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22K conundrum ring


#1

I am a fledgling jeweler and will probably get someone more
experience to do this for me, but I would like to have a 22k ring
wedding band. I just really like the color. I understand that 22k
gold is soft, but I’d like to know about the following from more
experienced metalsmiths:

  1. Can the softness of 22k gold be compensated for enough in the
    design to allow for reasonable daily wear. The ring would begin as
    hammered so that small scratches and dings might blend in.

  2. How wide and thick must a ring be to stand up to this kind of
    wear? Might I get away with a 2.5mm to 3mm band if it was round
    rather than half round or square with a height of 2mm?

  3. Does fabricating or casting make a difference in terms of
    hardness?

  4. If I went with 20k instead would this significantly increase he
    hardness (and would it appreciably dim the color)?

  5. Why is 20k alloy not widely available to work with or seen much
    in jewelry?

If you can answer me any of this questions, I’d really appreciate
it.

Thanks,
Brooke


#2

Up until about 40 years ago, 22ct wedding bands were more or less
standard here in UK. I often get such bands in for resizing that
bear hallmarks from the 1930s or earlier; rings that have been passed
on from mother to daughter.

Nearly all these rings are the standard “D” cross section, about 4mm
wide, but some are only about 2mm wide, or even less. Despite being
worn continuously for well over 60-70 years, they usually show little
signs of wear.

A fabricated ring will usually be tougher than a cast one.

22ct has lost favour, not because it wears quickly, but because of
the cost. 20ct is not readily available here in UK (I’m not even sure
if its recognized as such for hallmarking), so 18ct has become more
popular. I have, on occasion, made 18ct weddings out of a special
tough alloy containing platinum.

Regards, Gary Wooding


#3

Hi Brooke,

I use almost exclusively 22k gold. If you work harden it, it will be
fine. That means after you make the ring if you hammer it a bit which
is really beautiful anyway it will become very hard. If you want a
superfine ring then you might want to go with 18k but you’ll most
probably be fine with the 22k.

Good luck with your wedding

Margery
Margery Hirschey
www.margeryhirschey.com


#4
1. Can the softness of 22k gold be compensated for enough in the
design to allow for reasonable daily wear. The ring would begin as
hammered so that small scratches and dings might blend in. 

People who live in hot climates like India only wear 22k jewellery.
Softness of the alloy is a red herring. Most of the wear and tear of
any jewellery comes from objects much harder than any gold alloy. So
it is nonsensical issue. The hardest of the alloys will be scratched
at the same rate as the softest. The disadvantage of 22 k is when
wearing hollow, or intricately constructed jewellery. But in your
case it is a solid band, so there is no reason to worry about it.

2. How wide and thick must a ring be to stand up to this kind of
wear? Might I get away with a 2.5mm to 3mm band if it was round
rather than half round or square with a height of 2mm? 

Unless you working as a blacksmith or tractor mechanic, it should be
fine.

3. Does fabricating or casting make a difference in terms of
hardness? 

Absolutely. If you cast it, I withdraw everything I said previously.

4. If I went with 20k instead would this significantly increase he
hardness (and would it appreciably dim the color)? 

I refer to my comments related to your first question

5. Why is 20k alloy not widely available to work with or seen much
in jewelry? 

The best all around alloy is 18k. I doubt that I can explain in a
few words why it is so. Brepohl in “Theory and Practice of
Goldsmithing” has few pages about it. You will find your answer
there.

Leonid Surpin
www.studioarete.com


#5

Brooke- My sweetie Tim and I each have two wedding rings. Our
"special" ones that we made for each other, and our every day
"beater" bands. Our every day “beater” bands are made of 24kt. They
are very plain with a hammered finish.

After years of wear they are both really scuffed and frankly beat up
looking. However I find that charming. We fabricated them from bar
stock that we made and fused the seam with a small scrap of the 24
kt. They were waaaay soft so we hammered them and put them in the
tumbler with steel shot. So the short answer is, yes you can do this,
but you will have to keep the design very simple and expect a natural
wear patina.

And yes I love that high karat color too. I own a few 22 kt pieces
by my friends Jack and Lizzie from Zaffiro as well.

Have fun and make lots of jewelry.

Jo Haemer
www.timothywgreen.com


#6

Brooke,

If you like the color of 22k then by all means go for it. Don’t be
dissuaded by the fact that you don’t see other people wearing it. In
fact, in much of the world, (Asia and the Middle East) 22k is the
standard. The 14k which is so prevalent in the U.S. is scorned over
there. I believe it is illegal to sell gold less than 18k in France.
My opinion is that in the U.S. 14k has been foisted on a gullible
public by the trade for purely economic and marketing reasons.

It would be best if you had the ring forged than cast. I don’t think
it would be harder, that is more resistant to scratching, but it will
be tougher. Three by two mm should be adequate. Although 22k is
certainly softer than lower karats I feel the softness is overrated.
I have a 22k neck chain with a nugget pendant which I have worn 24/7
ever since I bought in in Singapore 25 years ago. I expected there
would be wear where the 14k bail for the nugget bears on the chain
but it hasn’t happened. As for using 20k, it may alter the color a
little depending on the alloying metal, but I doubt there would be an
apreciable difference in it’s wearing qualities.

