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Keum boo question

My keum boo instructions from Komelia Okim mention that sterling
silver must be annealed/pickled three to six times to build up a fine
silver skin on the metal. If I use fine silver sheet, will this also
need to be annealed/pickled repeatedly? Is the composition of my
fine silver sheet pure enough to allow the 24k gold leaf to bond well
to the surface? Also, do I have to use gum tragacanth, will the gold
bond without it?

Jenny Hunt
New Bedford, MA

Jenny, you should not have to anneal and pickle fine silver sheet to
build up a pure silver skin, as the sheet is already pure silver. I
have never used gum tragacanth, but others here may have used it to
help adhere the foil to the silver. I hear it doesn’t actually help
the foil bond to the silver, but it keeps the foil from jumping
around and ruining your design while you’re trying to get everything
tacked down to the heated silver.


I almost always use fine silver for my keum boo, and the gold
adheres perfectly Fine silver is pure silver, which is what you want.
Using it in place of sterling saves having to anneal, and pickle in
order to build up the fine silver on the surface of the sterling. The
gum tragacanth merely functions as a glue to hold the little pieces
of gold in place until you begin the burnishing. It is the burnishing
which bonds the gold to the silver.


No, you don’t have to use the gum tragacanth. No, you don’t
have to raise the fine silver if you’re using fine silver.


Elaine Luther
Chicago area, Illinois, USA
Metalsmith, Certified PMC Instructor
Studio 925; established 1992

Hi Jenny, you’ll find that your fine silver is all ready for gold
overly as is. You’ll need nothing more than adequate heat and a
burnisher to apply the foil.

Mike Rogers
Precious Metal Arts

If you use fine silver, you don’t need to go through the annealing
and pickling steps, as there is no copper to be eliminated from the
surface. That’s the function of the annealing and pickling. Fine
silver is ready to go as is, with the possible exception that it
needs to be really clean for easiest and best results. Annealing and
pickling normally do that as well as removing copper. You can clean
the fine silver that way too, if you wish, or use any of the regular
methods of chemically cleaning the sheet, such as would be used
prior to photoetching. Note that this is normally more than just
soap or detergent, as most such, leave their own surface films.
Liquid detergent such as spray 409 or other such cleaner/degreaser
first, then pumice, scouring powder, or baking soda scrubbed into the
surface until water runs across the surface without beading up. Then
you’re good to go.

Also, do I have to use gum tragacanth, will the gold bond without

I’ve not heard of gum trag. being used, nor have I ever used it for
Keum boo (though I’m sure lots of people do Keum boo in varied ways).
Are you sure you’re not mixing up techniques, such as it’s use in
enamelling or granulation? I’d expect the use of ANY such adhesive to
secure the gold, to be a hindrance to bonding, not a help. The gold
must physically contact the silver, without intervening contaminants,
for a good bond. burnishing, of course, will tend to force
contaminants and foreign materials out of the way, but still, if you
can do the work without them being there in the first place, then the
bonding is more assured.


I think that the gum tragacanth is only to help hold it on until it
will fuse. You can Keum Boo without it. The fine silver sheet should
not need the repeated heatings and picklings. It is already pure
silver. It is important that it be perfectly clean. Water should be
able to sheet across it evenly.

Marilyn Smith