I am a jewellery student in South Africa.
At the moment we are starting to work with platinum for the first
time. We have been given a criteria to design a piece of jewellery
and then each of us will make it out of silver.
Our lecturers will then judge us on how well we make the silver
project and decide whether we will be able to make that item in
I do not think that this is a good enough test to decide whether we
will cope with the project or not. I would like advise on what a
good first time platinum project would be.
a setting? we have no facilities for platinum casting and so
everything must be made by hand. I have little to no experience with
gold. I work with silver most of the time but have worked with
copper, titanium,brass, steel and aluminium.
please advise me what are good basic techniques for first time
Genevieve- You professor is right. If you can hand fabricate in
silver you can in gold or platinum. You are so lucky to have a
teacher that is willing to teach platinum fabrication.
There are so very few folks out there now who can actually fabricate
platinum. Most just carve or CAD and cast. It's not nearly as strong
as hand fabricated, it's often heavier and just doesn't look as
pretty to me.
As for soldering and fusing, it just takes practice. It's easy to be
intimidated by precious materials. Just jump in and try. Remember if
you mess it up you can just remove any solder, melt it down and start
We always forge our platinum ingots before rolling bar and pulling
You'll find that spit is the best thing to hold your solder pallions
in place. Platinum dandy to fuse as well. You don't have to heat the
whole piece like you do in silver. The toughest part is rigging
pieces to stay in place while you solder. I use small pieces of scrap
platinum or bits of ceramic to prop parts up. Charcoal will just burn
up. You must use special tungston carbide tweezers and have the right
glasses. No flux, ever.
It just takes a little practice.
Have fun and make lots of jewelry.
For jewelry makers living near the world's largest platinum deposit
starting to work in that metal must bring a special connection. It's
a metal that brings new challenges but also big rewards. Traditional
processes learned / practiced using other metals usually need to be
refined or altered in platinum projects for good looking end
About 50% of my work is platinum fabrication & casting. Both are
done in studio. For a 1st platinum project keep it simple. Focus on
getting a feel for the metal. The "design" aspect should be down the
list in considerations. My top suggestion would be something
requiring multiple solder joints. Soldering (& welding) platinum is
one area where very different techniques are required than with
silver or gold. Torch skills in platinum is "top of my" list re:
techniques to practice.
Other points: keeping your work area & tools clean is very
important. Avoiding contamination from other metals is extra
important. Many jewelers use a separate set of hand tools and burs
just for platinum work. At the minimum you should use separate files
and saw blades made for platinum. I use Pike brand blades. They are
sharper, have a special temper and rounded backs.
Last thing I'll mention is learning patience and paying attention to
detail. Finishing platinum requires more steps between each stage
through the finish process. More graduations of file and sandpaper
coarseness, tripoli and rouge compounds.
Lots more I could say with respect to best alloys for different
needs or types of work, Torch gasses & soldering issues and bench
tips but I'll leave those areas for others to comment about. Best of
Good luck with your responses from Orchid re your platinum work.
I'm contacting you for another reason, and maybe you can help or
direct me to someone who can. I live in Johannesburg, so am pleased
to find an Orchid member in this country.
I need to knock heads with someone with an interest in casting what
is essentially bronze or brass, being components and fittings to
swords and scabbards. I have a very important collection of these
things, some of which have missing or damaged parts, but which could
be restored by using other available intact examples as mould
masters. I can do the gilding afterwards, but it is the lost wax
casting that is the issue.
If you are available to discuss this or to refer me on to a friend,
I would be most appreciative.
I automatically have respect of someone like yourself who is tuned
in to Orchid, and who is at a sophisticated level of craftsmanship as
to tackle platinum (there are applications of platinum colouring that
I would like to explore in my field of interest).
Where are you?
about Jo's post
Most just carve or CAD and cast. It's not nearly as strong as hand
fabricated, it's often heavier and just doesn't look as pretty to
Spoke to a jeweller about CAD the other day, he said it can look
great, but then he is an engraver as well and finishes his CAD pieces
with all his engraving skills. Interesting point. The cast CAD piece
is just the start of the process.
