Our work is handwrought. Using alloyed metals in wire and sheet form; we heat, melt, solder, twist, bend, hammer, grind and buff all of the work by hand. Hand forging is an ancient art and differs from casting in significant ways. Casting is done in soft materials such as clay or wax. These are formed into the desired objects and then submerged into a "plaster"-filled container. Once they are heated the wax/clay burns away, leaving a void in the hardened plaster (investment) to be filled by molten metal. If a rubber molding is made of this void, virtually unlimited replicas of the item can be mass-produced, all without ever working the metal. Casting is truly magical but it does not capitalize on many of metal's finest properties. Only by directly manipulating the metal with pliers, hammer and torch can you bend, stretch and marry the metal on a molecular level. Hand forging is time consumptive; each piece must be created completely unto itself, as if another has never been made.
The mass-production capabilities of casting, have transformed the way modern production and, ultimately, business are done. It has vastly increased the volume and availability of product in the marketplace. Mass production decreases the time and expense to the producer; which, in turn, reduces the cost to the consumer. Ever since Henry Ford institutionalized the assembly line, our market-based economy has become primarily mass production-centric. As great as this has been for consumable products, it has created a consumer mindset that is antithetical to the sensibilities and philosophy of handwrought goods. The dynamic of diminishing-expense-as-volume-increases that is experienced with mass production, does not exist in one-off production. As consumers, we have become conditioned to expect to see a price break on items, as the number of items we purchase increases. Unfortunately, this property of marketplace physics does not exist in hand forged-based industry. Anticipating a scaled price break for multiples of an item that has been hand forged, is like assuming having twins is just as easy as having one child; or even worse, having two babies from two separate pregnancies is just as easy as having twins. Just because you've done it once doesn't mean it gets any easier or, for that matter, less expensive the next time.
Casting offers a reliable method of producing "identical" multiples with a decreasing work load. Hand forging is just the opposite; as the number of items increases, so does the effort needed to produce the same item to the same specifications and ideals. For this reason, some items are better suited for casting (such as large runs, or items with high-definition and detail); while others are best created by means of hand forging. Some of the items we create could be produced faster and at less expense with casting; this is why you might see something similar elsewhere for less money. Hand forging offers greater tailoring and imbues more life into the piece than casting. It is this mutability and internal dynamism that tempts us to pursue the fabrication of some of these cross-over designs. If you see something similar to ours for less, make sure the savings come from reduced labor not because it was made to lower standards, constructed from lower-grade materials, by less experienced craftspersons before you buy. Mass production industries tend to pump out large quantities of low quality product. Even if the quality is acceptable you are often stuck with the "one-size-fits-all" version. How many times have you bought that wonderful import at the mall or off the television that promised "one-size-fits-all" only to have to spend more that what you paid for the item to have it resized to fit you at your local jeweler? We like to create and fit the item in one step, at one price.
We've been making jewelry for more than thirty years; I personally have been banging and burning metal since I was five years old. We do what we do, because we know what we're doing and we've been doing it long enough, to be good at it. We have also always sold to the customer; we are not merely a wholesaler who sells to retailers. We have interaction with, and feedback from, our customers on a daily basis. We continue to learn what people want from their jewelry; how it makes them feel; how it makes others feel when they receive it as a gift.
Over the past three decades we have worked with white gold, copper, brass, enamel, precious and semiprecious stones, shell, sharks teeth, crystals, cord, cable, leather, steel, aluminum, wood, feathers, plastic, reticulation and casting. We have chosen to specialize in the sterling silver and 14k yellow gold. The term sterling silver denotes silver that has been alloyed with another metal to make it more workable. Fine silver is the purest form of silver produced, and is often stamped 999; indicating that it is 99.9% pure silver. The omitted 0.1% acknowledges that not every last molecule of impurity can truly be extracted from any metal. Sterling silver is classified as, and is often marked, 925; indicating that it is 92.5% fine silver. The remaining 7.5% is comprised of another metal that gives the silver greater strength, stiffness and durability. In some sterling, this added metal is nickel. It is the nickel that causes inflammation when people experience an allergic reaction to sterling silver. Our sterling is not alloyed with nickel but, rather, with copper, which does not cause any kind of adverse effect when it comes in contact with one's skin. Pure yellow gold is referred to as 24 karat. A karat is a unit of measure for the fineness of gold, equal to 1/24 part (not to be confused with carat; a unit of weight for precious stones, equal to 200 milligrams). We use 14 karat yellow gold, which is much more workable than the impracticably soft 24 karat. In 14 karat, fourteen parts are pure gold; the remaining ten parts are sterling silver. Our specialization in sterling silver and 14k yellow gold allows us to produce jewelry of the finest caliber by metalsmiths especially versed in these two metals, eliminating the additional expense of extra elements and techniques that carry exorbitant overhead.
Our jewelry is about both functionality and aesthetics. We want people to wear their jewelry everyday; in the shower, to bed, in the garden, to work, at a wedding and out to dinner. With a modicum of care and common sense our jewelry can last for decades and often forever. Our jewelry is neither stamped out by machines, nor is it pieced together by "professional" assemblers from a collection of machine-made parts. Each design is made in its entirety, by us, in house. Unlike much machine-made jewelry, our aim is not rigid geometry. Much of the charm and warmth of handwrought jewelry is the subtle variations in form, shape and feel that hand crafting offers. While we do adhere to a strict code of design and fabrication standards, we don't do so to the point of creating lifeless, cookie-cutter designs for the sake of shear mathematical accuracy. Other than a few earring backings, we make all of our findings; and incorporate the use of machine-made chains and crystals in only a handful of designs. Unlike much of the machined-jewelry industry, we solder all of our components together, so that your enjoyment of our jewelry is not jeopardized by the unreliability of the proverbial, and literal, "weak link." We think our metals should shine, shimmer and sparkle. The devil may be in the details, but God is in the finish. However, we polish to enhance the luster of the reflective metals, not to erase the evidence of the piece's maturation. The form, function and feel of each piece are the results of a process; a process which is as important in creating the impact and presence of the piece as is the final polish. The lustrous skin of the object is complimented and enriched by the underlying history of its conception, evolution of design and ultimate fabrication. The hammer and heat leave their mark on the jewelry; hammer marks, seams and solder joints are evident in testimony of its creation. These elements along with the final "shine" are its charm and its beauty. The true beauty of hand forged jewelry is that you can see the hand of the metalsmith in the piece, along with your own reflection.
Our product is not a necessity, it is a luxury. You can't eat it, but after seeing how people feel when they express their spirit in silver, when they define their style with a signature design, or when they touch someone with a gift that will last forever; then I can believe that what we do can feed the soul. We love what we do--not every one can play with fire all day long and end up with something beautiful for their family, friends and community. I hope you will be able to see all that goes into the creation of our jewelry, appreciate the history of the art, and enjoy wearing our jewelry as much as we enjoy crafting it for you.
Black Mountain Gallery
13 November, 2005