The Mokume Gane is a centuries-old forging technique from Japan.
It was developed from the forging of swords. The much better known technique of forging damascus steel, which in our culture carries its name from the first finding place Damascus in Syria, brought about the welding and structuring of the Mokume Gane.
Decorative elements on the handle and the end of the grip, as well as on the sheath, were for the first time made by Denbai Shoami from softer alloys with a high copper content. Since gold is a precious metal that is rarely found in Japan and was therefore very expensive, the gold content of the Mokume Gane alloys of that time was limited to about 4%. The remaining parts were mainly copper and silver.
Even today the Mokume Gane goldsmith often works with alloys like Shibuichi or Shakudo. After sampling the layered and welded sheets, wonderful colours can be created by creating a patina by means of different stains.
However, as these are purely superficial, they can easily rub off when wearing wedding rings, for example. For this reason all these beautiful colours are not applicable in the production of Mokume Gane wedding rings. Here the old precious metals such as gold, silver, platinum and palladium have proved their worth. Of course white gold alloys can also be used, but due to the lower contrast to the other metals and the higher price compared to palladium this is not very common.
The Mokume Gane base material for the wedding rings from our workshop is always welded in the kiln in temperature controlled welding processes. Between 10 and 15 hours, depending on the material composition, the layered and clamped precious metal layers remain in the furnace. Without any solder or other joining material, a so-called sintering process takes place, in which the atoms at the boundaries to the respective neighbouring sheet begin to mix. This takes place in the 1/1000 millimetre range. Any small impurities or fingerprints between the sheets interfere with this sintering process and make the Mokume Gane ingot unusable. This can then only be chemically broken down again in a separation plant.
Once the welding is successful and the ingot has cooled down again, the actual production of the Mokume Gane wedding rings begins. First of all, the Mokume Gane ingot is forged and rolled to the appropriate length and cross-section. At regular intervals the material has to be relaxed by annealing. During this so-called recrystallisation annealing, the partially broken atomic structures realign themselves again. The precious metal regains its supple properties and can be further formed. Once annealed too late, the material will visibly crack or loosen welds, making the Mokume Gane ingot unusable.
Once the material has the right length, the splicing process begins. For this purpose, slots are sawn into the bar, which are then expanded to form round rings by means of small chisels and later a steel mandrel. This is the only method by which Mokume Gane wedding rings can be made without interrupting the pattern and without unsightly seams. Not all Mokume creators use this seamless technique, as it is very time and material consuming and requires a lot of sensitivity and practice.
But the result is all the more beautiful. The symbolic power of endlessness.