Hi, I’m wondering if anyone has experience working with 24K gold for
jewellery. I’m planning to make a couple of rings from fine gold
(it’s cheaper than 18K due to VAT, and I like jewellery that changes a
bit over time) What I’d like to know is if it work hardens much (at
all?) and if it’s possible to join it using thin 24K wire dipped in
flux like brazing rod rather than using a lower karat solder to make
the join. The rings I’m making will be fairly heavy hammer forged
plain gold bands with visable hammer marks so I’m not too concerned
with the rings getting dented and deformed a bit from wear. I’m
curious; does anyone know what the purity of the old Celtic gold
jewellery found in Ireland and England is? I would assume it’s fairly
pure but there doesn’t seem to be much deformation or wear on the
pieces I’ve seen here at the British museum. Looking at some yellow
14K I have on hand, the colour difference between it and 24 is really
striking. I think I’ll like working with (and wearing) 24K. Thanks in
Hi, I’m wondering if anyone has experience working with 24K gold for
Hi 24kt is pure pure and very very soft. making a ring with 24 kt ,
dont use Solder, you should weld every step of the way. good luck.
Daniel, Jean Stark is an accomplished artist familiar with high karat
gold work. Though I think she uses 22 karat mostly. She has written a
number of books, and has some videos available. I know she stays very
busy,but you may reach her in this forum. Sorry I could’nt be of more help.
Hi 24kt is pure pure and very very soft.
Quite a few contemoprary jewellers here use 24k, and it especially
looks good and wears well as a ring. Shows up the alloys for colour,
im my opinion. It seems as though you have the right attitude, Daniel,
regarding the way fine gold wears and changes. Some say the surface of
jewellery made with the high-karat alloys and fine gold moves around
rather than wears right off. Make chunkier shapes and put a few teeth
marks in it!
Michael Couper a jeweller in Auckland and a partner in Fingers
Jewellery <www.fingers.co.nz> has this very successful earring line -
a single hoop of 24k that is twisted to insert in the pierced ear. The
twisting on and off may be done many many times, a feature which is
not matched in any alloyed gold. He tested the design by twisting the
fine gold to see at which point the gold started fracturing ir getting
mis-shapen, and after several hundred times it showed no adverse
signs. Plus the gold is subject to very little wear as an earring. At
http://www.craftinfo.org.nz/gallery/jewellery_a_k.htm there are a
bunch of New Zealand jewellers exhibited (excuse the small thumbnails)
and though the pieces shown are not overly clearly showing it, the
artists use 24k a fair bit. I know that much of the other work of,
say, Ann Culy and Barry Clarke uses mainly 24k for special items that
explore the gold or allow such a soft metal to be an effective
jewellery medium. There are other artists shown on this site - just
work backwards from that URL and seek the index page
And try this ‘virtual gallery’ called Quoil in Wellington New
Zealand: Main page:
Almost all of the goldwork from the British Isles that dates from the
6th through 10th centuries is actually gilt. They used a pretty
standard mercury depletion guilding technique by mixing powdered gold
with mercury to make “Butter of Gold”. You brush that onto the clean
metal (usually a copper-tin alloy, sometimes silver) and heat it to
remove the mercury. This technique is not recommended for modern use.
See previous threads about how mercury vapor can kill you.
GRYPHON SONG CREATIONS
Fine Custom Jewelry
"The gryphon sings of gold & silver,gems & jewels"
Some early cultures used a copper alloy (low gold content) and
depletion-gilded the work to get a gold-rich surface. ‘Tumbago’ to
the Pre-Columbians, I’m told.
Perhaps the oldest yet-known examples of depletion gilding are from
ca. 2500 BC, three chisels from the “Queen’s Grave” in the Royal
Cemetery at Ur. They looked to be solid gold, but some blistering
revealed coppery metal beneath the surface. Analysis revealed that
the chisels had been cast of a gold alloy (Au+Ag+Cu) and hammered
and that their surfaces were gold-enriched and heavily burnished.
