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Carolyn A’Hearn Recycles Metal Like Magic

07/10/2014

Carolyn A’Hearn never throws anything away—at least when it comes to jewelry-making. That scrap metal? It’s not garbage but rather raw material just itching to be made into a fly new cuff or a chic pair of earrings. It takes a bit of patience, a lot of heat, and, uh, a chopstick—see how Carolyn makes the most of her leftovers. —jane-claire quigley

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“Often in the studio, I melt and recycle metal to create new models and pieces. Because I work with precious metal, it’s important to let nothing go to waste. I even collect the dust from my bench—when I have enough, I will send it to a refiner to be recycled. This is a mix of 10 karat yellow gold from old castings, metal scraps, and bits of leftover wire. It gets mixed with a little boric acid and placed inside a carved charcoal brick for melting.”

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“Boric acid and a chopstick are a few of the tools I use to protect and manipulate the metal as it melts. The chopstick can be used to push stray pieces of melting metal back into the mold.”

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“As the metal melts, it forms into a ball and starts to move like mercury.“

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“Different metals and karats of gold look more or less yellow depending on the purity. The resulting lump of metal is called an ingot, which must be cooled and cleaned before being passed through the rolling mill.”

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“I use different channels in the rolling mill to slowly stretch the metal into wire. Often this is a process done over many hours. Ten karat gold can be especially hard, so I anneal, or gently heat, often and let the piece air cool as I work.”

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“The metal is annealed to maintain workability as it is rolled into shape. As the metal is rolled through the mill, it becomes work-hardened, and annealing prevents the metal from developing cracks or breaking.”

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“After the metal is rolled to the desired thickness, it can be made into something brand new!”

Photos by Ash Barhamand.

Carolyn’s got some shiny rose gold earrings that look like they slice through your ear lobe—yah, you’ve gotta check them out.

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