So often business and the media use the term “Innovation” to describe a dramatic change in practice. In this instance, the invention is truly innovative. It will change how we produce and market patterned metal jewelry in the 21st century.
Steve Midgett and James Binnion, both recognized independently as masters of mokume gane, have teamed up to create a new metal working process that expands the capabilities of what bonded metals can do and look like.
The new process they are calling XPM (eXtrusion Patterned Metals ) looks very similar to the patterns in mokume gane but with some marked improvements. “XPM’s are created through a patent-pending hot extrusion process – think of squeezing a tube of multicolored toothpaste — that welds the layers together to create sophisticated patterned material in seamless tube and bar form for traditional mass manufacturing methods.
They are currently working with various combinations of titanium, tantalum, zirconium, silver, gold, platinum, and stainless steel. Tantalum, which is in the same metal family as titanium is naturally a very dark blue/gray metal and provides a vivid color pattern contrast. Like the other reactive metals, tantalum is extremely inert and non-corrosive at normal temperatures.
According to James, traditional techniques require years of experience to master, and even then, there’s no way to produce enough material to meet the demand. XPM’s open up a whole new ball game; you’re going to be seeing a lot more, and a lot more interesting patterned metal products on the market in the near future.”
Retailers can take a peek at the first jewelry line that utilizes this new material at www.stratabands.com. I expect that there will be many manufacturers who will create products from XPM and that Jim and Steve will be very busy.
You can meet Jim Binnion and many other forward thinking jewelry professionals at the Santa Fe Symposium, May 18- 23rd in Albuquerque. Hope to see you there….