Jewelry Making Tips with Metalsmith Society

I'm Not A Gold Expert

January 28, 2024 Corkie Bolton Season 1 Episode 4
Jewelry Making Tips with Metalsmith Society
I'm Not A Gold Expert
Show Notes Transcript

In today's episode I am talking about working in gold, and how it differs from silver. I will be sharing some tips and considerations so you start experimenting with confidence!

Checkout Dovetail Workwear my favorite pants and coveralls for working in my studio (and garden!) Use code METALSMITHSOCIETY to save $10 off your order: https://www.dovetailworkwear.com/METALSMITHSOCIETY

Check out Metalsmiths In Florence: https://www.ciaomonica.com/metalsmiths-in-florence

My jewelry, Corkie Bolton Jewelry: https://corkieboltonjewelry.com/collections/newest-work

Barrier Flux: Firescoff https://amzn.to/47x9UPq

Flow Flux: Handy Flux https://amzn.to/3O4taNg

Suppliers for buying gold:
STULLER: https://www.stuller.com/
RIO GRANDE: https://www.riogrande.com/

Tip for soldering a gold bezel to a silver backplate from @susanfauman: https://www.instagram.com/p/B2JhLwfhAX_/?utm_source=ig_web_copy_link

Check out Susan’s work: https://www.susanfauman.com/

To submit a tip, you can email videos/pictures and a written caption to tips@metalsmithsociety.com

Resources: I referenced a blog article on riogrande.com for today’s podcast. https://www.riogrande.com/knowledge-hub/articles/gold-guide-part2/

Support me on Patreon, members enjoy exclusive discounts from sponsors, a monthly giveaway and more! https://www.patreon.com/metalsmithsociety

Thank you for tuning in!

Music attribution: Stock Music provided by RomanSenykMusic, from Pond5

Corkie Bolton:

Welcome to Jewelry Making Tips with Metals mith Society the ultimate podcast for anyone passionate about the art of jewelry making. I'm your host, Corkie Bolton. Metals mith Society is a community on Instagram that has over 240,000 individuals, from professional jewelers to small business artisans, hobbyists, students and even those curious looky-loos eager to learn about jewelry making. Together we share tips, kindness and support. In this podcast, I will discuss tips from the Instagram page, provide deeper insights, address questions and share bonus tips that often surface in the comments section. So, whether you've been making jewelry for a while or you're just starting your jewelry making journey, this podcast is your go-to resource for all the jewelry making tips. So grab your tools, dust off your workbench and join me In today's episode. I'm excited to talk about gold. Now, if you're someone that's been working in silver and you're interested in working in gold, but perhaps you're a little nervous due to the high cost, hopefully this episode will help you feel a little bit more comfortable with getting started. Before we jump into today's episode, I want to tell you about my favorite work pants. They're made by Dovetail Workwear. These pants are not only cute and comfortable, but they're super durable, perfect for working in the jewelry studio, and Dovetail is offering our community $10 off your order with code METALSMITHSOCIETY. So head over to dovetailworkwear. com/ METALSMITHSOCIETY and you can save 10% off your first pair of work pants.

Corkie Bolton:

I want to begin today's episode by letting you know I'm not a master goldsmith and I'm totally cool admitting that. When I went to college for jewelry making back in the early 2000s, I was on a budget, so my experience working in gold was fairly limited. And then over the years, as I developed my own jewelry line, corky bolt and jewelry, due to the expenses of the materials I was working primarily in silver for many years, but I would dabble in some 14K and some customs. And over the years, as I've been studying engraving and diamond setting, I've become way more comfortable working in gold. I was also fortunate enough to be able to attend Metalsmiths's in Florence this past October Shoutouts to Monica. This trip to Italy involved me working with a master Florentine goldsmith for a week, and that was truly amazing.

Corkie Bolton:

Recently I made a pretty big decision for my business. I decided that I was going to work exclusively in gold. If you want to check out my work, I will put a link to my website in the show notes corkie bolton jewelry. com and to touch upon that briefly, there is more profit in gold jewelry and, as someone who dedicates most of their time to Metalsmith society, this podcast and helping others learn about jewelry making, my time at the bench is limited, and so, if I'm only going to make a few pieces of jewelry a month, it makes sense for me to work in gold, and so I wanted to pass on some of the things that I've learned, hopefully help some of you take the next steps to working in gold, if that's what you're interested in. So let's get started. I'm going to be talking today about 18 carat yellow gold and 14 carat yellow gold, and that's because these are the metals that I use. Golds come in a rainbow of alloys and red golds and yellow golds and a bunch of other alloys that you can imagine, but pretty common to work in 18 carat or 14 carat yellow. So, to define them, 18 carat gold contains 75% gold, while 14 carat gold contains 58.3% gold. Now, because that 14 carat contains a higher percentage of alloyed metals like copper, it provides more durability and resistance to wear and tear, but it's also a little less yellow in its color. I buy my gold primarily from Stuller and Rio Grande, and when it comes to buying it, it's a very similar experience to silver, except for the cost, of course, but you can buy it in sheet form, tube, wire, decorative wire. So really anything that you can purchase for silver you can typically also find in gold.