All the best
It's not enough to simply learn the working differences between
platinum, gold and silver; you want to understand the strengths of
each metal and for what sort of design each is appropriate.
Platinum has three great virtues over gold and silver: it does not
oxidize, tarnish or get firescale; it is tougher and more abrasion
resistant than gold or silver; and it is a poor conductor of heat.
Because it is a poor conductor of heat you do not heat the entire
piece when soldering, but concentrate on the joint. And because it is
a poor conductor of heat, you can create a piece with multiple joints
without worrying that each new solder operation will undo the
Because it never oxidizes you can pre-polish all interior surfaces
and not need to use a boric acid coating when soldering. If a surface
is bright before it goes into the flame it will be bright when it
comes out. Also, flux is unecessary, and the wrong kind is
detrimental. To stick the paillons in place you can use spit, as has
been suggested, but you can also use a little Barrett's flux. That's
the typical green self-pickling flux; it won't interfere with the
Because it is tougher and more abrasion resistant than gold or
silver, you can use thinner material in construction than otherwise.
Prongs, hinges and hinge wires, jump rings, and chain links can be
Things like which solders to use, which abrasives and polishing
compounds to use, what to use to support or manipulate the piece in
the fire, etc,. is the sort of knowledge your teacher will provide.
What he can't provide is a feeling for the metal, which is why the
design is so important. If students are allowed to design their own
pieces the designs may not take advantage of the virtues of platinum,
and so you'd not learn how to design for the material's full
advantage nor get a feel for how it works it in such pieces.
I'd suggest three projects which will highlight platinum's strengths
First I'd have the students make a simple solitaire ring with a
four-prong setting and a forged shank. After making a piece like
this in silver you'll see how much easier soldering is in platinum.
Then I'd have them make a short length of delicate chain. The sort
of chain which you'd never make in silver because it'd be a pain in
the, um, neck and because no one would pay enough for a chain like
that in silver for you to recoup your labor costs.
Last I'd have them make an articulated piece with multiple joints.
An inline bracelet, also called a tennis bracelet, is an excellent
project. If has many joints and parts, but since each element is
identical to the others, excepting the catch, even if the first link
is not perfect by the time you get to the last you've had a lot of
practice. Making a tennis bracelet in silver is very challenging, as
there are so many joints and hinges close together. But once you've
done one in silver the benefits of making it in platinum become
BTW, making an inline bracelet of this sort is a standard project
for second year jewelers at FIT here in NY.
Just my two cents.
I waited until this morning so I can type on a real keyboard instead
of an elf-keyboard over the weekend.
Good things have been said already. I'll drive one point home that's
been touched on. You can work copper and to a degree brass and take
that to silver and feel somewhat at home to start. You can go from
silver to gold and have that same sort of base. Platinum is entirely
different though, and requires a new set of skills. It is true that
you bend rings the same ways and make jump rings the same ways and
such, but that's about it.
There's something far more important, though, and that is platinum
design. Platinum weighs almost twice as much as 14kt gold, and more
than twice as much as sterling silver - density, that is. Add to that
the fact that today it costs 76 times as much as silver, by
calculation - that's 76 times as much for half as much metal,
understand. One ounce. And it is far harderthat sterling and tougher
by many magnitudes. So, what people tend to want to do is take what
they had and keep it in the next step and it just doesn't work that
way. Meaning that they want to make silver jewelry out of gold or
silver jewelry out of platinum and the like. If you make a quality
silver piece out of platinum it will weigh three ounces and cost $5K
or more. Where you would use 2mm silver you'll want.8mm in platinum.
Where you'd put a bezel on a sheet in silver you'll want to do
something else in platinum - that bezel and sheet is a thousand bucks
in platinum. The toughness of it means you can work finer and more
delicately and that's what most people look for in good platinum
work. I can't stress enough that good platinum design is about
platinum and it's properties, and making jewelry that uses those to
advantage and with finesse. This isn't just to say that you shouldn't
use bezels and sheet, it's to say that good, true design in platinum
is an entirely different world.
It also goes without saying that people who are buying a platinum
ring for $10Kare not going to accept crooked work, or scratches or
anything of the kind. A high standard is, well, standard.........