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Wire inlay

I have been playing with inlaying 14K white gold wire into the sides
of my rose gold signet ring. I have lots of bench experience, but
have never tried cold inlay, but thought it would be a nice addition
to my engraving skills. I had a real problem with the wire not
flattening into the channels. The white gold, even after thorough
annealing, wanted to bounce back and straighten when hammered rather
than form itself down into place. I managed well enough after a
fashion, and only used a teensy bit of solder where the shank was too
thin to carve a proper channel. Is anyone out there using this
technique, or is it a dying art? I would love some input so I can
avoid such problems in the future. Did I just pick a particularly
difficult first project? I would also love to see what others have
created using this method. Does anyone here have pretty pictures
posted that I could visit and be inspired by? Thanks, all-Marggi

I would suggest a palladium white gold alloy for this technique.
The color is less appealing (and this may be a concern), but the
ductility of the material is perfect for hammer inlays. Fine silver
also works very well and gives a great contrast.

Daniel J. Statman, Statman Designs

I have done platinum wire inlayed into 14kt/y and 14kt/y&18kt/y wire
inlayed into white gold. I would think that 14kt /w would be the most
difficult to inlay due to the nickel content and the fact that it
work hardens so quickly. I would suggest next time use platinum or
18kt white or Palladium white.

As to technique:

I like to cut the channel into the wax before casting and I usually
cut a square channel that is the width of the wire to be inlayed.
Actually I drawn the wire to fit the channel. If I am fabricating I
also cut a square channel in the metal using a separating disc. to
start and then a flat graver to finish it. After the channel is nice
and square and evenly cut to depth and pattern (either cast or
fabricated) I then go in with a knife edge graver and cut a dove tail
into the channel. This is an angle cut of about 45 degrees on each
wall of the channel. Try to do this without changing the width or
depth of the channel. Next I draw the wire (I have used both square
wire and triangular for the inlay) the fit should be as tight as
possible. I like the triangle to slide into the dovetail so that it
doesn’t lift out and the square to be tight enough that it has to be
pushed firmly into place. On really curved pieces sometimes I will
tack solder one end just to keep it in place while I am hammering the

Hammer till the inlay is flattened into the channel and then hammer
the channel edges to tighten it in. sand back till flush and the
edges are nice and straight. That’s my experience and if you email
me direct I will attach back a photo of a piece that has a crisscross
pattern inlayed. Frank Goss


inlaying metals isn’t widely practiced in the U.S. since it can be
quite time consuming, but it’s hardly a dying art. Japanese jewelers
have of course been doing it for a long time, as have others, and
those traditions contine. The problem you had was simply that
inlaying a harder metal into a softer metal, you have to reverse the
process. You expected the white gold wire to expand into the
channel, but the softer rose gold simply doesn’t resist the impact
force transmitted by the wire, well enough to cause the wire to
deform. the enery ends up going into the rose gold part. When you
do inlay, instead of thinking an exact procedure of hammering wire
"just so", step back a little with the theory, and think of it as
preparing the harder metal part of the inlay to be exactly as will be
required, then deforming the softer metal to conform to the harder
metal. When you inlay a soft metal in a hard one, this means
cutting a precise channel or depression, complete with undercuts and
maybe a tooth cut into the floor of the depression, and into all
that, the softer metal can be forced, causing it to deform and flow
into the depressions and lock into the shape, and the tooth in the
bottom, etc. In the case of a hard metal inlaid into a soft one, the
harder metal wouldn’t flow into the depression. Rather, as you
experienced, the depressions just gives way to let it sink in, but
doesn’t lock together. If, instead, you think about it in the more
elemental means I described, you’ll realize that you can approach the
job by preparing the exact shape in white gold, sheet perhaps,
complete with chamferred edges, etc. Then the rose gold ring has to
be made so that extra metal is around the edges of the straight walled
depression you’ve prepared, so that the rose gold is hammered, not
the white, once the white gold is simply inserted in the depression.
The rose gold then flows down around the white, and locks it in.

Now then. Does that sound vaguely familier? Think of stone

You ask whether inlay of hard materials into soft ones is a dying
art? Nope. there are a lot of folks doing bezel, flush, and gypsy
style settings every day. They’re doing just what you’ll need to do,
except they’ve got the added problem of brittle materials, while you
don’t have to worry so much about scratching or chipping the inlaid
item. If you wish to inlay your white gold into an existing object,
and can’t thus make it with raised metal to be easily hammered down,
then you have to work harder. Prepare the inlay depression just as
you might have done, engraving an undercut, etc. Now use chasing
tools to hammer out against that undercut edge, so it’s top edge is
forced back and up. This leaves you with a straight sided depression
with raised edges, into which you’ll place your carefully cut and
fitted inlay, then hammering down the raised up rose gold edges
again. In the end, you get the same result as you’d have gotton
with the method you tried, except that you don’t ask the harder white
metal to deform and flow, you simply preshape it. Sometimes, of
course, this is a LOT more work than just hammering round wire into a
groove. But for straightl line inlay, you can draw square wire, file
a light chamfer on two sides, and it’s ready to inlay once you’ve
prepared the groove for it, and lifted the edged enough to get the
wire to drop in. Done this way, the white gold WILL still deform a
bit too, making the final fitting easier than for a stone. And in
future, if you really want a white inlay and don’t want all so much
work, switch to either platinum fully annealed wire, which will be
softer than your rose gold, or a nickle free palladium white gold,
which can also be softer than the rose gold. Talk to your metals
suppliers about appropriate alloys.