The 22k custom Jade Queen’s Ring was a pleasure to make, although there were some tricky spots.
22k melts at a higher temperature than 14k, and I had difficulty getting it to really flow and form a nice ingot. I ended up calling Karen and asking her to come down to my studio with her own torch. We were just like Star Trek. I said, “Set phasers to kill!” And we both shot the gold until it melted and flowed…like liquid gold. You didn’t know your jewelry was being made by a closet Trekkie, did you? Now you do.
The rest of the differences in work process all center around 22k gold’s softness.
-Forming the ring was a joy; the texture of annealed high karat gold is chewy and supple and incredibly malleable. It’s easy to make it bend into intricate shapes and textures, easier than 14k. Being just a bit more gentle than I would with 14k, it was a piece of cake.
-The softer texture made it necessary to make the ring a bit thicker than the design was in 14k. I wanted to make sure it would hold up for the ages, and that meant it needed a bit more heft to take daily wear and tear. I had not anticipated this when calculating cost, and I will need to keep this in mind for future pricing.
-After forming and setting the jade, I tumbled the ring in jewelers’ shot to harden it. Tumbling with shot is a type of burnishing: pressing a smooth surface against a softer material until it is flat and compacted; hardened. With 14k, I allow pieces to tumble for an hour or so, but because of 22k’s softness I wanted to tumble the piece for as long as possible to attain maximum hardness, being careful not to over-tumble and cause the ring to become misshapen. I left it in the tumbler, checking it periodically, for about four hours.
-22k’s softness makes it a bit hard to polish. I normally polish gold with felt buffs and jeweler’s rouge, which is an iron compound. This method tears into 22k and leaves it rough, and so polishing must be done by hand. High karat will never take on the reflectiveness of lower karat gold; it will never be super-shiny, but by burnishing and hand rubbing it acquires a gorgeous, warm glow which can’t be found in lesser karats. Tumbling left the piece quite smooth, and then I burnished its tiny little crevices, and hand rubbed with wool until it glowed.
With the extra gold I ordered I made this Hoop Ring.