Monday, July 24, 2017

Stories of a Country Jeweler: What actually is a karat of gold?

Welcome back to Stories of a Country Jeweler! We are continuing the educational theme of the last few posts, and are back to answer more of your questions about gold! Today's question is: what is the difference between karats of gold? Can you make colored gold in different karats?

Simply put, the karat of gold is the percent weight of pure gold that is within the metal alloy. For example, 24k gold is gold that is %100 pure, while 10k gold is gold that only has 41.7% pure gold within its alloy. Here is the full list of commonly referenced karats:

24 karat = 100% gold (or "Pure" gold)

22 karat = 91.7 % gold
18 karat = 75.0 % gold
14 karat = 58.3 % gold
12 karat = 50.0 % gold
10 karat = 41.7 % gold

Is there really a noticeable difference between karats of gold though? Yes. Definitely. Pure gold (24k) is an incredibly bright yellow, soft, and heavy metal. While the warm golden color is beautiful, 24k is actually not the best karat for jewelry that is meant to be worn everyday: every scratch and dent will be visible in this soft metal. We work mostly in 14k (and some 18k) because at 14k the alloy has been strengthened with other metals which make the gold more resilient for everyday use.

Note how much paler 10 k yellow gold is than 18k yellow!
What makes up the other percentage in the gold alloy will depend on the color of gold that is desired. If yellow gold is what is desired, silver and copper are added to the alloy. If rose gold is the aim, silver and copper will still be added, but the ratio of silver to copper will not be the same as in yellow gold. More copper is added, which gives the gold its beautiful rosy color!

Green gold can be achieved through the mixtures of various metals, but mainly silver and zinc. White gold is made by mixing together many different metals, primarily nickel. The higher karat you want to achieve means that less other-colored metals can be added, and so the more yellow the metal will remain. 

For items of jewelry that will be worn everyday, such as wedding rings or a beloved bracelet, we highly recommend choosing either 18k, 14k, or 12k because it is in this range that the gold retains a beautiful color (and considerable monetary worth) while also being strong enough to withstand everyday wear.

14K Yellow River Ring, 14k White Pooled Ring, 14k Rose Bark Ring, 14k Yellow Perfectly Puddled Ring

Friday, July 21, 2017

Stories of A Country Jeweler: How is your gold so springy?

Welcome to Stories of a Country Jeweler, an ongoing blog series that talks about anything from miraculously finding lost jewelry to quick lessons on jewelry making! Today, we will be explaining one of your most frequently asked questions: what makes your gold jewelry so springy?

Here is a quick video of our anticlastic cuff bracelet. Note how the cuff is only flexible in one direction: read on to find out why!

The short answer is: well, it depends on how you work your gold whether or not it will come out soft and flexible, or hard and springy (like ours).

By hammering gold while it is cold, you cause the very atoms of the element to rearrange themselves and to lock together. This increases the tensile strength of the gold, allowing it to have better "memory." Memory is when a piece of gold remembers what shape it was hammered into. In our case, it would mean that the gold remembers the shape of the bracelet or earring it was formed into, and so it springs back into shape after you twist it to put it on your wrist or ear.

So you don't heat your gold at all when you work with it? Again, yes and no. We heat the gold ingot once at the very beginning, which softens the gold and allows us to begin work on the item. This process, of heating and softening/relaxing, is called annealing. If you heat gold too much, or if you don't work harden the gold again after, the gold loses almost all of its memory and goes completely "soft." Gold that is totally soft is almost useless as jewelry because any little scratch, dent, or bend will show in the metal. Soft gold is also liable to easily bend (and not spring back) and then break at the bent point.

