Is it Hard Enough…?

There is a rumble going on about how our precious metals are formulated and the resulting “fitness for use” in fine jewelry designs. The US government and EU have long since established guidelines to control the import and export of goods, but they do little to assure the consumer about the real “quality” of the metal we use.

In recent years, the EU mandated changes in nickel content in white gold alloys, and for good cause. The result was a scramble in development by metallurgists to fill the gap with alloys that would provide similar working properties. Today we have myriad recipes with some that are “fit for use” and others that leave some doubt. In recent months, the new kid on the block, palladium, is the subject of even more debate, study, and development where working hardness values of casting alloys have been all over the map. Even the Sterling Silver alloy hardness properties are affected from efforts to reduce tarnishing.

Many of us who use CAD/CAM to create jewelry designs need re-think this issue too. Jewelry that was traditionally fabricated from sheet and wire is now being created by CAD/CAM through investment casting. These alloys are much softer than the sheet and wire of yesterday. Are they hard enough…?

In a recent presentation at Vicenza, the renowned consultant for the World Gold Council, Dr Chris Corti provided an interesting look at the hardness of a variety of metals and how this factor might affect durability of fine jewelry. In his white paper, he concludes that “the soft annealed (or as-cast) condition will confer the best ductility but the poorest resistance to wear and scratching”. If this is true, and CAD/CAM production trends continue as they have, we will need to re-think our casting alloys now to endure the consumer’s test of time.

This year at the Santa Fe Symposium, Dr Corti will present his paper, The Role of Metal Hardness in Jewelery Alloys, which will be followed by an international roundtable discussion on metal hardness.  Some industry professionals believe that we should let the success or failure in the market determine which metals are fit for use. Others believe we could shape the future and quality of the fine jewelry by creating guidelines for quality. 

You can have an impact on this issue by attending the Santa Fe Symposium.

This year in particular will be an exciting year, with papers presented on palladium casting alloys, thermal expansion in the casting of CAD/CAM materials, and designing for rapid manufacturing ( RM )of fine jewelry, to name only a few. If you have ever thought about attending the Santa Fe Symposium, this would be a great time for you to affect the future of fine jewelry.

If you cannot attend this year but have an opinion you can reply with your comments here and I will make sure that they are available to the partcipants next month.

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