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Engagement ring conundrum


#1

Hi all. Here is the latest from Birch Tree Studio. I have a
customer who wants me to make her engagement ring but she doesn’t
want anything mined in South AFrica (and no diamonds period so
Canadian diamonds are out too). We have the center stone picked out
–a four-carat sapphire from a local Sri Lankan mine that seems to
be acceptable to her. Now, she says she doesn’t want gold from
South Africa and the same for platinum.

My thoughts were (other than tearing my hair out) to see if anyone
here knows about getting something cast with Canadian gold? Or any
other gold from any other mine that is kind to its workers and the
environment? (an oxymoron, I know). Or platinum? Does anyone out
there work with titanium? That was the only other metal I could
think of. What is the long-term aesthetic of titanium? Can you
polish it? Does it hold stones in prongs? I really have not paid
any attention to titanium as a metal of choice for my work,
obviously. Do we fabricate it only or can it be cast?

Help Help help!!!

Diana Widman
Birch Tree Studio Jewelry Designs
825 South Waukegan Road A8 #184
Lake Forest, Il 60045-2665
847-235-1686
www.birchtreestudio.net


#2

You could also always look for sources of antique gold items, either
to use in its existing alloy, or to have custom refined to re-alloy.
if it’s from before about 1890, if I remember right, then it’s
unlikely to have been from south africa… You can buy gold
nuggets from California and Alaska, and the related Canadian areas
too, often sold as nuggets, which could be refined, or alloyed down
as is, if you don’t mind a less than precise alloy. And, via coin
dealers, there are also old coins that were minted in California
during and after the California gold rush, which were made of that
locally mined metal. While some cal gold coins are very pricey, one
can also find low quality worn ones, or “tokens”, which were used as
souvenirs, rather than coinage. Some of them aren’t so bad.

Peter


#3

Ask your customer if it would be possible or acceptable to make her
ring from a coin such as a Chinese “panda” or similar national
material. It might be possible to purchase Welsh gold.

Another way is to buy and use an ancient coin - Greek or Roman. It
is possible to buy very worn coins that numismatists value low.

Tony Konrath
908 Fleming Street
Key West Florida 33040
Tel 305 295 7334
Fax 305 294 4433


#4

Diana, you definitely have a problem. For what it is worth, I would
send this client to my competition in a heartbeat. The irrationality
at work here leaves you on the hook no matter what you do. Why where
ever the gold comes from, some of the mass will be gold stolen from
the Native Americans, the Incas, the Jews, etc. There is the melting
pot factor at work here. Maybe she needs to be reminded of this A
mine kind to its workers? Come on now. Check the recent issue of
"Smithsonian" magazine’s article on the silver mining at Potisai in
Bolivia (spelling?). The old woman’s face will haunt me as long as I
work in metals as to the price paid by her family for the privilege
to do what I do. By any chance does she drive a SUV?

Now that I have stirred up the hornets’ nest and kicked more than
one sacred cow, I think I will run to the nearest old mine shaft for
cover.

Your call but I would let this one go.

Bill


#5

Diana, I used to be an exploration geologist and always harboured a
desire to make an engagement ring out of a gold nugget, suitably
alloyed. If you werre feeling brave this may be an option for you, as
nuggets are invariably sold with a provenance, they are also quite
easy to find on the internet (I have complete faith in google) as
finders can charge a premium for the rearity of a nugget above the
weight of the gold. If you alloyed with “native copper” - basically a
copper nugget - which geological specimin suppliers may stock (I have
a piece which I picked up from a mine in the US), then you would be
joining two nuggets which had formed over millions of years of
undisturbed mineral growth, this, if correctly pitched could well
result in your client agreeing to pay the hefty amount which all of
this extra work would entail. Platinum is more difficult, the only
other big regional producer is somwhere in the former Soviet Union
and if your client is keen on avoiding the RSA stuff for
environmental or humanitarian reasons it probably wont measure up.
One thought would be to find a source of recycled platinum, it is
the catalyst in most car’s catalystic converters, as well as having
wider industrial aplications, and I would be surprised if it was not
re-used. Good luck on an interesting project. Chris Penner


#6
     My thoughts were (other than tearing my hair out) to see if
anyone here knows about getting something cast with Canadian gold?
 Or any other gold from any other mine that is kind to its workers
and the environment? (an oxymoron, I know). Or platinum? Does
anyone out there work with titanium? That was the only other metal
I could think of.  What is the long-term aesthetic of titanium?
Can you polish it? Does it hold stones in prongs?  I really have
not paid any attention to titanium as a metal of choice for my
work, obviously. Do we fabricate it only or can it be cast? 

