The Use of Precious Metals in Mokume Gane
With the shift in the use of Mokume Gane which was made from gold, silver, copper, copper alloys in the Edo Period, to current times when it is used for decorative purposes, it was essential to transition to precious metals such as various colors of gold and platinum. This is because of the disadvantage in the loss through friction on copper alloys of the colors that are achieved with thin films that are applied to the surface using boiled color patination.
Mokumeganeya representative director TAKAHASHI Masaki obtained his doctoral degree on the subject of Mokume Gane. We will introduce here an outline of the portion of his doctoral thesis, “The Possibilities of Decorative Expressions in Mokume Gane Jewelry”, on the possibilities of precious metals in Mokume Gane.
In the second chapter of this PhD thesis, these decorative effects were verified by manufacturing color samples in which precious metals were substituted in the pattern on an Edo period tsuba that he had already reproduced. As a result, the first thing that became clear was the possibility of a new technology to naturally blend the hues of different metals in Mokume Gane. The colors of the precious metals that are frequently used in jewelry are gradations of gold, silver and copper. Mokume Gane could in fact bring out intermediate nuances.
The next point which was addressed is the renewed perception of the depth of Mokume Gane’s essence, which is a construction of patterns by interweaving materials. In producing the color samples by substituting precious metals, the combinations made it so that where the shades of adjoining precious metals were close, it was not possible to see the differences in pattern with the naked eye. Therefore, a method was developed to better define the color boundaries and enhance the decorative effect through a very slight corrosion of the metals. By enhancing definition through corrosion of Mokume Gane which is created by twisting, carving and then flattening the metal materials, a construction can be achieved that creates a pattern in which the interwoven metals support and bring out one another, creating a new outlet for the energy that is inside.
The slight difference in elevation brought about by the corrosion does not just have the effect of defining the shades in color more clearly, but also shows the undulations of the boundaries according to the order of the layering, which is a clear record of the time involved in the manufacturing process.
One could say that the patterns in the Mokume Gane jewelry made with precious metals represent both the intricate colors and also the time it has taken to achieve them.