Making Gold Chain
One chain manufacturer describes the process as follows:
"24 carat pure gold is alloyed with, copper, zinc, and silver to form carat gold alloys of varying pureness-10Kt, 14Kt, and 18Kt. The alloy is heated to a molten state in a graphite crucible. The alloy is drawn through a die from the base of the crucible. Rollers, working in regular short pulses pull the metal. The metal is formed into a tubular rod 1 inch in diameter.
A small rod, known as the solder core is cast separately and slid inside the tubular rod. The core has a different recipe to the rod and has a lower melting point. This enables the links in the chain to be soldered at a later stage.
The rod is then rolled and drawn down in increasingly smaller sizes. The smallest diameter the wire can be formed into is roughly three times the size of a human hair. As the wire is worked it hardens. Periodically the wire is woven on a spool, heated to a temperature just below its melting point and then quenched in water. This releases the hardness so the wire can be drawn again.
The wire is formed into a chain by a machine or assembled one link at a time by hand."
I'm fascinated by these machines. They make links using a spiral die or by forming the wire over a mandrel. To make the chain the wire feeds, each time, through the last formed link. The wire is placed on a conveyor belt furnace and then heated to a temperature above the melting point of the solder core but below the melting point of the outside rod. The solder flows to close the link.
Some styles of chain are then cut to a mirror finish using a diamond finishing bit rotating at speed in excess of 20,000 rpm. The chains are finished and polished.
In some cases chains are electroplated to brighten the color and cover the solder joints. This is done to prevent the solder joints from discoloring.
This process will typically vary from manufacturer to manufacturer. The care in which the chain is produced, the quality control of the product, and the steps taken to form the wire into a chain all affect the finished product's value.
Are there seconds in chain just as there are in other products? Yes, as you can image things can go wrong. When a manufacturer is dissatisfied with his product he has the choice to either start over or sell the product as a second. You'll find much of this chain is sold at a "So called discount".
The question you should ask yourself is "Am I buying a manufacturer's second believing I am buying first quality or am I really getting an unbelievable deal?"
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American Gem Society
For generations of jewelers, those three simple words have embodied three complex ideas to which the society has always been dedicated: