I’m often asked which is my favorite technique…
And what I always answer is “whichever one I’m working in at the time,” because I love them all!
After months of hammering my heart out via the technique of Eastern Repoussé, I’ve been up to my eyeballs in tiny orbs…granules that is, as I’m finishing up the demos for my intermediate level Granulation Bead course for those who have already studied sterling granulation with me (or taken my Craftsy.com course on sterling granulation).
Knowing that I’ll get questions about how I achieve the blues and magenta patina colors and also how I do kum boo (or keum boo) on rounded surfaces, I’m including those demos as well!
Granulation dates back at least 4700 years to Mesopotamia and later in Egypt with stunning examples like the gold daggers found in Tutankhamun‘s tomb. It was the Etruscans who perfected the technique for classical gold jewelry, the Greeks who adopted the processes, and the Celts and Saxons who kept it going for another millennia or so.
Recently, I was interviewed about ancient techniques for a novelist’s research project and delved back in to images of the Tara Brooch and the Saxon hoards. What is often described by historians as ‘filigree’ is technically granulation even if no granules are present. For jewelers and metalsmiths, granulation means that the decorative elements are fused to the supporting sheet without solder. The process of fusing is sometimes called “eutectic soldering” because it relies on a diffusion bond that happens within alloys of high karat gold or sterling.
That’s the technical side though…
What I love about granulation jewelry is that metal can look like lace with woven curves and braided twists, belying the metal’s inherent durability and strength. How utterly amazing that something so tiny and delicate can withstand the extreme heat of a torch’s flame for so long that the whole thing might almost melt into a ball, but it does not! With the right skills and timing of that flame it’s possible to perfectly join the elements together with no solder alloy in between, to create delicacy that last for thousands of years.
Mostly nowadays most granulation patterns are limited to merely triangles and diamonds, so I enjoy brining a slightly wild and more modern aspect to my work. It’s fun to design freeform styles that feel as if the granules might roll in and around their supporting wires like a child’s toy. It’s also fun to channel my metalsmithing ancestors and fuse rare pattens like braided wire.
Watch the Magic
Another thing I love is that, through online teaching, I can take students so much deeper into the skills of intermediate and advanced projects! Having my own metalsmithing school means that the courses I create are no longer bound by who wants what when and where, with me spacing them out so I can travel to and from the ‘where.’ I can now create and offer so much more for people around the world who love learning contemporary spins on ancient techniques.
My intermediate Granulation Bead course is for past students of my sterling Granulation and Granulation Rings classes (in-person, online, or from Craftsy.com). We’ll circumnavigate seamless tubing with wire and sphere granulation in classic and contemporary designs to create beads and modular components for endless design combinations. Expect to create at least 3 fused, sterling beads.