Golden opportunities with precious metals

Have you ever wondered how a hunk of precious metal turns into beautiful jewelry with its fine details? A visit to the goldsmith line at Edvard Munch High School in Oslo shows that behind the handmade jewellery there are many hours of meticulous work and patience.

A visit to the goldsmith line at Edvard Munch High School in Oslo shows that behind the handmade jewellery there are many hours of meticulous work and patience.

It can take a few hours to make a piece of jewellery for several weeks. It all depends on how complicated the jewelry is. Metal must be handled and shaped, sanded, fitted and polished. Before the work can even begin, you have to draw the sketches. It goes without saying that the final product is very valuable.

In order to officially qualify as a goldsmith, you have to go to school for several years. When going to the final exam, there is four years of training, one year of which is art and crafts studies, the remaining three goldsmiths' specialisation studies.

"I've been interested in jewellery since I was four years old and my mother took me to stores where I could choose pearls for jewellery individually," explains Anniken Larsen, one of the seventeen jeweler line students at Edvard Munch High School. He was guided to the jewellery industry by the school's guidance counselor. Anniken got a week's internship with a silversmith and got a taste of jewellery work. Now he's betting on it full-time.

"I want to include more materials in the design, so I would like to learn more about materials such as plastic, glass, wood and iron. That way, I have more to stand on," he says.

Goldsmith's work involves the use of many different tools, as the work is based on traditional handicraft techniques such as sawing, filing, watering and forging. The workstations show a wide range of pliers, files, abrasive paper and soldering tips. Metal is shaped, for example, by annealing (heating metal) and soldering, so you must also be able to handle burners and soldering flasks. Oxygen and LPG are used in the process, which are transferred to each workstation via piping. When using high temperatures and gases together, students must have sufficient knowledge of gases to do the work safely. So there is a lot to learn, and success also requires coping in chemistry classes.

The production of jewellery involves a lot of meticulous work, so good eyesight is necessary. Not all details are easy to see with the naked eye, so a magnifying glass is an indispensable tool. Good concentration is also an advantage, as things easily go wrong if you are not paying attention.

"When heating metal, the flame must be closely monitored. For example, yellow gold can shrink when working on it," Anniken says, and continues: "Another challenge is when you water several points in the same object. The nozzle can easily hit metal and make cracks or bumps."

The gas is used in the heat treatment process.

Anniken admits that it's not always easy to be patient. He's constantly trying to find faster methods. Sometimes he succeeds, sometimes he doesn't. He especially enjoys making margins and getting the stone to fit.

Students at Edvard Munch High School all agree that there are many exciting things you can make of precious metals and it's a great time to see the end result ready!

Text: Unni Bekkevold
Photograph: Unni Bekkevold / Shutterstock

Three golden rules to keep jewellery fit and shiny

1. Take off your jewellery before showering, bathing and sporting

Put on the jewellery last in the morning and take it off first in the evening before going to bed. Take off your jewellery also before you take a shower, bath, exercise activities or sports. This prevents jewellery from being exposed to chemicals such as hairsprays, skin creams, strong soaps or chlorine, which can cause fading and cause the jewellery to lose its luster. Also beware of mechanical damage to the jewellery, such as scratches, notches and sticking to the jewellery attached to something.

2. Store jewellery separately

To prevent jewellery from scratching against each other, store them in their own cases or jewellery boxes with separate fabric-padded compartments. Silver jewellery is particularly sensitive to darkening when in contact with air, so it is advisable to store them as hermetically as possible. Instead, jewellery with organic jewellery stones such as beads, corals or amber must be allowed to "breathe".

3. Ensure good cleaning and care

Jewellery needs a different treatment depending on the materials from which they are made.  Gold jewellery can be cleaned by putting them in a container with hot water and a little mild soap (for example, plain hand soap). Leave the jewellery in water for a few minutes so that the contaminated dirt and grease dissolve. Then clean the jewellery with a piece of cloth or a soft toothbrush. Finally rinse thoroughly with warm water and dry with a soft cloth so that no traces of water remain on the jewellery. You can similarly clean  stainless steel jewellerytin jewellery, gold-plated jewellery, jewellery stones and  organic jewellery stones.

Silver differs from other metals in that it oxidizes when in contact with air and darkens over time unless treated regularly. If silver darkens due to oxidation, it is easy to polish again with silver polish (available from jewellery stores and department stores). You can also use water, mild detergent and soft cloth. If it is difficult to get to the holes in the jewellery, a soft toothbrush can be used.

The pearls are cleaned with lukewarm water alone or with a jewellery cleaner suitable for beads. The pearls can be polished with a soft cotton cloth, and adding a drop of olive oil gives you a beautiful glow.

Source: LYR Design AS