I love the deep and warm luster of gold. Especially high carat gold is so wonderful! I don't however like the price of it. So, what to do, when you want the warmth and sumptuousness of gold and don't have the bucks to pay for it? You gold-plate. But I don't like that. To me it's fake. It's turning silver (or brass for that matter) into something that is designed to look as if it's gold and I really dislike fakes. Leather, stone, wood, metal -whatever, just be the real thing and don't hide what you are. Plastic is a honest material, as long as it doesn't try to look as if it's something else.
But I'm ranting. I was talking about gold. My solution to the thoughts above is to either introduce limited amounts of gold in balls or wires or to partly gild the silver. usually you would use gold leaf and glue it on, but here I again dislike the notion. I want my jewelry to last. Sure it will acquire patina and a few scratches, but II hate the idea of gluing on something, that might come off again a tad too quickly. The solution was keum boo.
Keum boo is a gilding technique said to be invented in Korea, but used through out asia to decorate metallic objects. Here is the recipe:
1) Depleat silver until the surface consistst of only fine silver by repeatedly heating and quenching.
2) heat up the item to be gilded
3) Apply the gold while pressuring it down with a burnisher
Okaythen, I thought. How hard can this be? So I bought some gold leaf (most references said gold foil, but hey -isn't that roughly the same?) and got a small hot plate and I was ready and threw myself into creating a lovely flower for a pendant and "depleated" it thoroughly (most joints re-opened as I heated the piece thoroughly to almost orange). And off to applying, using my torch to heat it up.
Well, first of all, gold leaf is horrible to work with! It's so lightweight and thin, that you can barely breathe when working with it. The heat from the piece made it virtually impossible to force the leaf down onto the surface! I swore and remembered to have heard that some ancient japanese nobles committed suicide by inhaling flakes of gold leaf, which attached itself to the inside of the lungs, hence suffocating the rich man to death -so much more neat and luxurious a death than seppuku, if you feel inclined to go that way...
Anyways - the gold didn't stick very well at all (perhaps I shouldn't have made a coarse surface either) and after 4 layers, I thought that it was okay.
Then I realized I had to make another joint and soldered -bye-bye gold! It almost vanished! Argh!
So I applied another 2 layers, by now quite tired of the whole thing, and when it still didn't work, I ended up gluing it on. Damn. Not what I wanted. The pendant came out nicely, but i didn't like to put it on sale because of the involved glue.
So, back to research. I now found a number of more specific articles online, the best being the one from the Jewelry Artist
What I learned was:
1) Gold FOIL is necessary! You have to be able to actually cut it with a knife or scissors. So found a supplier and ordered 10x10 cm of 24 carat gold foil
2) When depleating, it's only necessary to heat until the piece turns dark before quenching and brushing with a brass brush. When the piece doesn't turn dark anymore, it's ready.
3) Have every part cut beforehand
4) Use a hot plate and put the item to be gilded on a sheet of brass or copper and then on the hot plate
So, here we go again, this time a bit simpler: a pair of FLAT earrings!
Here's the gold foil
Here I've cut it out through protective paper
Here they are on the copper sheet ready to be heated
Success! The stuff sticks! A bit hard not to scratch it with the burnisher though, but it's nice!
I engraved some patterns AFTER the keum boo process
After oxydization and finishing, this is what they look like:
More pictures here. I'm happy. It was a tough ride and I was very frustrated, but now I know (roughly) how to work with this technique and will definitely do it again!