Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Black Hills Gold - America's Jewelry

In the 19th century, The Black Hills of South Dakota was an untamed area held sacred by The Sioux Native Americans. White men knew nothing about it when George Armstrong Custer led the first expeditionary force there in 1874. This expedition was a violation of a peace treaty with the Sioux, a violation that the Sioux never forgot. They exacted their revenge on Custer at The Battle Of Little Big Horn in Montana two years later.
A few months after the expedition had entered the area, a man name Horatio Ross discovered gold along French Creek. The lure of gold has the power to lure men to pursue it no matter where it may lead them. The gold found at French Creek had the same effect, and led to one of the last great gold rushes of the west. The town of Deadwood was a gold rush town, with all that goes with it. Prospectors, saloons, gambling, violence, and famous people. Wild Bill Hickok was shot to death in a saloon in Deadwood as he played poker. His card hand contained a pair of aces and a pair of eights, ever since known as the Dead Man's Hand.

The man that has been called the father of Black Hills Gold, S.T.Butler, also lived in Deadwood. His jewelry design of the colored leaf so often seen in this type of jewelry may have originated in San Francisco during the gold rush of 1849. Black Hills Gold designs also use grapes and grape stems as well as the leaves. The different colors used in the jewelry are alloys of gold. To obtain the green hue, silver is alloyed with yellow gold. Copper is alloyed with yellow gold in differing mixes to obtain red or pink gold.

While it is true that in the 1980's a federal judge ruled that any gold called Black Hills Gold must be manufactured in the Black Hills, this does not mean that the gold itself has to be from it. Makers purchase their gold from many sources, and as long as the jewelry is made, it is legal to use the name.

Black Hills gold begins with ingots of gold, silver and copper. These are melted and combined to make the different karat alloys used and different colors, then formed into gold bars. Some of these gold bars are then rolled to various thicknesses according to the needs of the jewelry being made, then they are stamped using patterns and dies. Other gold bars are used to cast the base of the piece of jewelry.

Cast pieces are polished, then the pressed gold items are hand soldered to the jewelry base. After further hand work, polishing and many inspections, a high quality piece of Black Hills Gold jewelry is the result. This type of jewelry is known for its high quality, beauty and value. It remains a popular type of jewelry that is not only very pleasing to the eye. It is a uniquely American form of the jeweler's art.

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