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Alternatives to gold


#1

Hi Orchid,

One major challenge for me as an emerging designer is that I really
want to work in gold, but it’s just too expensive. For now I’ve
settled for bronze, but the tarnishing and other allergic reactions
associated with the metal is not so appealing. Unfortunately, I’m
not at all aesthetically drawn to silver. If anyone can offer a
solution - as in a GREAT alternative to Gold other than Bronze or
Brass or Plating - please, please let me know!

Thanks So Much,
quisha


#2
One major challenge for me as an emerging designer is that I
really want to work in gold, but it's just too expensive. 

Try some shakudo alloys.

Brian
Auckland
New Zealand
www.adam.co.nz


#3

Quisha, I don’t know the type of work that you do, but have you
considered copper.

Several of my friends specialize in copper jewelry, and they do
wonderful work. They have developed their own particular styles, and
each is producing a body of work that is well constructed and
artistic. They both chose copper, not because it is less expensive
than gold or silver, but because it lends itself to the type of
jewelry they make.

Alma


#4
  1. Gold-filled which is available through many sources such as Rio
    Grande. You can get sheet, tube, and findings.

  2. Bi-metal, which I think is available from Reactive Metals. It is
    a layer of silver and thin layer of gold.

  3. Vermeil and plating are also options.

Melissa


#5

Copper? E-mail me off line and I’ll be happy to send along photos…
no self promotion intended.


#6
One major challenge for me as an emerging designer is that I
really want to work in gold, but it's just too expensive 

This issue is something that everybody had to struggle in the
beginning. Unfortunately, there are no substitute for gold. However,
the expense of working with gold is not due to cost of the material,
but because of incorrect choice or use of techniques.

It is never been the case, except last 30 years or so, that gold has
been used indiscriminately. Throughout the history of goldsmithing,
techniques were developed with utilize every little bit of metal.
Proper choice and application of traditional techniques resulting in
jewellery which is stronger, lighter, and much less expensive to make
as far as cost of material.

So, instead of substituting gold for some other metal, let me
suggest that you consider using traditional approach to your
jewellery. If your exposure to the traditional techniques has been
minimal up to this point, you can start with my website.

To elaborate - I created couple of instructional DVDs (more is
coming). One “Eternity Ring”, demonstrates traditional approach to
it’s construction. You can see short preview either on my website, or
Ganoksin benchtube. If you decide to purchase it, you would learn how
to create seemingly elaborate structure, using nothing more than a
few pieces of rectangular wire. Even at today’s gold prices, the cost
of material for the project is not going to break anybody’s budget.

In conclusion I would like to point out that cost of material alway
was, is, and will be the corner stone of business competitiveness. If
we look at some jewellery establishments, who have been in business
several generations; what separates them from others, who are no
longer around, is their expertise in choosing and applying proper
techniques.

Leonid Surpin
www.studioarete.com


#7

Hi Leonid,

This issue is something that everybody had to struggle in the
beginning. Unfortunately, there are no substitute for gold.
However, the expense of working with gold is not due to cost of the
material, but because of incorrect choice or use of techniques. 
Even at today's gold prices, the cost of material for the project
is not going to break anybody's budget. 

I do agree with you mostly.

However fine gold is expensive, not as expensive as fine platimum,
but far more expensive than fine silver, or tin, or copper.

For people that have a solid career and no debts the price of gold
is a nuisance, but agreed is not a huge hurdle.

$55 AUD a gram for fine gold is an awful price for a student to pay,
or for an apprentice in Australia who earns $7.50 an hour.

A degree of confidence is required to buy gold, and it’s a pretty
ordinary feeling to buy a gram of finegold. When you get it you have
to be careful not to sneeze for fear of losing it :smiley:

Of course a ring is only a few grams of gold alloy, so is not as
painful to purchase the raw materials.

I was speaking to an old jeweller and mentioned that I was using
bronze, he approved and said he thought it much nice than gold, as
everybody uses it.

Personally I didn’t agree with him, I like gold, and am working
toward buying more. In mokume gane you need confidence to laminate
precious metals, and at $55 dollars a gram you really don’t want to
screw up.

Regards Charles A.


#8

Hi Quisha,

Are you reacting to tin bronze, silicon bronze, or a nickel bronze?

I use a 90/10 or ancient bronze (9 parts copper, 1 part tin), it
looks beautiful, and polishes well. I’ve had no reactions thus far,
and I’ve got my fair share of allergies.

Some of the Mokume metals are nice, a 5% gold Shakudo is pretty,
you’ll have about 20 grams to play with if you spend about $60 AUD.
You can patinate it to make it black…ish.

I don’t have a tin price at the moment, but I am looking, the last
lot of Tin I bought was $18 a kg Copper currently is $8 a kg. So for a
kilo of 90/10 you’d be looking at about $9.

The difference being is that if you want to sell your work, the
Shakudo would get a better re-sale.

That being said, if you make 90/10 bronze historical replicas, there
is a niche market there.

Regards Charles A.


#9

I’ve always worked with gold (well, mostly with silver, but when I
want something to be done in gold, I alloy the gold and go for it),
but lately have been getting requests for things in gold plating or
gold-filled. I have a few questions:

(1) if i make an object with set stones and take it to be plated,
can i set the stones and then have it plated? does it depend on what
kind of stone?

(2) when i get something plated, can i polish it? what are the
constraints? how do i ensure that i don’t “rip” it?

(3) gold-filled… this one has me the most puzzled… can you
actually fabricate with this stuff? if i cut it with a saw, do i see
a silver line on the side? don’t the different melting points cause
trouble? what do you do about solder?

