Dust and tiny pieces of gold repurposed with chopsticks and chemicals
Carolyn A’Hearn is a jewelry maker who doesn’t throw anything away unless it’s the only option. She’s so good in fact, that she let Ash Barhamand create a photo series to shed some light on the process. It reveals how she turns even the smallest scraps of metal into stunning cuffs, earrings, and more. The amount of effort that goes into her work puts in perspective how little time and energy some of us put into doing what we can to recycle and make the most of our resources.
Apart from pieces of scrap metal, A’Hearn even collects the dust from her workbench. It’s then sent off to a refiner where it can be recycled. Some of the tools she uses in her work include chopsticks and boric acid. One is used to manipulate the metal as it melts, while the other protects its fundamental properties.
In the picture below, you can see a mix of 10 karat yellow gold from old castings, metal scraps, and bits of leftover wire. It gets mixed with a little boric acid and placed inside a carved charcoal brick for melting. As the metal melts, the mixture forms into a ball and starts to move like mercury.
The hardened mixture of metal is called an ingot, which needs to be cooled and cleaned before it can be worked on further. According to A’Hearn, “Different metals and karats of gold look more or less yellow depending on the purity.” Even though they look the same, some are harder to work with when it comes to putting them through the rolling mill. She adds, “Ten karat gold can be especially hard, so I anneal, or gently heat, often and let the piece air cool as I work.”
Annealing is an important technique to maintain workability as the precious metal is rolled into shape. A’Hearn also explains that, “As the metal is rolled through the mill, it becomes work-hardened, and annealing prevents the metal from developing cracks or breaking.” Once rolled to the desired thickness, the recycled metal is ready to be used in a completely new piece of jewelry.