Thomas's Skipton UK Diamonds Fine jewellery and Watches
36 Sheep Street, Skipton. North Yorkshire. United Kingdom. BD23 1HY Tel: 0044 (0) 1756 795353
Making a Gold Chain
There are benefits to you between hand-made and machine-made gold chains.
Our chain maker is a couple of blokes you can enjoy a pint with and talk about life, they are not some of those delightfully precious people who we also are privileged to work along side. They are the remains of a dedicated team who know that their skills are appreciated by our customers. As they are able to turn their skills to most gold wire bashing, they are able to offer a commision and repair service. So talk to us if you need a bracelet lengthening, a new link making - whatever. See the range of patterns at www.chainlynk.co.uk
We believe that our hand made chains stand comparison with any on the grounds of quality in wearability, in craftsmanship.
While Roy and Alllan are typically Brummy in not overstating their skills given a piece of gold wire they could turn it into a piece of jewellery - that is real craft, a ends with a desirable object of beauty that wears beautifully.
When I asked them on a recent visit to the factory to justify why his chains retailed for between 10% and 30% more he said he couldn't. Then he showed me round the factory with my camera, and more than justified the prices.
Traditional Values and traditional methods.
Respect and understanding of the how and why chains are made and where there is a benefit to a new way adopting it, but looking always for the benefit to the design of the object and an understanding of how it will wear, and how it can be made so that it will wear better.
Probably dating back hundreds of years in concept, and this one could itself be Victorian - a bench and windlass drawing "machine". It has to be said that you don't find one of these in use every day, it having be supplanted by this 1920's wonder
Chain making is not rocket science, it is traditional Birmingham metal pulling and bashing, or as we think of Len and his team "Engineers in Gold".
These are the tools that make gold wire into the shape the chain-maker has chosen with which to construct his next chain. The wire is filed so that it pokes through the draw-plate and then the claw vice is tightened and the chain firmly drawn through the plate so that it is just a bit thinner and longer. This process is aided by beeswax, and after each drawing the wire is annealed. Machine drawn chain may be taken through a line of these plates, but is not annealed at each stage, this is a major difference and a benefit in the final product which does not pre - age hardening, the annealing softens and makes the gold malleable.
The open secret of hand made chains is that they are regularly heated to high temperatures during their manufacture to anneal the gold, and then quenched.
The molecular structure of each section is continually allowed to reform and so does not develop splints and weaknesses that could lead to stress cracking and premature age hardening.
Having drawn the wire through the plates that have reduced the wire to the required size and shape, and then annealed the wire to make it workable the wire is introduced to a machine, a hand brace with a steel rod or mandrill. The gold wire is wound on and gives a standard sized ring. Each link has its own template or stave.
There are many to choose from, as even the same pattern in a different gauge needs a new stake. Typically a chain will use three shapes to make an interesting link. Use the wrong size and the chain will be stiff or will be wobbly.
Winding on a heavier gauge will be done with a brace. Tensioning the pliable annealed wire into a spring like spiral. Lighter gauge wire may bring into play some high tech!
An electric drill used with a small former, and the wire run onto the spinning tool by hand. Don't try this at home! As will be seen later it is essentials that the drill works in both directions.
Again the wires are annealed and quenched, and cleaned by post quenching in acid and drying off to avoid water marks, and for safety from acid drops!
Finally the springs are sawn to give a box of evenly sized wire rings.
Another rare mechanical tools- used for efficiency and because it gives a better result.
Note gold does not look so lovely while being processed.
Take a section of round wire and form a ring round or oval and you have a trace link, this is the most simple to describe.
The first modifications you can make are to twist the links so that the links lie alongside each other.
This produces the Curb chain, a simple twist of 90 degrees to the right. So simple that trace and curb are staple machine made chains. Note that the pliers are lined with copper so as to avoid marking the gold unintentionally.
A different alteration is made if you shape the round wire by drawing it through a D shaped hole, so the wire becomes D shaped. These linked together with the flat sides on the inside of the ring produce the dear handsome link, The Bel Cher, the Belcher.
Extending a wire from a round Trace link to an extended oval forms a Fetter link You could twist this and form a fetter curb. You could have a fetter belcher.
Linking standard links with fettered links produces a Figaro chain, or figaro curb etc. The number of small links to fetter links helps describe even further, so you can have a 1/1 figaro curb, or a 3/1 figaro belcher etc etc.
