Tuesday, December 15, 2009

14k gold plating

Jewelrymaking is a craft that can be a lifelong triumph. There are many fine skills that must be mastered and all the elements of the trade take years of experience and practice to conquer. The understanding of metals and knowledge of gems seems explicit when one is introduced to all the tools used in this craft. There are hand tools of course and then there are the power tools. I am limited to what I can accomplish at home with my files, saws, mini torch, crock pot and Dremel with all it's various attachments. There are certain things I want to make (and maybe someday will have the tools to do myself) that I need to outsource and that is when I hop on my bike and ride up to 47th street, the jewelry exchange. Within one block's length is a metallic world of jewelry heaven—you have the salesmen in the storefronts and the makers above and below, stacked one on top of the other. Each and every craftsman specializes in a different skill—there's the contractors, the mold makers, the casters, the polishers, the stone setters... it seems obvious, it just might be impossible to do it all!

One of my absolute favorite masters is Zaven. After 40 years in the exchange, he certainly knows the ropes. You buzz through 2 locked doors to enter his tiny studio, crammed with all the equipment to get any job done. Today, he is gold plating my sterling silver faceted drip pendants. He gave me a little lesson in how it's done.

Zaven Sarafyan

I was amazed to discover that 14 karat gold liquid is purple!
And everything is electronically charged through this machine.
Here's Zaven's full plating setup.
First step in preparation to gold plate my pendants was to string them on copper wire.
Zaven cleans and activates them in a chemical solution.


Then he rinses them with a quick steam bath.

Then they are shaken around in the 14k solution for about a minute where they bubble and fizz a bit.
Here they have just been pulled out and are magically gold!

Zaven whips out his little portable hair dryer and blows them dry to prevent any water marks.


And they are beautifully plated! When the base metal is sterling, like these are, and they are coated in gold, the fancy name is vermeil.


Every little drip of any of the solutions that Zaven uses, he saves and disposes of correctly. He really has his system down pat!
Thanks Zaven for my lesson in plating and for always doing a wonderful job with whatever you touch!

2 comments:

  1. Thanks so much for posting this. I've always wondered how the process works. I really enjoy your blog. Thanks again for sharing.

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  2. THIS WONDERFULLY MADE MACHINE WEIGHS 4 OUNCES AND HAS A BALANCED DESIGNED TO FLOW WITH THE WEIGHT OF THE TUBE, THUS GIVING AN OVERALL FEEL OF VIRTUAL WEIGHTLESSNESS.

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