Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Making Black Hills Gold Jewelry

How is Black Hills Gold Jewelry made?

Different Black Hills Gold jewelry manufacturing companies have somewhat different processes for creating a finished piece of jewelry out of raw gold. But the process will always begin with 24K gold grain, and a vision!

The following steps are part of Landstrom’s unique process – watch the video below for an excellent tutorial.

Pure gold is 24 karat, and is very soft. Mixing the gold with other metals creates an alloy, a stronger composition that will hold up to wear and maintain its beauty and characteristics. This is how 14 karat, 12 karat and 10 karat gold are made.

Ever wonder how the pink and green Black Hills Gold leaves are made? Well, copper is mixed with gold to create the pink colored gold while mixing Sterling silver with gold results in the delicate green color.

Gold Bars
The gold grain is alloyed and then cast in bars, which are then rolled into different thickness sheets as required by the various designs.

Leaves and other jewelry components, as well as some thinner ring shanks are then stamped out of these sheets. Another process used to make rings is casting.
Black Hills Gold Leaves
The new design begins as a drawing and then a three dimensional model is intricately carved out of wax. From this design, a metal model is produced which is then used to produce a rubber mold by surrounding the model with rubber and heating it until all the rubber melts. When the rubber mold cools, hot wax is then injected into the rubber mold and a detailed wax form of the model is made. Wax models are then placed in a flask, which is filled with a substance much like plaster of Paris. The filled flask is then heated to over 1000 ˚F, melting the wax and creating a casting. This is what is called the “lost wax casting method”. Molten gold is then poured into the casting and when cooled, the basic piece of jewelry is formed.

Next these pieces go to the Grinding Department where they are worked on by hand until smooth.

In the Soldering Department, leaves and grapes are permanently attached and then the pieces are dipped in a solution of 24 karat gold, a process called electroplating.

The pieces are then worked on further by hand: Wriggling is a process, which removes the electroplating and creates the frosty finish on the pink and green leaves.Wriggling Once the wriggling process is done its time for the Engraving Department where Landstrom’s skilled craftsmen still hand engrave veins into each leaf.

In the Polishing Department, jewelry pieces undergo several steps to bring out the full, rich luster of each piece.

Jewelry pieces requiring stones go to the Stone Setting Department where genuine or synthetic stones are set.

Then it’s off to Final Inspection, where the jewelry is checked and tagged and packaged in the distinctive Landstroms box.

Inspecting JewelryFrom the first step to the final inspection, each piece of Landstroms Original Black Hills Gold reflects the skills of up to 50 different highly trained artisans.
Watch our amazing video below....

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

The History of Black Hills Gold Jewelry

It was back in July, 1874 when General George Armstrong Custer led a battalion of men from the US Cavalry into the Black Hills of what is now South Dakota. At the time this “Dakota Territory” was inhabited predominantly by the Sioux Indians which were considered a hostile threat to settlers. Custer’s expedition consisted of a host of skilled personnel and had been dispatched mainly to protect railroad workers from the Sioux. One of Custer’s personnel, Horatio N. Ross served as a miner for the Cavalry and it was he that found the first twinkle of gold in the clear waters of French Creek leading to what is praised today as the last great North American gold rush.
As a result, the area boomed with prospectors, outfitters, gamblers and prostitutes giving rise to the town of Deadwood. The lawlessness of the town attracted both the famous, and the infamous. Notorious figures such as Wild Bill Hickok , Calamity Jane and Hickok’s murderer, Jack McCall all sprang from the wild raucousness of the area.
Henri LeBeauDuring this time, Henri LeBeau, a French prospector and goldsmith came out west to make his fortune. Lost, destitute and nearing starvation, Henri dreamed one night of the lush vineyards of his French homeland. When he had awakened, he heard water running from a stream. Following the stream, Henri found and ate grapes which are native to South Dakota, giving him the strength to survive.
Henri settled in the Black Hills and began crafting jewelry using three colors of gold with designs representing the grapes and leaves that had saved his life... and Black Hills Gold jewelry was born!
Landstrom's roots date back to 1878 when S.T. Butler, trainedS.T. Butler by Henri LeBeau, opened the first Black Hills Gold jewelry manufacturing store with his son, George M. Butler in Deadwood. In 1919, the company was divided into two companies, the F.L. Thorpe Company and the Black Hills Jewelry Manufacturing Company. In 1944 Ivan Landstrom bought the Black Hills Jewelry Manufacturing Company and in 1995 Black Hills Gold history went full circle when Landstrom's acquired the F.L. Thorpe Company making Landstrom's the sole owner of all the original Black Hills Gold designs!