If the Curb link is filed along the wider surface to produce a flatter chain this can be finished with a diamond tool to give a sharp shine surface. These are either file or DC [diamond cut] curbs. The same process can apply to many links. o you can gave a DC Figaro 3/1 curb.
Trombone Links are formed when two fetter links are joined together so that parts of the long part of the oval touch. These can be twisted like a curb, but now the twist looks very different a twisted trombone. Formed links are regularly quenched after the heating to keep the gold workable. As an experiment Roy created a right hand twist link to see if this appealled to left handed people, as yet the experiment has proved inconclusive.
Solder used to join the two ends of a link together comes in a number of options, Hard, medium and easy, reflecting the temperatures at which the solder runs. If all the links in a complex bracelet were made to run at the same temperature, the work would come undone each time heat was applied. So where different links are joined together, those later in the process will have an easy solder, while those early links, such as this trombone may have a hard solder. Clever Machine made links are all clamped together so that just one easy solder can be used. This makes for problems should the chain ever need repair!
Our links are all formed into a chain, and at this stage the necklet is cleaned and sent to the Assaymaster's Office, where samples will be taken of gold, of solder, of fittings to ensure that the 750 18ct or the 375 9ct or the 950 platinum standard has been achieved as a minimum on every test. The hallmark is applied and the chain returned to be finished.
Cleaning involves getting rid of the fire marks and requires that the bracelet is suspended as an anode in a cyanide bath! You will appreciate that this requires good ventilation. The close up catches the sparking from the conductive rod.
The chain is then tumbled in a cleaning medium of steel bearings some shaped like double ended torpedoes.
This process actually hardens off the surface and makes the chain's finish more durable.
Finally we enter the polishing room, where each link is give a showroom finish by using at least grades of rouge compound on a motorised lap. A hot bath with ultrasound to clean any compound away, and the final drying off to avoid water stains.
A lot of different processes, skills, and dedication produces some very fine chains.
Of course there are tricks of the trade, mainly concerning how the end product can be made better. So here's one secret: Remember when the wire was coiled onto a stake, well it has be found that links have a memory, and if all the links are wound on the same way the resulting chain will have a bias and will wear with a twist. It is necessary to have some of the links wound on in reverse, and to use these links to even out the bias.
My sincere thanks to Roy and Alan of Chainlynk Ltd, of Birmingham UK and former colleagues Len & Lynn for their courtesy and help in producing the images on this page.
Should you reproduce images I just ask that you acknowledge your source.
So to my first question why are these chains retailing for more than machine made chains.
The answer is this Chalk and Cheese.
Chainlynk chains at Thomas's are thoughtfully chosen by us, because the person you give this chain to will appreciate the initial handling and looking at the chain in the box, they will love the feel of weight and comfort in the structure of the chain, and most of all they will love the way the chain wears, whether on neck or wrist. Years on they will appreciate being able to have an extra link added, or a repair to accidental damage. The chain won't fall apart if taken to another proficient goldsmith, there are no ugly surprises for other jewellers.
They are well made, beautiful gifts of jewellery. Thoughtfully chosen by us ... and by you.
A final set of tips.
The costings of jewellery are based on the gold weight, the work and the distribution.
The cost per gram of labour on a light chain has greater price impact than the labour on a heavier chain.
The more grams the more the price, so heavier is dearer, but may be cheaper Per Gram
The gold factor increases again if you opt for 18ct Gold rather than 9ct Gold. But 18ct Gold is not just twice the gold per gram, but each link weighs more grams, therefore costs more than twice the price in gold only terms
White gold costs about 15% more, not just for a dearer alloy but because the white must be Rhodium-plated to give a true and acceptable white.
A mix of white and yellow is currently very fashionable, and fashion in this case costs more.
If you want more than just gold weight, if you want the process by which things are made to benefit you in wear such craftsman ship costs, and it is probably undercosted in this case, for this jewellery should be branded, and if it was you would be paying 50% more again!
Thoughtfully chosen by us ... and by you
Many jewellery items are held in single units please telephone to check availability and alternatives.
Thomas's 36 Sheep Street, Skipton. North Yorkshire. United Kingdom. BD23 1HY
Tel: 0044 (0) 1756 795353 Fax: (0044) ( 0) 1756 700090 Email email@example.com