For further interesting discussion, see the article by S. La Niece,
“Depletion Gilding from Third Millennium BC Ur,” in the British
archaeological journal, Iraq, vol. 57 (1995), pp. 41-47.
I have a few pieces of very old 24 K gold jewelry (Greek and Persian
about 400 BC, Iran about 800 BC and Sassanian, 200 to 600 AD. One of
the Greek ones is a seal ring which is a carved carnelian (magnificent
horse). It was still in its crushed 24K gold setting when I got it.
I had a new setting recreated exactly like the old on in 24K, and I
wore it for years. The gold developed a beautiful patina from getting
banged around as happens with rings on your hand. And it flattened a
bit so the part that goes around the finger is no longer circular.
Looks absolutely terrific.
Incidentally, its difficult to tell how the carver did the work. On
most seals, the part that touches the wax is flat, and when you look
at the ring, you see a mirror image of the picture that results form
sticking the seal into wax, clay, silly putty or whatever. But on the
Greek carnelian, the seal part is not flat, but curved, so that to
make the seal you have to roll it across the blob of waiting wax. The
picture that results is of a magnificent horse, but when you look at
the ring, the horse is so distorted by the curvature that it’s not
that obvious that it is a horse, only that it is some kind of animal.
I constantly marvel at the skill of the carver, who could visualize
the consequences of the process of rolling the seal across the
receiving wax. Even if he (she?) repeatedly tested the work in
progress by rolling it across some wax, the difficulty of relating the
view of the carving he was making to the picture made in the wax
during the tests boggles my mind. Has anyone else seen rounded seal
surfaces like this? (Can anybody understand what I’m trying to
I am just a very inexperienced student, and I hope some day to be
able to create jewelry out of 24K gold. But it will be a long time
before I have developed the necessary skills. Dian Deevey
Dian, THe last time i visited the Boston museum of art they had about
20 of these seals. Most were egyptian, but I believe that they were
popular in other cultures as well. These were truly magnificient
items! Larry Seiger
Dian - There’s a book about seals which you might enjoy: THE ROMANCE
OF SEALS AND ENGRAVED GEMS by Beth Benton Sutherland. Likely out of
print, but it ought to be available in better libraries. From reading
it I discovered that many (most) of the earlier seals were
cylindrical beads. The original seal rings were just a heavy wire
through the bead, so it served a decorative function when it wasn’t
being practical. More important individuals accumulated many such
Jim Small, SMALL WONDERS
Dian, It is al a matter of time, we are not used to this anymore, but
for 2000 years time was a face in which you where living, materials
where very precious not your life. And the amount of labor you carried
out was unimportant, as long as you had shelter and something to eat.
So if they where making a stone seal, it took at least half a year of
labor. Cutting and polishing with Peruvian glass or flint stone tools.
But when you where doing this for a rich landlord you where happy. You
could fed your family for this period. In the now hasty times, it is
different. The amount of things we can do is much, often to much. We
can get stressed, for only making the good choices for our lives. In
the early days before industrial revolution this did not exist. You
had no choice and no knowledge of these choices. Just live day by day.
And do something you learned from your father.
Wow, this Greek seal ring sounds like just my sort of jewellery. I’m
thinking that maybe the distorted, curved horse on the stone might
not be as difficult to make as it sounds. What if you worked backward
by first carving the design you want on a flat surface, then rolling a
curved, impressionable material over it. Wouldn’t you then have a
distorted impression in the soft curved surface that you could use as
a pattern for carving your stone?
You know, it was looking at jewellery like this and old Celtic gold
at the British museum that really got me interested in the idea of
making 24k jewellery. The colour of the metal and the way it changes
over time really appeal to me. Like you, I am an inexperienced student
(of sorts) but I’ve made a number rings from 24k recently and it’s a
lot of fun to work with. If I were you I’d buy some gold and have a
go with it. Gold is so (reletively) cheap right now you can hardly go
wrong. If you mess up you can just remelt the whole lot and start from
scratch. Unlike alloyed gold, you can melt, remelt, and keep working
with pure gold to your heart’s content and its properties remain the
same. I started with a couple of simple wedding bands for my wife and
myself and they are really lovely. I’ve since had to take the torch to
a more ambitious ring and remelt it after a problem fusing multiple
joints. But so what? I’ve still got the metal and it’s on its way to
becoming another ring (set with a nice bit of carnelian) You should
give it a try, you won’t regret it.
