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Research paper on keum boo


A question from a student

Hello all!

My name is Brittany Steinhubl, I am a fourth year Jewellery & Metals
Major at the Alberta College of Art + Design.

I am writing a research paper on the technique of Keum - Boo and I
would like to know more about the history of the technique within
other cultures. If any one has any on that or know
someone who does I would love that!

Also, it would be really beneficial for me to hear of any
experiences while using the technique.

Thank you very much for your time in reading this e-mail,

  • Brittany Steinhubl


by Charles Lewton-Brain

This Korean technique for applying 24k gold to silver is in fact
widely used in various cultures; Japanese, Chinese and in the west
historically primarily to adhere gold to iron, steel and copper. I
found few historical mentions in the west of application of gold to
silver using the same methods used in Asia, though there are plenty
of Roman and Greek artifacts which upon reexamination in recent years
seem to have been gilded in this manner. The method can also be used
to attach 24k gold to itself, to apply gold foil to other standard
and colored gold alloys, palladium, white gold and platinum.

Read more


Hi Brittany,

You probably want to talk to Komelia Okim. She taught at Montgomery
College in Rockville, MD (US) for many years. I seem to remember
hearing that she’d recently retired, but I haven’t kept up with her
lately. Somebody in the DC area will probably know more than I do.
Check with the Washington Guild of Goldsmiths, they probably know
where she is.

She didn’t invent it, but she did do a lot to popularize it in the
US. Her basic ‘how to’ is in Tim McCreight’s “Metals Technic” book.




Regarding your article on Keum-Boo

Do you know if that is how Daniel Brush does his gold on steel



Hi Sam,

I had a chance to ask him about them a few months ago. Turns out
they’re sm= all square inlays. Lots, and lots of little undercut,
inlaid squares. (edges undercut with engravers) Daniel is one of the
most obsessively accurate engravers I’ve ever met. Scratch that,
the most obsessively accurate metalsmith of any stripe I’ve ever



Hi Sam,

See Alberic’s answer, they are cold inlaid. Keum-boo does however
work on steel, and on polished steel quite well. Also works on
aluminum, platinum, palladiaum and gold alloys.



HI Charles,

I’ve done a fair bit of it on silver. Given what I thought I knew
about how it worked, I wouldn’t have expected it to work easily on
copper (because of the surface oxides) and not at all on steel.

My thought was always that it was low temp diffusion bonding, with
the pressure of the burnisher serving to add enough energy to kick
it over the activation energy hump.

In reading your paper, you propose oxygen transport through the gold
film. OK, but what then about the oxygen bonded to the surface atoms
as oxide? Especially on copper or steel? (nevermind that Al always
has an oxide skin.) You have to do something to reduce those oxides,
and simple pressure isn’t going to do it. Most puzzling.

As a suggestion to make burnishing easier, gold and steel will gall
on each other, so I stopped using steel burnishers in favor of
either agate or pyrex burnishers. They work much better, and there’s
no tendency for the gold to stick or gall.

Pyrex burnishers are child’s play to make with most standard
jeweler’s torches. Pick up some pyrex rod, and you can have a
burnisher ready to roll in under 5 minutes.

(I can shoot you a PDF if you need. It’s easy, and they work great
for normal burnishing as well, at least on silver and gold.)


Pyrex burnishers are child's play to make with most standard
jeweler's torches. 

Agate burnishers are also terrific and sold for this purpose.