Kintsugi in Metal: “A Lasting Beauty Born out of Brief Destruction”

*The quote in the title is from Becky Chambers’ novel, A Prayer for the Crown-Shy

This is an excerpt from one of the articles about my process title Precious Damage in MJSA by Tina Snyder from 2020:

““One of the key realizations I made when first looking into this project was that others had made jewelry to mimic Kintsugi, but the cracks their designs employed were contrived and unrealistic,” he says. “I sought metal that I could crack and then ‘repair’ with gold, as well as metal that I could blacken that would be suitable for jewelry and remain dark with wear.”

“…Gibeon meteorite. “I make a lot of meteorite rings,” he says. “It’s not ideal when they crack—but in this case, it was actually perfect.”

Timberlake began by fabricating an 18k gold liner from 26-gauge sheet to the correct finger size. He then put a slice or slab of meteorite through a rolling mill without annealing to encourage cracking. Next he carved a donut shape out of the nickel-iron meteorite that fit precisely over the liner, leaving almost no gap between the two where he will later solder them together. He then hammered it on a mandrel, again without annealing, causing yet more cracks, jagged, natural-looking cracks, to grow and break the ring apart in three pieces. “It’s pretty brittle, so if you don’t hot roll or hot forge, it’s prone to crack.”

The next technical challenge was fusing the 18k gold into the cracks. “Soldering gold to meteorite is tricky,” he says. An article on soldering stainless steel with black flux by James Binnion proved instrumental in the success of this ring.

“The black flux doesn’t burn off as fast as white paste flux, and it shields the metal for longer,” says Timberlake. “It prevents the iron from oxidizing up until the point where the gold flows.”

With the ring assembled and finished, Timberlake blackened the meteorite by heating it and dropping it into machine oil—a trick he learned from his blacksmith friends. A treatment with Renaissance wax sealed the color in, and the precious damage was complete.”

Here are some of the early thoughts on Kintsugi (most of which are covered in her piece): The ring is composed of Gibeon meteorite and 18kt yellow gold. The goal was to make a ring with realistic cracks of yellow gold in a dark gray or black metal. One of the key realizations I made when first looking into this project was that others had made jewelry to mimic kintsugi (the japanese technique of repairing b oken pottery with gold lacquer) but that the cracks their designs employed were contrived and unrealistic. I sought metal that I could crack and then “repair” with gold as well as metal that I could blacken that would be suitable for jewelry and remain dark with wear. I did experiments with 5 different metals and found that only nickel-iron meteorite would work and it cracked beautifully (at one point I considered purchasing liquid nitrogen to in order to crack titanium).  My next technical challenge was to fuse 18kt yellow gold into the cracks. Soldering to meteorite is tricky but something I’d done before. This, however, was quite a bit more challenging. I wear-tested the final product for a few months before custom making the first ring for a client. I know employ this Japanese-inspired technique in many types of jewelry as well as making custom wedding bands.

The Cosmic Dust Process

Space wedding band jewelry men's ring black ring gold stars night sky

I created this series of rings from 316 stainless steel tubing and recycled 18kt yellow gold dust and filings. I love how one single gold dust grain can fuse to the steel without pooling onto another group of grains. Although it doesn’t happen often, the resulting appearance is what I think of as ‘The Quiet Universe’, in that most of space is empty except for possibly some kind of dark matter and across the vast and empty light years spread far and wide are (relatively) tiny pockets of matter, some in the form of solar systems, black holes, globular clusters and the occasional lone spec of interstellar dust. It’s so quiet. So quiet. and still. I look forward to branching out into necklaces, earring and bracelets as well as including meteorite in lieu of the stainless steel.

Mokume Gane FAQs

How do you pronounce mokume gane?

Moh-coo-may Gah-nay

What is mokume gane?

Mokume gane is an ancient Japanese technique that involves fusing alternating layers of precious metals. Mokume gane translates to “wood eye metal.” The patterns of the metal resemble the patterns seen in woodgrains. Click here to learn more about how we make our mokume. Continue reading…

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It’s wonderful that there is so much information about diamonds out there! You can really dive in and learn all about them before you buy one, but all of that information can be a little overwhelming. I mean, where do you start? The answer is right here. Continue reading…

Colorado Aquamarine

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We have been sourcing U.S. gems and stones for years. It really dates all the way back to when Chris went on a family vacation to a sapphire mine in Montana when he was about 13 years old. After a day of digging, and with a hand filled with sapphires, Chris was hooked. Continue reading…

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On a family expedition years ago to the Diamond Bar sapphire mine outside of Helena, Montana, I got hooked on the treasure hunt of gem mining. It wasn’t limited to experts – anyone can do it – and even a 13-year-old beginner is guaranteed to find something. The tools are water and a shovel, wieldy for anyone from a teenager to a retiree. It’s an immediate adventure, a hands-on quest that both suits and feeds the independent spirit of the explorer.

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Tiger’s Eye and Moonstone: June’s Alternative Birthstones

If you were lucky enough to be born in June, you have not one, but four gemstone options to commemorate your birthday. Perhaps it’s perfect that Geminis, the chameleons of the zodiac, have classic pearls, rare alexandrite, ethereal moonstones and bold tiger eye to choose from. Equally beautiful and unique, moonstone and tiger’s eye make very different visual statements.

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Chrysoprase: The Other May Birthstone

Cuttlefish sterling silver earrings with chrysoprase - Christopher Taylor Timberlake Fine Art Jewelry

When you think of May, a brilliant green gemstone might come to mind. Of course! The glorious and ostentatious emerald hogs the spotlight this time of year. But there’s an equally beautiful, lesser-known green stone sharing the month of May. Chrysoprase.

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Meteorite rings on a piece of raw Meteorite - Muonionalusta meteorite how to wear and care for meteorite rings and jewelry

An Uncommon Material

Meteorite is not the most common material for jewelry so naturally we answer many questions and address many concerns about how meteorite should be worn and how it changes as it is worn.

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