Corkie Bolton:

The other thing you need to purchase when you start to work in gold is gold solder. Now, gold solder comes in two forms there's plum solder and there's repair solder. Plum solder is what you're gonna wanna purchase when you're fabricating. It's equivalent to the carat value of the gold you're working in. So, for example, the 14 carat plum has that 58.3% pure gold in its formulation. The repair solder is really only gonna be for if you're reattaching a prong or you're sizing a ring, and I, quite frankly, don't use it. It's gonna look more white and have a decreased carat value. So you're definitely gonna wanna purchase the plum. Now, when it comes to the actual, which solder do I purchase? You use the same step down soldering procedure as you would in silver, Meaning your first seam you should start with a hard solder and then subsequent seams you could go to medium. I personally don't tend to use the easy yellow gold solder because I noticed that it does have a slightly more white color and appearance, which will stand out in my solder seam.

Corkie Bolton:

Next we can talk about oxidation and the difference between gold and silver. Most gold alloys don't oxidize as much as silver when they're soldered or annealed properly, so that actually makes soldering gold kind of easier. The oxides that do form on the surface will generally come off in your pickle and you can lightly buff them off as well. Let's talk about fluxes. To protect your gold alloys. You wanna use a barrier flux? Barrier flux can be made by mixing 50-50 boric acid with methyl alcohol, or you can buy a commercial one like fire scoff or supernil. Now that's any time you're heating the metal. So even when you're annealing, it doesn't hurt to coat it with a barrier flux. You will also need to use a flow flux when you're soldering. That could be handy flux or mighty flux.

Corkie Bolton:

Before we talk a little bit more about soldering gold, I want to touch back on annealing. Annealing is essentially the same as when you're annealing your silver, but with yellow gold you're going to bring the metal to more of a visible cherry red and you want to make sure that you anneal nice and evenly. When it comes to the equipment that you're going to use to solder gold. It's going to be the same as your silver. However, a lot of goldsmiths recommend working with a dual gas torch because the dual gas torch systems have smaller, hotter flames. When it comes to your soldering surface, you just want to make sure, if you work both in silver and gold, that your surfaces are clean. You don't want a rogue chip of silver solder to end up splattering onto your gold piece as an example. That's very annoying to remove.

Corkie Bolton:

The same rules apply when soldering gold as to soldering silver. You want your seam to be nice and tight. One little difference is, after you do your barrier flux, you dip it in your boric acid, methyl alcohol mix or one of those commercial ones. You are going to apply that paste flux or mighty flux more on the actual seam itself. You are going to concentrate your flame directly onto the seam that you're soldering. When working in gold, just keep your torch flame there, paying attention, watching the metal for any colors that it's changing. Then, when you see that solder start to flow, just gently pull that flame back. Your experience soldering your gold is going to be very similar to your silver. I think you've got this. You're going to pickle as you normally would.

Corkie Bolton:

Now we can move on to talking about other aspects of working in gold. When you're, let's say, sawing and filing gold, one hot tip is you want to make sure that you collect every single piece of dust, because the gold is substantially more valuable than the silver. I mean, we should all be collecting all of our dust anyhow, but when it comes to working in gold, one tip that I picked up when I was at Metalsmith's in Florence is putting a piece of tissue paper in your bench drawer and that allows every single piece of dust to get collected so that you can later recycle it within your own studio or send it to a refiner. The designing aspect of working in gold you want to design with your budget in mind. In silver, pieces can be a little bit thicker. You're not going to feel that as much in your wallet. But when it comes to the gold, you can save money just by determining the thinnest gauge you can get away with. That will still give you durability.

Corkie Bolton:

Of course, fabrication and forming with gold is the same as working in silver. You just want to pay attention to when your gold needs annealing. You know, go back and anneal it. Get it to that nice cherry red, make sure it's nice and even and polishing. Now a tip I would recommend is keeping separate bits and polishing buffs for your gold work, because little flecks of metal get embedded in there. So if a buff, for example, had a lot of silver embedded on it and then you used it on your gold pieces, there could be some cross contamination. So once you've decided this is going to be a gold buff, take a Sharpie and write gold on it, and that way you can keep that separate.

Corkie Bolton:

If you want to get started working in gold but don't have a ton of money to invest, I have two different suggestions. One is you can start to add little gold components to your silver pieces. This can provide some beautiful contrast and provide greater value to your work without totally breaking the bank. Another way you can do that is you can have gold bezels around your stone but have the back plate be silver. This wouldn't be jewelry making tips with Corkie Bolton if I didn't share about a tip that was shared by our community and talk about it a little bit more in depth.

Corkie Bolton:

Back in 2019, Susan Fawman shared a tip about soldering a gold bezel to a silver back plate and one of the main things that is shown in this tip is a setup which allows you to heat the piece from the bottom, focusing your heat on the silver back plate so as not to melt the gold bezel.

Corkie Bolton:

I have to say that one of the top comments is super helpful. It talks about using potentially 18K or 22K for the bezel because they are much easier to set than 14K, and I can attest to this personally. And it's also mentioned that you might want to end up using silver medium solder to solder the back plate to the bezel. You'll want to be mindful to not use an excess of solder in general, because you don't want the silver solder to go up onto the gold bezel, but I think if you're heating it from the back plate and you're pulling that solder down around the bezel, you shouldn't have a problem, and I think this is great advice. I hope today's episode about gold was helpful to you and if you have more information on working in gold and want to submit a tip, I would love if you emailed it to me over at tips at metalsmithsocietycom. I'll add all this info in today's show notes. I so appreciate you joining me and I'll see you next time.