The final shape of the piece also lends to the strength and springy nature of the jewelry. Most of our bracelets start out in the same manner: after being slightly softened, Bill mills the ingots several times to produce a sheet of metal roughly the same thickness as the desired finished product. He then uses a press to get the basic shape formed. When Bill first began making bracelets, he would hammer a bracelet straight out the flat ingot. However, the amount of hammering and work hardening that went into hand hammering the gold frequently over worked the gold, causing there to be so much stress and tension between the gold atoms that the gold would snap in half. The use of the press puts much less stress on the gold from the very beginning, allowing us to actually work and shape the gold more (before it reaches the breaking point from tension)

There are two main styles of hammering that Bill works in: synclastic and anticlastic:

Synclastic Hoop Earrings

  • Synclastic means that all the curves of a piece curve in the same direction. Think of the earth: latitude and longitude. While longitude wraps vertically around the globe, and latitude wraps horizontally, they both curve inward in the same direction. This type of forming allows a piece to bend/spring in on that shared curve. 

Anticlastic Cuffs

  • An anticlastic curve is one where the radial and axial curves do not curve in the same direction. Think of a Pringles chip. The horizontal curve bends upward, while the vertical (lengthways) curve bends down. These two opposing curves pull on each other, creating strength and flexibility in an outward manner.

To achieve these curves is simply another process of work hardening and hammering. As Bill so wonderfully put it, being a goldsmith is wonderfully simple work. Just by hitting the gold with a hammer, the gold spreads out and rearranges itself, forming natural curves. That is, when the gold is hit, the gold is spread out and away from the hit point. That spreading gold piles up in other areas, causing the gold to curve. It is simply by learning various metallurgical principles that allows you to harness this natural desire to curve that you can make springy bracelets! 

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Summer Garden Update

Happy Independence Day from your friends at Harvest Gold Gallery! Summer is now in full swing and more exciting news and events are around every corner. The sunny season goes by in the blink of an eye, so make sure you enjoy it with us before it turns to winter! 

The garden is growing well with the weekly 
rains we've been scheduled for here in Center Lovell, but we haven't been without our sunny days. The leafy greens, spinach and lettuce, have sprouted and are multiplying at a staggering rate. Our peas have blossomed, which we expect to harvest a good crop of this summer. We have invested in new sprinklers (Rain Tree 360 Microsprinklers) that make irrigating the beds a snap! The three amaryllis Lynda's Grandmother sent from Florida about 35 years ago from have turned into eighty flowers and a testament to Bill's green thumb. They are happy to have been moved outside. Lilac bushes have been trimmed, and the never-ending task of weeding continues. Next on the list is to fill our new flower box with soil so our already flowering strawberries can have a nice home in the sun.Looking ahead, a new patch of eager-to-be-eaten raspberries and an enormous crop of peaches. While in years past we have grown many delicious peaches from our own tree, last year a branch broke away and made us worried we would lose a good portion of the fruit. Thanks to some help from Eli Hutchins, from Hutch's Property and Tree, we were able to splint the branch back onto the tree. It seems like the harvest will be golden (pun intended)!

Visit our beautiful sculpture garden to see stone sculptures by Joe Graystone, metal work by Cricket Forge, glass works by Nathan Macomber, Music of the Spheres wind chimes, wind spinners by Craig Riches. Don't forget to take a selfie to check off stop number twenty-four in the Arts category on your tour of Down East Magazine's Great Maine Scavenger Hunt of 2017.

To play, you can do any combination of the activities on the list of forty given. Complete all the tasks in a single category from Outdoors, Food & Drink, History, Arts, Events, Landmarks, to Family, to win a matted print of the cover of the special Summer 2017 issue, along with a photo feature in an issue of Down East. If you're really determined, complete all forty tasks and you'll win a 10-year subscription to Down East, a matted souvenir photomosaic of your 40 selfies, and an invitation to visit the editorial offices of Down East in Rockport, where an identical photomosaic of your achievement will hang for one year! For proof of each task, regardless of how many you happen complete, submit a selfie at All entries are due before Labor Day. Below is a map of each activity provided by Down East. See if you can spot us!

We suspect a large portion of scavengers will be visiting our open house, coming up soon on Friday, July 14th from 3pm to 6pm. Each activity is a prize in itself, especially on our open house night, so let us know when you visit our garden if you're on the Great Maine Scavenger Hunt! We might even sneak into your selfie.😀 


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