(4) is vermeille any different or is it just a higher quality gold-
filled?

all guidance would be very welcome! i tend to make rather hefty
jewelry… i just finished a cuff that is essentially hand-made lace
cut out of millimeter and a half sheet, and it’s more air than metal
at this point, but in gold, it would cost me about $3500… if
someone wants to commission me for it, that’s fine, but… i know i
can plate it, but i don’t like to plate things that have lots of
bodily contact like a cuff… would gold-filled be an option here? a
good option? thankfully i do really love silver and argentium, so
i’m not kept up nights over this, still, the customers seem to like
gold if they don’t have to pay for it. sigh.

best,
hilary
www.hilarypark.com


#10
$55 AUD a gram for fine gold is an awful price for a student to
pay, or for an apprentice in Australia who earns $7.50 an hour. 

My impression was that question was asked not by a student but a
beginner goldsmith, who actually makes items for sale. I will never
recommend practicing on gold, but I would not recommend practicing on
bronze either. Silver is the best practicing medium.

A degree of confidence is required to buy gold, and it's a pretty
ordinary feeling to buy a gram of finegold. When you get it you
have to be careful not to sneeze for fear of losing it :-D 

Everybody had trepidations working with gold first time. The same
goes for setting large diamond, or expensive emerald, and etc… We
work with valuables which can be easily destroyed if something goes
wrong. That said, the more one practices, the more confidence one
acquires.

Leonid Surpin
www.studioarete.com


#11

Hillary,

When plating, finish the piece completely before plating. If it has
surface defects or tool marks, then they show. Areas that are
polished will look polished after plating. Do not do a lot of buffing
because it will wear down the plated surface, which is very thin.

http://ehow.com/how-does_5003838_gold-plating-techniques-process.html

Part of the difference between vermeil, plating and gold-filled is
the thickness of the the gold on the base metal surface.


Yes, you can fabricate with gold filled, but only one side of the
sheet is gold.

You could probably find articles on all three processes here at
Ganoksin.

Melissa Stenstrom


#12

hi guys –

one more add on to my question about gold alternatives. i notice
that rio offers 22k argentium which is supposedly 10% gold. this
seems interesting, since both gold and argentium fuse so that would
alleviate the solder issue. but… i imagine your “waste” is
basically waste. for example, whereas with gold i would use my scrap
to make wire or more sheet, i imagine this would not work with the
coated argentium? i mean how could it… unless for some reason the
gold floats to the surface. like copper with silver. anyway –
looking forward to people’s knowledge and experience! thanks again,

hilary
www.hilarypark.com


#13

WOW! Thanks so much Charles, Leonid, Michael, Alma, and Melissa for
your insight. I’m thankful to have so many promising leads to pursue.
After reading all of your suggestions, two approaches to life come to
mind:

“Leap and the net will appear”, and “It’s not about resources, but
resourcefulness - working with what you got!”

Either way, I’m feeling SUPER inspired right now, so thanks again.

Michael, would love to check out your work, but don’t have your
email. Charles, where can I find the bronze you suggest? sounds
amazing

All the best and happy weekending,
quisha


#14
Charles, where can I find the bronze you suggest? sounds amazing 

Okay Quisha, which country do you live in?

I’ll try to find you a source, or the raw materials, or people that
make it.

Regards Charles A.


#15
My impression was that question was asked not by a student but a
beginner goldsmith, who actually makes items for sale. I will
never recommend practicing on gold, but I would not recommend
practicing on bronze either. Silver is the best practicing medium. 

Yep I’ll agree with that, bronze can be tricky sometimes, but you
can pick it up quick. Silver is relatively cheap, but our asker
doesn’t like silver :frowning:

Everybody had trepidations working with gold first time. The same
goes for setting large diamond, or expensive emerald, and etc...
We work with valuables which can be easily destroyed if something
goes wrong. That said, the more one practices, the more confidence
one acquires. 

Yep spot on.

Regards Charles A.


#16

thanks so much! i think perhaps plating is what will be appropriate
for a brooch i’ve been commissioned. just wanted to make sure that
it was ok to set the stones before i took it to the plater. thanks
for the advice!


#17
I would not recommend practicing on bronze either. Silver is the
best practicing medium. 

In response to Leonid’s advice about using silver I agree…that is
unless you are purposefully designing in bronze and/or nickel silver
which are both beautiful metals also.

Because of this topic, I was reminded of my very first metals course
in the 1980’s. We practiced on nickel silver and “nugold” or bronze.
It was great because you could torch the life out of that stuff and
not do damage. I was skipping along, merrily torching to my heart’s
content. And then, they added silver to the mix. I still have that
creation. A rectangular piece of sterling silver sweat soldered to
bronze…using the same amount of time and heat I had used on bronze
and nickel silver alone. Needless to say the sterling has a slope to
it. It is thick on the left and verrrrrry thin on theright.

Big difference in soldering technique.

I love looking at that piece because it keeps me humble and reminds
me that we all have to start at the beginning and love ourselves
through every step of the journey because we will do some really
funny stuff. My first class had in its description that we were
going to learn how to solder. I was so excited that I ran right out
to the local hardware store and bought a soldering gun and a roll of
solder. When I got to the class I walked into the studio and guess
what I saw. Big gas tanks and big torches. I never got my soldering
gun out of the cute little tool box I had also purchased.

We all probably have our “soldering” or similar jewelry related
stories. It is good to remember that in everything we have ever tried
we were all once beginners!!! Wouldn’t it be fun to collect all of
the funny stories we could tell on ourselves. Now, there’s a good
book idea for someone!!!