What is Mokume-gane and How is it Made?

Posted by Arn Krebs on

 

Mokume-gane (Mokumegane) is a Japanese metalworking technique in which varying colored layers of precious metal are alloyed together to create a sandwich  or a "billet". Mokume gane translates to "wood eye metal" which reflects the wood grain patterning admired by the Japanese craftsmen.  The billet is then manipulated  with heat and pressure, then twisted, carved, and forged to create beautiful organic patterns. Eventually a pattern resembling wood grain emerges in the metal. 

 This rare metal lamination process is similar to Damascus and was developed and used by Japanese swordsmiths in the 17th century to adorn samurai swords.

By the mid 20th century, mokume gane art form was nearly entirely unknown. Because mokume is such a difficult task, and because Japan had moved away from traditional craft, mokume was nearly extinct.  It had reached a point where only collectors and scholars of metalsmithing were aware of the craft.  Thankfully in the 1970s Hiroko Sato Pijanowski and her husband Eugene Pijanowski changed the landscape for mokume gane. Eugene, who earned the craft from the amazing Living National Treasure Norio Tamagawa. Eugene brought the craft to the US and Hiroko began teaching it to her students. At this point the technique re-emerged in the public eye. 

All mokume patterns are achieved by one of two processes; carving or forging.  Guri Bori mokume requires the most involved carving, resulting in a ring that has recesses or layers that resemble topography. Other carved patterns include the wood grain pattern, the twist pattern, and the droplet patterning. Forged patterns include our vortex pattern, flow pattern, and guri bori pattern. 

Our mokume patterns are made in various combinations of yellow gold, red gold, silver, and palladium. In Arn's many years of making mokume he has developed the skillset to make bands that resemble wood grain, topographical canyons, oceanic waves, and other natural formations. Arn take's pride in the custom nature of the work and offer the widest selection of mokume patterns that you will see at any shop. Arn chooses not to line his rings with silver or gold and rather to let the beautiful wood grain patterning of the mokume shine through to the inside of the ring.  The integrity of the metal is featured this way and assures that you are getting a quality ring, not a thin sheet of mokume hidden by a liner.  The texture and feel of mokume is something to be treasured. 

Please note that all mokume patterns are unique and so the ring you take home will vary from those pictured. The images in the listings are meant to give an example of our different style options and quality of the ring, but please keep in mind that every item is individually made by hand and will inevitably vary from other rings in the same pattern category. Each ring is heirloom quality and bespoke.

Watch our video of how it is made here: 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rb5bqRhmhik

 


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