You mention you are a beginning jeweler. If you have the basic tools
(ring mandrel, hammer, torch, saw, files, etc. ) You should be able
to do it yourself. You should fuse the joint and that might take a
little experimentation but outside of that it’s still just a band
ring which is one of the basic projects beginners learn on. You’ll
learn a lot along the way and think of the pride in accomplishment
when you show off the finished product! Good luck.

Jerry in Kodik


#7

Brooke,

Don’t let this 22K ring intimidate you! You will find that working in
this metal will be an absolute joy to work in, and because of its
high gold content, it will form easily and be pretty hard to
accidentally melt, as you are soldering it together.

You’ll want a high karat (hard) solder to make an invisible seam, of
course, and that will take some real heat to melt into the seam well.
Make sure that seam is as tight as humanly possible.

Your plan to put a hammered finish on the ring is a good one, and
that will harden up the ring really well.

You will have to slightly “over-engineer” this ring, because of its
inherent softness, but your hammered finish will really help make
the ring stronger. The question about casting versus fabricating
really depends on the shape you want to achieve, but if it’s a fairly
simple band, and you plan to hammer it, I’d go for fabricating it,
absolutely. Fast and strong. I’d suggest making the ring a full size
smaller, then when you planish (or hammer) the outside of the ring,
it will get larger by about a size, depending on how hard you hammer
the metal. If you have a ring stretcher, you can use that to gain
any extra size you might need for the finished size. If you happen to
blow out the seam, just resolder, although the soldering will again
resoften the ring somewhat. If you alloy your own gold, starting
with 24K, you can alloy gold to absolutely any karat or color you
might desire, which is very liberating. However, marketing that ring
commercially would suggest that you stay with “standard” qualities
of gold content, 24K, 22k, 18K, and 14K, as examples.

The hallmark stamps are easy to find for these karats.

Others will have their own take on this (Count on it!)

(Does someone out there have a good way to remember the difference
between Karat and Carat? I’m not always sure I remember how to tell
the difference…)

Jay Whaley


#8

You might be interested in sintered gold. The official word on 22k
PMC gold is that, properly sintered, it is as hard as regular 18
karat gold.

The distributor Rio Grande supports this claim.

Good luck with your ring!


#9

Jay,

Does someone out there have a good way to remember the difference
between Karat and Carat? I'm not always sure I remember how to
tell the difference... 

I like to think of it this way: “D” is for diamond, there for “C” is
for carat (0.2g). With that sorted it becomes obvious that "karat"
must be the other kind.

Cheers, Thomas Janstrom.
Janstrom Designs.


#10

Thanks everyone for the replies. I found it very reassuring. I think
I’m going to go ahead with my 3mm 22k ring. I will over-engineer it a
bit as suggested.

I was wondering about a couple more things. I’ve sort taken a shine
to the kinds of solitaire rings that this woman produces.
hephaistosjewelry.com

They are delicate and 22k. She says that hers is undamaged by daily
activities. Washing dishes, lifting weights, etc. What do you think?
Pretty narrow band.

Also, I’d like to quiz everyone, if I may, about the high carat gold
of Reinstein-Ross jewelers.

They’ve got a 20k peach and a 22k apricot alloy. I’m guessing the
peach alloy has a high proportion of copper but still some silver and
that the 22k is alloyed exclusively with copper. Does this seem
accurate? Can anyone shed any light about what these alloys might
look like in person (ie are the colors flattering when worn?) and
what their level of hardness might be? reinsteinross.com

Thank you for your expertise. It’s been really helpful. :slight_smile:

Brooke


#11

The concept of “softness” and “hardness” of gold can be very
misleading. As someone else said, 14ct is common in America, and,
even worse, 9ct is the standard metal at many high-street shops in
the UK. Those alloys have a low gold content (9ct isn’t even half
gold!), and they are alloyed with various base metals. Retailers
have an interest in telling people that 9ct/14ct are “harder” than
high carat gold, because that encourages people to buy rings that are
basically…er…sh*t.But, “harder” doesn’t mean more durable. Most
of the wear on rings, and particularly on chains, is actually due to
acid and time - your skin is slightly acidic, and so is rain, and
the acids react with the base metals in the alloy, which wears them
away. I don’t know if it is true, but I’ve been told that wearing two
different carats next to each other can form a weak electrical
circuit, further degrading the metals.It is more often that we get
22ct rings in for reshaping, but it’s only 9ct rings that we get for
reshanking - the 22ct might get squashed a little easier, but it
reshapes with very little effort. On the other hand, repairing 9ct
rings is never pleasant. As to the desirability of “hardness” -
modern metallurgy means we can have almost any concievable working
properties - some are best for casting, others for resisting
oxidation, others for forging, or for spinning, engraving and so on.
If we really needed 18ct and 22ct to be as hard as 9ct, the bullion
dealers would be selling it. The reality is that it doesn’t matter.
I know I’m not the only one who prefers to work in high carat golds -
they’re a genuine pleasure to forge, and very easy to maintain.

