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Black Hills gold jewelry: Wikis

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Black Hills gold jewelry was first created in the 1870's during the Black Hills Gold Rush by a French goldsmith named Henri LeBeauold, who is said to have dreamed about the design after passing out from thirst and starvation. Black Hills gold jewelry depicts leaves, grape clusters and vines, and is made with a combination of green, rose, and yellow gold. In the 1980s a federal judge ruled that if a manufacturer was to call its jewelry Black Hills Gold, then it must be made in the Black Hills.

The designs use grapes, grape leaves and grape stems and are easily recognizable for their unique colors. Silver is alloyed with the yellow gold to produce the green hue, and copper is alloyed with the yellow gold to make the red or pink gold.

How it is made

Pure 24 Karat gold bars, and stocks of pure silver and copper are the basic materials. These metals are not required to be mined in the Black Hills. Pure gold and other precious metal stock can be acquired from anywhere in the world. The finished jewelry known as Black Hills Gold must be produced in the Black Hills of South Dakota.

The different colors of gold used for leaves and other details are made when the pure 24 Karat yellow gold is alloyed with copper to achieve the traditional 12 karat pink (or red) gold, and the gold is combined silver to create the 12 karat green. The resulting gold bars are then readied for rolling.

The alloyed gold bars are rolled by presses to different thicknesses for different types of jewelry. Each part is carefully stamped, one at a time, out of the rolled gold sheets using patterns and dies. The solid gold leaves and other patterns are then ready to be added to a cast jewelry base.

The cast pieces are then polished by one of two methods, either traditional hand polishing using a wheel, or a process called "tumbling." For tumbling: many castings at one time are placed in a tub or cylinder with different sizes and shapes of metal, rubber or other materials in a liquid solution, then agitated or rotated until they have been polished smooth. These smooth, cast pieces are then ready for the stamped components, like leaves and grapes, to be mounted on them.

Some manufacturers use the traditional method to attach the pieces, where the stamped components are individually hand-soldered to the cast gold frame using torches and karat-gold solder. Other factories place the solder and components together on the cast item, leaving several such assemblies in a soldering oven where they are soldered by the heat of the oven.

The almost-finished jewelry is cleaned in a mild acid bath, then inspected using high quality standards. Then, each piece is electro-plated with 24 Karat yellow gold. A finishing technique known as "wriggling" removes the plating from the pink and green leaves, creating a textured or frosty effect. Each leaf vein is then hand-engraved for a brilliant, light-catching finish.

Each piece is polished in several different steps to bring out its brilliant luster. If the item has gemstones in its design, it is sent to the stone setting department for mounting. Finally, a careful inspection completes the process that began with pure 24 Karat gold and finished with a truly unique and beautiful, handcrafted jewelry item - Black Hills Gold jewelry.

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