Professional Jeweler Archive: Granulation Updated

January 2002

Professional Bench/Tool Tips

Granulation Updated

Performing granulation and attaching small beads to designs has never been simpler

In Jewelry Concepts and Technology, author Oppi Untracht defines granulation as a metalworking process that minimally but permanently joins small, usually round, balls or granules to a base. Normally, the base is sheet metal, but the same process can be used to join a variety of beads and wires to each other at their point of contact with fusion welding. Accordingly, the term granulation must be understood to involve fusion welding.

Granulation is accomplished in an intricate scientific and artistic process that can incorporate several techniques. The techniques all involve physical and chemical laws that yield a permanent bond between the metal and other substances when heated.

Traditional granulation techniques are tedious and time-consuming. Through extensive research, Steece Hermanson of Galloway & Moseley, Sumter, SC, has discovered that granulation can be accomplished simply with the ABI Tack II welder. Hermanson fusion-welds karat gold beads to gold sheet and platinum. Here’s how he does it.

Making Karat Gold Beads for Granulation

  1. Submerge thin karat gold wire into a mixture of boric acid and denatured alcohol and allow it to dry.
  2. Uniformly snip small pieces onto a charcoal block.
  3. Make sure the snippets aren’t touching; lightly dust with powdered charcoal.
  4. Slowly heat with a broad, bushy flame to transform the snippets into small beads.
  5. Cool, clean and sort for size.

Performing Granulation

1. Prepare the equipment and materials:

  • Use a setting bur to taper the inside of the opening of the sterling silver tube vacuum lead attachment. The taper allows for more surface contact between the tip and the bead than between the bead and the work piece. This modification allows the bead to stick to the piece instead of the tip.
  • The Tack II welder is set in the high position and adjusted to 30 to 40 volts for the size of materials to be used.
  • The bead and sheet surfaces are clean. No fire coat solution or other chemicals and materials are used.

2. Prepare the gold sheet the beads will be attached to by cleaning the surface and scribing guidelines for placing the beads.

3. Pick up a bead with the vac-tool attachment and place it over a guideline. Applying firm pressure between the bead and sheet, then depress the foot pedal for a permanent weld.

4. Repeat this process until all beads are fusion-welded into position. No torch or kiln work is required when the beads are all complete.

5. Fusion welding allows the bead to retain its spherical form. With magnification, you see a minimally visible joint fillet – impossible to attain though torch soldering and possible only through procedures related to the granulation process or by tack welding as discussed in this article.

Note: The ABI Tack II welder has a high/low switch and voltage settings that control the electrical current. An appropriate amount of current is necessary to generate the electrical resistance between the bead and the work piece. If the current is too low, the weld won’t be permanent. If it’s too high, the work piece will be damaged.

For information on the ABI Tack II welder and vacuum attachment, contact ABI at (888) 494-2663,

By Mark B. Mann, Director of Trade Programs, Jewelers of America

Featured application by Steece Hermanson
JA® Certified Master Bench Jeweler, Galloway & Moseley, Sumter, SC

Equipment needed:

A. ABI Tack II welder.

B. Contact pad, lead and graphite overlay.

C. ABI Vac-tool unit.

D. Vac-tool lead.

Hermanson alters the tip of the vac tool for picking up and permanently attaching beads.
Contact pad and container of beads.
Picking-up a bead.
Fusion welding beads
Adding more beads.

Photographs are courtesy of Jewelers of America
© 2001 Jewelers of America

Copyright © 2002 by Bond Communications