makers diary- Alloying the recycled metal

 

It all starts with the metals, their stories, their origin. After being extracted from the circuit boards and purified they make their way to our studio ready to be transformed into the next stage of their life cycle.

The silver and gold are carefully weighed and alloyed.

Sterling silver melts at 893 degrees Celsius and 9K gold at 1040. To get the hot, clean flame required we use an oxy-propane torch. When the metal is perfectly molten and silky it gets poured into the ingot mould.

The edges are always a bit sharp from the ingot mould so they need some filing before it is rolled to the required thickness.

The metal needs to be annealed every so often during the manufacturing process. We heat it to a dull red and then quench the ingot by plunging it into water straight away, reducing the stress within the metal and making it more malleable. This process is the starting point of every piece and a particularly good way to warm up the studio at the beginning the day.

 

Makers Diary- Pouring the upcycled silver ingot

 

With the ingot prepared the manufacturing process now depends on the demands of a particular design. Our immersion in jewellery has encouraged us to see the world differently, small details we didn't notice before are suddenly our biggest sources of inspiration. We derive many of our forms from tiny details in the natural world.

Each studio day is different but will almost always involve the slow meditative work of carefully piercing out shapes with a jeweller’s saw. This fine blade is less than a third of a millimetre thick. As the saw does its work the silver and gold dust is caught in leather pouches under the workbenches; this will be melted again to create the next piece. After further annealing the metal can be shaped and formed around a variety of steel tools, depending on the design.

Another common task is making silver or gold wire by pulling a narrow ingot through a drawplate with holes of gradually decreasing size.  Slowly, a fraction of a millimetre at a time, the correct gauge is created.

The final step is always hallmarking the piece. In this case a small 375 stamp to denote 9K gold (37.5 percent gold, 62.5 percent alloy).

 

Makers Diary- Handcrafted jewellery

 

Jewellery uses all four of the natural elements in its production. The metals themselves are part of the structure of the earth, air and fire melt and anneal and water quenches. There is something primordial in working so closely with the elements, something grounding.

 

Makers Diary- Studio shop

Photographer: Lydia Harper