Dear Diana, It sounds like your customer is wearing hemp sandals and
reeks of petuli oil. I don’t know of any mining operation metal or
stones, anywhere on the planet, that is truly enviromentally sound.
A few years ago I was asked to do some alloy work for the Cripple
Creek mine up in Colorado. I later found out that this mine was
owned by a company that we have all used products from at one time
or another named AngloGold. Besides the name kinda freaking me out,
this company is so huge that DeBeers is actually a subsidiary of it.
Makes you stop and think a bit doesn’t it. Anyway, your last
question was about fabricating or casting Titanium. I love this
metal and yes you can cast and or fabricate it if you have the right
equipment to do it. If titanium is heated beyond a critical point
1660 C (3020 F), in the presence of oxygen it will explode. You
will need a laser with an inert gas blanket to weld this material to
protect it from oxygen. To cast it requires several steps of vacuum
and back fill of argon to completely eliminate any oxygen before
melting the metal in an enclosed centrifugal casting machine. The
most afforadable (under $30,000), machine for this is made in Italy
if your interested I’ll give you the

If you are looking to buy ready made titanium rings that you can use
for this customer then you may want to try a company in California
called Titanium Eden. They have quite a selection and they may be
albe to help you with what you need.

http://www.titaniumeden.com

If you are looking for contract titanium casting you might try a
company out in Oregan called Techform. I am not sure if they do
contract casting or not but they would certainly be your best shot
at it. I knew the folks that owned it from the Santa Fe Symposium
and I can assure you that they know what they are talking about.

Techform Advanced Casting Technology 5476 S.E. International Way
Milwaukie, OR 97222 503.652.5224 http://www.techformcasting.com/

Best Regards,
J. Tyler Teague
JETT Research
(Jewelry Engineering, Training, & Technology)


#7

We have gold from Alaska, Arizona, Austalia, Brazil, California,
Colorado, and Venezuala. It is all mined from alluvial, non-hard
rock deposits and by small independent businesses. The cost to
refine the material will be somewhat more expensive but if we can
help please call or write.

For the most part, platinum comes from Russia, Canada and S. Africa.
Titanium is not castable and very difficult to work with. It must
be machined.

We also have Kashmir sapphires 1-4 carat sizes if she’s looking to
identify her stone with a more exotic country.

Sincerely,
Ed Cleveland
http://www.kashmirblue.com
info@kashmirblue.com


#8

I know nothing about metalworking but could you suggest recycled
gold to her? That solution would be even more environmentally
friendly. And instead of being from South Africa, the gold then would
be from Akron, Fresno, Paraguay or where ever it was purchased. Just
a thought. :slight_smile:

Dan T.


#9

Couple of thoughts: The earlier suggestion to perhaps buy Welsh gold
is a good one, but likely to be hugely expensive! The Welsh
goldmines open and close as entrepreneurs come and go. I don’t think
that any are currently producing. I live near the Welsh border, and
high end jewellery shops here used to have a range of rings made
from Welsh gold, sold at a premium to their ordinary items. But
the last few years they’ve changed, and the Welsh items are now
described on the labels as “including a touch of Welsh gold”, which
is disarmingly honest!

Of course, there are a number of other places that produce virgin
gold and don’t have represive regimes. Australia is one. The only
problem is that generally the refiners take in scrap as well as
virgin, but it might be possible to get a special order, at a price.

Finally it might be best, and possibly more romantic, to get a
nugget, or a few grams of aluvial flakes. You wouldn’t know the
exact fineness, but you’d get a good idea, knowing the locality.

Kevin (NW England, UK)