There once lived a man who owned a rolling mill. Now even in his time this was not a common possession. It was a fascinating machine, that rolling mill, used to press metals into bands to make rings, bracelets and all manners of jewelry creations.
Neither water, nor beast was required to operate this mill. It was cranked by hand and adjustments had to be made at every turn so that the distance between the rollers would decrease, gradually, thus compressing the gold or silver that was placed between them. Though it appeared to be an object of modest size, the press provided crushing pressure sufficient to rearrange the structure of metals into the most compressed expression of themselves. Now, since all matter is made of much space and little stuff, the more compression, the less flexible the metal.
On this day, the jeweler was putting a piece of 18K gold through the mill. He explained: “After this, I will anneal the gold. This is done by applying very high heat to it, to the point where it turns cherry red. This rearranges the molecules so that the piece can be returned to the mill and pressed some more, until it is as thin as needed for the design I have in mind.”
“After annealing, the gold is quenched in a solution of water and sulfuric acid. I use boric acid as flux when putting the gold under the flame. This also serves as an anti-oxidant. The heat turns this acid into a hard glaze. This is removed by adding sulfuric acid to the quenching water. Otherwise, it would prevent me from properly shaping and texturing the metal,” continues the jeweler as he works.
Blacksmiths use a wide range of heat and cooling methods to temper different metals. The master smith pays attention to the changing color of the metal while putting it under fire. This is the tell-tale sign that it has reached the proper temperature for the desired hardness and malleability.
And so it is that mere nuggets of metal reveal their most beautiful expression under pressure and fire.