Handmade Gold Jewelry
Gold is the most malleable of all metals. One gram of it and this is not very much in volume due to its high density (19.3gm per cubic cm) can easily be beaten to a sheet of 1square meter or drawn to a wire 2km in length. Gold also does not tarnish and is inert, in its purest form it does not change colour in air or in water. Another advantage it had right from its discovery is that it was found almost pure. Silver and copper are just about the only elements in small quantities mixed with it. A relatively low melting point of 1064 degree Celsius meant that it could be melted down with the basic furnaces which were at early cultures’ disposal.
So it is not a surprise that from all the metals available in the early days of civilization gold had all the advantages a metal smith or jeweller could hope for. It is very clean even during heating, oxidization is low and joining pieces with solders, gold alloys at a slightly lower melting point, is a much easier task as if it were, let’s say, copper.
The oldest artifacts in gold were found on the Balkan and were dated back to the 4th millennium BC. The Egyptian treasures and hieroglyphs describing early refining and metal smith techniques are legendary. The Greek were the first to introduce gold as currency and the Romans advanced the technology and discovered new mining methods. Of course the Incas were the ones with the largest gold reserve the then known world had ever seen. Much of it melted down by the Spanish in their greed to enrich themselves and to prop up their empire.
It is worth considering that due to plundering, ignorance and disrespect to ancient cultures, gold that has been melted down over and over could in minute particles have ended up in anyone’s jewellery today. So some jewellery that one wears today could easily contain traces of gold already worn by a pharaoh or an Inca high priest. This is of course not traceable but in theory quite plausible.
Gold has never lost its appeal and since it became a hedge against inflation the desire to own it has become even greater. But it is a fact that the gold production has actually declined over the years. Gold deposits have diminished and not many new ones have been found.
Handmade Gold Jewellery is today part of every culture. I find it quite fascinating, having travelled through some of the poorest nations on earth to see that women and girls in worn out clothes and begging still wear a pair of gold hoop earrings, a nose ring or other gold ornaments. India today is one of the largest markets for gold jewellery. Gifts to the bride and the financial security for women are long standing traditions. This of course resulted in a huge manufacturing industry with jewellers creating amazing pieces of unequaled intricacy. And this quite often in conditions and with tools not imaginable for us ‘spoiled’ western goldsmiths. The ones I had witnessed were sitting and working on the floor in semi darkness soldering with a very basic blowpipe.
In the Western World today’s’ style of contemporary handmade gold jewellery is very much a universal style. It has become difficult to determine where it actually comes from. There are only traces left which distinguish an Italian, French, German or American style. Globalization, international advertisement and marketing have made sure that we all pretty much like similar things. The only differences still left in handmade gold jewellery come from individual companies. The big names, Cartier, Bulgari, Tiffany, van Cleef and Arpels etc. all produce highly individual jewellery that have a recognizable style.
The future for handmade gold jewellery is very bright. A trade with a history like no other and a steady appetite for beautiful things ensures that there will always be jewellers in high demand.