- The Art of Granulation
Granulation is an ancient art which can be traced back as far as the third millennium B.C. Used by the Egyptians and mastered by the Etruscans, it is the process of ornately decorating jewelry with patterns of tiny gold or silver balls called granules. In the finest examples, the granules, although permanently attached to the piece through the process of fusing, will appear to be merely resting on the surface. Because each granule needs to be individually placed and positioned on the surface, jewelry created using this technique can be very time intensive; taking tens to hundreds of hours to create a single piece depending on its complexity.
Creating a piece of granulated jewelry begins with the design process. Once a gemstone is chosen, a design is developed to highlight and best display the beauty of the stone.
Next, the raw materials are formed into the basic elements for the piece. For my style, a specific alloy of 18K gold is required. Consequently, I must pour an ingot of pure 24K gold with carefully measured amounts of silver and copper to produce the stunning 18K yellow gold used in the jewelry. The ingot is then rolled out into sheet (as seen here) or pulled into wire.
After fabricating the settings, the major elements of the piece are assembled.
It is important to note that to perform granulation, the granules need to be fused to the surface of the gold. Solder would flood the spaces between the granules reducing the intricacy of the piece and create a less than appealing look. Consequently, no solder can be used during the fabrication process as it would cause the piece to fall apart during fusing. Therefore, the entire piece needs to be fused every step of the way. This means firing the piece hot enough to cause just the surface of the gold to melt, but not the entire piece. Since just the surface of the gold melts, it is crucial to have the components fit precisely since there is no solder to fill the gaps between them. It is a very tricky technique that requires great timing and a keen eye.
Having completed the basic assembly of the piece and trimmed off unnecessary parts, it is now ready to be granulated.
To make the granules, wire is drawn down to a smaller diameter and clipped into short lengths. The clippings are then melted into balls and sorted by size.
From there, the granules are painted onto the surface of the gold with a fine brush using a combination of flux, organic glue, and water to temporarily hold them in place until they are fused.
Note: You may notice a green substance on the piece in this picture. That is cupric carbonate which aids in the fusing process.
The piece undergoes one last firing to fuse the granules in place.
Once all of the granules have been fused and individually inspected, the piece can be given a preliminary polish before setting the gemstones. Here I am using a punch and hammer to set the center stone.
After all of the stones have been set and their settings have been cleaned up, the piece is given a final polish and inspection before stringing the pearls and being placed inside its box.
The Trinity Necklace set with .32cts of diamonds and a 1.47ct. chrome tourmaline. The total time it took to create this piece was approximately 40 hours. . . and, of course, years of practice and many melted projects.
For a video of how my work is done, please follow this link here: 18K Granulated Gold Ring Fabrication