Jamie
http://primitive.ganoksin.com


#12
They are delicate and 22k. She says that hers is undamaged by
daily activities. Washing dishes, lifting weights, etc. What do you
think?

I think I’d need convincing.


#13
I think I'd need convincing. 

I’ve worn a 24K wedding ring for nearly 47 years. It doesn’t look
new and shiny, but there’s no damage that couldn’t be polished away.

Al Balmer
Sun City, AZ


#14
Most of the wear on rings, and particularly on chains, is actually
due to acid and time - your skin is slightly acidic, and so is rain,
and the acids react with the base metals in the alloy, which wears
them away. 

But I must disagree, most of all gold jewelry wear is abrasive wear
not chemical, even the 9 ct is relatively acid resistant to anything
you are going to produce on your body. However plain old dirt is
that is everywhere and we are always in contact with is highly
abrasive and much harder than any typical jewelry alloy. But you are
right that harder alloys do not necessarily mean more wear resistant.
Hardness is a measurement of resistance to penetration, not wear
resistance. The softer metals like 18k or 22k or platinum are more
difficult to wear away because it is more difficult to cut a chip off
of them as the metal just pushes aside rather peeling away a chip
when scratched by abrasive dirt particles. Think about trying to sand
away a piece of rubber vs a piece of graphite. The graphite is much
harder than the rubber but way easier to sand away. It is a similar
situation.

I don't know if it is true, but I've been told that wearing two
different carats next to each other can form a weak electrical
circuit, further degrading the metals. 

It is true that there would be a slight difference in electrical
potential between karats and even colors of the same karat value.
But the differences in potential is so very small that there will be
virtually no corrosion from the effect.

James Binnion
James Binnion Metal Arts


#15
I was wondering about a couple more things. I've sort taken a
shine to the kinds of solitaire rings that this woman produces.
hephaistosjewelry.com 

Aside from the aesthetics of her work, I hope you don’t plan on
copying her work outright. And about the raspberry Burma ruby, “Nice
marketing gimmick!” Whatever happened to calling a pink sapphire a
"pink sapphire?"

-Ray Brown (Where brown is the “New Black!” Maybe it will help me
sell something)


#16

The mnemonic I use is K from karat being related to K from kilo
which is 1000 and connects with K as in 50K or 50,000 which relates
to value. higher K equals higher value.

Mike DeBurgh, GJG
Alliance, OH


#17
Aside from the aesthetics of her work, I hope you don't plan on
copying her work outright. And about the raspberry Burma ruby,
"Nice marketing gimmick! 

I wouldn’t be a bit afraid to “copy” the rings pictured. If any
design is in the public domain, hers is. Those basic, simple designs
have been around for over 2,000 years. She has to win a prize for
sheer chutzpah though, charging $1,000 for maybe $150 worth of 24k
and an essentially valueless stone set in a pretty crude mounting. Or
am I missing something here?

Jerry in Kodiak


#18
She has to win a prize for sheer chutzpah though, charging $1,000
for maybe $150 worth of 24k and an essentially valueless stone set
in a pretty crude mounting. Or am I missing something here? 

I know what you’re saying. They weren’t my cup of tea either, and I
certainly wouldn’t pay those prices for diamonds as poor as that,
never mind the cheap coloured stones in some pieces.

I use inexpensive stones in my jewellery, but I charge inexpensive
prices. If I were to elevate my work to working in high karat golds,
then I would also raise the quality of my stones accordingly.

Helen
UK


#19
She has to win a prize for sheer chutzpah though, charging $1,000
for maybe $150 worth of 24k and an essentially valueless stone set
in a pretty crude mounting. Or am I missing something here? 

You are probably missing something! Follow the link:

http://tinyurl.com/32vqsbd

If you want to see all of John Iversen’s work go to
www.patina-gallery.com home page and find the John Iversen “A
designing nature” button. Check out hispieces and the prices. Check
out the bracelets.

Chutzpah prize, open for nominations?

Seriously folks, if these people can get the prices the do for their
work, why would they have to have chutzpah rather than they value
their work, Art, more highly than you value YOURS. These people set a
goal, figured out the steps to achieve their goal, and are realizing
their goal.

Any medium is part product and part business. If you are good at
both you can make a living, if you are excellent at both, you build
collector’s, and you can name your price.

There is another person that has a line of high karat gold and raw
diamond jewelry, possibly crude looking, that has much higher prices
than the person that is being talked about. More chutzpah or better
at marketing? Sometimes there are threads on Orchid about whether
jewelry is art. When someone comes along and gets art prices for
their pieces, then there seems to be judgment and criticism. I have
done that, also.

If I understood that world, I would be “there” instead of “here”,
although “here” has provided me well for 20 years and I am grateful. I
would be happy to be “there” and have the opportunity to have much
more gratitude.

Richard Hart G.G.
Denver, Co.


#20

Well, I suppose its a good thing that our individual prices are not
subject to peer review. Meow.

Funny, ain’t it…the common advice here is to charge more, charge
more, but when someone does (by what definition I dunno), they get
flak about it.

News flash. Pretty much you get the price you deserve, long term.
Build a following and make a living. Who really can argue with that?