An excellent material to work with for 24K is Precious Metal Clay
(PMC). It is micro-fine particles of precious metal mixed with an
organic binder (much like baking flower) and water. The material is
soft and malebale and is manipulated just like potter’s clay. After
working the piece it is fired at 1830 F. for three hours. The organic
binder burns off and you are left with pure 100% 24 karat gold. This
material takes impressions beautifully and when fired can be soldered
etc… There are a few tricks to working PMC however. Rio Grande is
the sole distributer of PMC, Tim McCreight has an excellent video on
it also available from Rio. Tim’s written a new book about PMC as
well but I don’t beleive it’s available to the public yet. There is a
web page for more info. I think the address is:
http://www.pmclay.com. Try it, I love it!
Thanks. From what I read on Orchid about PMC, it sounds very very
interesting. I’ll try to get Tim’s video. How does one go about
acquiring a furnace to fire it in? Do you use enameling furnaces, or
build your own (like some potters I know) or what?
Thanks for the advice. I’m feeling rather timid about trying my hand
at it, but I appreciate your encouragement. Can you suggest places
where I might purchase raw materials? Dian
PS You may be right about how regular testing in the manner you
describe might make it easier to do the carving of the horse on the
carnelian seal. I don’t carve at all, so I still have a very hard
time imagining how it can be done. DDV
Thanks, Jim. I’ll try to find the book.
I also have a seal that has only a hole for a wire. It sounds like
one of the early ones you describe. It has a marvelous carving of a
bull with a hump and a lion, standing up. I believe it is much older
than the other two, which were clearly made to be in rings.
Thanks for the suggestion. I’ll try to find it in library somewhere.
Thanks again. Orchid people are both interesting and very kind and
You’re right, Martin. Today, in the Guatemala highlands the attitude
remains similar. I am thinking of the extraordinarily beautiful and
labor-intensive weavings women still make there.
The labor is enormous, tho today they sometimes buy machine
embroidered collars and stitch them onto the blouses (huipiles) they
weave laboriously. Also, today they buy colored cotton and wool
thread rather than grow, spin and dye their own. Nevertheless, the
labor they put into each piece they weave still reflects the
preoccupation with the beauty and skill of the finished product, and
disregard for the amount of time and energy it takes to produce.
Stone cylinder seals seem to have been invented sometime between 3500
and 3000 BC in ancient Mesopotamia (modern Iraq) and were used for
almost 3,000 years. Hundreds of examples of seals have been
excavated, and their beauty is astounding – I cannot imagine carving
on a small, curved, stone surface. For more see
Dominique Collon’s First Impressions: Cylinder Seals in the Ancient
Near East (U. of Chicago Press; 1987). One early cylinder seal (about
3100 BC) is of white magnesite, and is not drilled through the center
but is topped with a small copper figure of a reclining ram, cast by
the lost-wax method (very early evidence of the use of that
metalworking technique). For a color photo of this seal, see D.
Collon, Ancient Near Eastern Art (U. of California Press; 1995), p.
54. Collon (1987, Chapter 10) describes what is known of how cylinder
seals were carved. In addition, technical studies of seals have been
made by two men who are professors of dentistry(!), A. John Gwinnett
and Leonard Gorelick. One of their articles is in
_Expedition_magazine (Vol. 29, No. 3; 1987; p. 15ff.), “The Change
from Stone Drills to Copper Drills in Mesopotamia.” They show a
photo of an unfinished hematite seal, which “suggests that all of the
figures on the seal were first outlined with a series of drill holes
and then fleshed out by means of an engraving tool” (p. 16). There
is a lot more fascinating detail there, too much to give here! Judy