Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Forged Gold Ring - Reticulated

This is really the first ring I have ever made - for me.

It was a long, laborious and complicated process:

Gold is super expensive.  It always has been, but somehow I decided to become a jeweler at a point that coincided with the 400 year high (adjusted for inflation) price of gold.   Bummer.

But if you have enough patience and learn how to look and judge, you can get gold really cheaply:

This is a clearly labeled 14k gold chain that I bought at a yard sale for a dollar.  The people had a big fancy house and were selling everything to move to a retirement condo in Arizona.  So, I didn't feel too bad.  This was about $450 at melt value that day.

So, the really hard part is that I can't bring myself to melt good stuff.  You can't un-stir the coffee so to speak.  I always think of the craftsman who made it.  I did not melt that chain.

But anything broken, or just of awful design.....gets the torch.

For example:
Extra Special Friend.   Hmm.... who would I give this to?  Really kinda creepy.

But it is marked 14k.  One other important thing, if you melt the clasps, there is a steel spring inside.  Once the gold has melted, you can just push it out of the puddle with tweezers.  Steel has a higher melting point than gold.
The necklace was marked 585 (the percentage of gold in 14k alloy) and 14k.

Here is me figuring out the math to determine what karat the end product will be.  

One other hard part is that sometimes, pretty rare with gold more common with silver, the stuff is either not what it is marked, or is not marked at all.

So I always melt each piece separately, to check.  Plated stuff ends up all garbled, good alloyed stuff melts smoothly and balls up.  Here's what some of the pieces looked like in the pickle after melting:

 There is often some copper residue on the outside of lower carat metal, it is mostly from the pickle:

 These are all gold, different carats.  The bottom one is 10k.  Remember that 10k is only 46.1% gold, the rest is mostly silver and copper.

Here is one that was so suspect that I threw it aside and didn't use it:

looks more like melted brass to me....

So after each piece is melted, I combined them and melted an ingot on a peice of charcoal.  The charcoal proves an environment with reduced oxygen.  You can also set the torch to crackle which does something similar and use flux:

So I ended up with this and started to hammer it to a cube, or well more like a loaf.

The finished one I made for my mother-in-law, but the loaf is in this picture.

Then to the tools.
This is a rolling mill - like a pasta machine for metal

you hit your fingers with these.

 And you have to remember to anneal the metal often.  It makes is soft so that it can be worked and moved without cracking.

Here is what that looks like:

So I also kept track of how far I moved it this way:

I weighed it a bunch to see how much metal was lost in the process.

Once it was long enough I slowly bent it into a ring shape:

 Then once it was a ring.... I fused it back together without any solder.

What that means is that I got the two separate ends lapped over each other - and touching - and heated them to about 1620 degrees.  Carefully, if the whole thing gets that hot, it goes back into a ball and you lose all of the time and effort.

So at this point I could have just hammered it a bunch to make one of those hammered rings.  But I wanted something different.  I wanted a forged ring because it is denser takes a polish better and holds a surface more better.

By repeatedly annealing it, and quenching it hot in the pickle, I was able to build up a complicated surface.  Each time you do that step some small amount of the copper leaches out to the pickle.  This is called depletion gilding.

Here is how I kept track:

So, that is a lot of waiting around for the pickle to do its work, that is why I generally have 4 projects going at once.  That and my short attention span.  I have the same attention span as my cocker spaniel:

Belle Belle.

Here are two more pictures for scale.  One is a scale.  This ring is a monster, most wedding band type rings weigh about 8 or 9 grams.  Please excuse the jeweler's fingers.


  1. Great to see how these are created! I love the fire agate pendant and gold band! How do you decide what to craft next?

  2. Se stai cercando un ciondolo d'oro ad un prezzo accessibile, visita LUPPINO GIOIELLI SRLS. Il negozio ha una varietà di ciondolo oro per le donne.


I always appreciate comments or questions.