of ash!) *turns off laser pointer*

Out of the charcoal crucible comes the little perfect bean of 20k Gold.

Ive said before that gold is like a true friend- it knows how to be heavy, but is ever bright- will go flat out for you and bend backward for you. Here we test the friendship ( yet again)
"Please will you become a flat ribbon, little bean of gold?"
"Sure, I'll go through those rollers- just make sure they're clean ok?"

Its a bit like making pasta, or any dough- just roll it out...
After a certain amount of working though, it gets hard and springy.
The goldsmith mustn't ignore this or else it will crack.

This is remedied by a little more heat (as many things are, my friends)- here, as is plainly unseen, we are changing the internal crystal structure of the metal to make it bendy again.
Then back to the rolling mill to make the gold longer and thinner;

One of the finer points of this process; I like to add a subtle texture to the surface- otherwise it is the surface identity of the rolling mill that defines the material- which in this case would be too industrial, too hard-edged. I'm seeking a softer texture, to diffuse the light somewhat, because Im not going to polish the final product- I want the gold lustre to fully sing, without reflecting the surrounding world ( are you still with me? this is a really important consideration for me- I hope you get me)

Now I can snip out some basic shapes which will become my signature Aster earrings.
Any scraps go into the little box for the next ingotting session.

There are some bronze pieces in production, next to the gold. I quite like bronze for what it is, but lets just say right now- it cannot be compared to gold! Even this 83% alloy glows brilliantly in contrast.

They are my favorite and my best.
Yes, I make each one by hand.
( I tried casting them, but they weren't as good somehow)
When you are a maker, it is best when you've found something that flows out of you- not necessarily easily, but naturally, like how a spider makes a web or a bee makes honey- you know, that's what they really do best and uniquely.
I could keep on making these happily, for a long time to come...


  1. I love this little peek into your process :-)

    Those earrings are fabulous! I have never been a gold wearer, but I might just be coming 'round.

  2. Thanks Claire!
    Some people have been put off gold... mainly by jewellery crimes
    of the garishly shiny.
    But it can be known in a different way and...
    To know know know it
    is to love love love it!
    Its the best!

  3. Really great post David, I absolutely love those earrings, they are my favourite of yours, infact they make me want to get my ears pierced just so I can wear them!...Oh what the hell maybe I will.

  4. Thanks Liz-
    get your ears pierced?
    better ask your Mum first? ;-)

  5. Lush, lush lush. Soft, brushed gold is just so beautiful.

  6. Thanks for sharing the process. It was always so mysterious to me. You have a fan in Berkeley.

  7. Incredibly impressive! I came across your blog today and am a little bit in love with your work. do you ever work with white gold?