Professional Jeweler Archive: Glorious Granulation

May 2000

Precious Metals & Bench: New Products

Glorious Granulation

Old-world goldsmithing brings the past into the present with detailed surface decoration that suits antique and contemporary designs

Granulation, the art of creating a surface pattern on jewelry with tiny gold balls, dates back to the third millennium BC. The technique, invented in the Eastern Mediterranean and Egypt and later refined by Etruscan goldsmiths, looks as fresh and inventive today as it must have then.

The process begins when wire is cut into short lengths and melted into round granules that are placed on the jewelry in the desired pattern. They’re held in place with a temporary glue made from plant sap. In the best examples, the balls are attached permanently with heating (which evaporates the glue), not soldering. But it’s a difficult process because the temperature has to be hot enough to fuse the gold ball to the surface, but not enough to melt the ball into an amorphous puddle.

Granulation usually involves high-karat gold. “The purer the material, the easier it will be to achieve the fusion required for granulation,” says Asher Yaron, president of Neshama, Los Angeles, CA.

Why the Attraction?

“People are instantly attracted to granulation because of the connection to ancestors,” says Yaron.

They also react strongly to a pattern created with the rich color of high-karat gold, says Michael Schofield of Michael Schofield & Co., Clear Creek, IN. “The higher karatage granulation is the same color as the pure gold bar from which it’s made,” he says. Colored gems look particularly enticing in granulated jewelry because the rich colors complement each other.

Here are some sales tips for granulated jewelry:

  • Each piece of granulated jewelry is handmade, so stress that it’s one-of-a-kind.
  • The jewelry is very close to being pure gold.
  • The jewelry is contemporary in design and historical in technique, making it timeless and forever fashionable.
  • Granulation is best used in necklaces, pendants and earrings. “Rings and bracelets are subjected to more abuse, which is dangerous to this design element,” cautions Schofield.

Display granulation on a black velvet background to show off the intense color. Customers will want to examine the granulation and will appreciate the intricacy and detail that goes into each design.

–  by Lorraine M. Suermann

The 18/22k gold earrings feature 2.68 carats of cushion-cut natural aquamarines ($2,500 suggested retail). The 18/22k gold pin/pendant is set with a 9-ct. emerald-cut natural aquamarine ($7,600). The 20/22k woven chain is $8,900.

Mary Jane F. Yagi Inc. for Tomi Goldsmith, New York City; (646) 319-4823.

Clip-on pendant/enhancer is crafted in 22k gold set with Yowah opal, peridot and citrines. Suggested retail, $1,750.

Neshama, Los Angeles, CA; (310) 446-0628, fax (310) 446-6623,

18k granulated pendant features a 0.73-ct. princess-cut pink sapphire, 3.61-ct. blue green tourmaline and 4.65-ct. tanzanite. Suggested retail, $16,300.

Kent Raible Jewelry, Nevada City, CA; (530) 477-6966, fax (530) 477-7551.

Hand-woven sterling silver chain is fastened with an 18k gold granulated clasp and accent station. Suggested retail, $779-$959.

Anne Devero Presents, San Francisco, CA; (415) 337-0470, fax (415) 337-5310.

22k gold granulated bead necklace.

Michael Schofield & Co., Clear Creek, IN; (812) 824-7789, fax (812) 824-7556,

22k gold round and oval earrings are heavily granulated.

Maija Neimanis, New York City; (212) 249-6236.

18K gold earrings have mabé pearl centers and granulation accents. Suggested retail, $1,440.

Carol Silvera, Allenhurst, NJ; phone/fax (732) 517-8833.

Granulated rings.

Dahlia Kanner, Providence, RI; (401) 861-5001

18k gold pendant is set with a 33.08 carat bicolor tourmaline and a 1.64-ct. green tourmaline. Suggested retail, $2,550.

Krespi & White, Oakland, CA; (510) 420-0815, fax (510) 420-0863.

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