Straight to the Finish Line
I fell in love with a gorgeous pair of 18-karat hammered yellow gold earrings this week. While appreciating the craftsmanship of the pieces, I considered how many times the goldsmith had to strike the earring, with the same degree of strength, and proper placement of each strike, to obtain their beautiful hand-worked finish. It's sometimes overlooked by those buying fine jewelry, but the finish a designer chooses for a piece of precious metal can make a tremendous impact on its appearance.
These Aloro earrings by Vendorafa were hand-finished by one of three female goldsmiths who apply every hammerstroke to every piece of jewelry that leaves this renowned Italian house.
Bright-polished gold is by far the most popular way to finish a piece of gold jewelry. The words "bright, shiny gold" conjure an immediate image in one's mind. Bright finishes are used to best effect in sculptural pieces, where the simple form itself is the star. A gleaming example of a bright-finish is this updated, classic curb-link bracelet by designer Isabelle Fa in rose gold
There are dozens of finishes that each add their own allure to a piece of fine jewelry. In general, finishes that can be applied by machine are less expensive, and those that must be done exactingly by hand are considerably more expensive. Knowing how the finish was created on a piece of jewelry will help you understand its value.
The opposite of shiny, of course, is matte. Two popular matte finishes are satin and brushed. Both of these can be light to heavy in nature, depending on the look the designer is seeking. I like matte finishes on pieces that feature burnish-set diamonds -- diamonds set down into the metal with no visible mountings -- because the sparkle of the diamonds emerges beautifully from a less reflective background than a ring that is highly polished.
Textured, non-reflective surfaces also include Florentined, bark, dimpled, and sandblasted. These are just some of the more common varieties. For jeweler-designers who like to experiment either on the wheel or by hand, the effects are almost limitless. These rose gold pendant earrings by Buccellati absolutely glow with a hand-applied Florentine finish.
Jewels that utilize both polished and matte finishes have notable depth and substance. Highlights and lowlight gives these pieces dimension that enriches their appearance. These Hula Hoop bracelets by Vendorafa are a beautiful example, with their hammered and bright polished surfaces.
Fun Fact: a satin-finished ring, if worn every day, will eventually lose its finish and gain a patina that is closer to a polished look. Conversely, a polished ring worn every day will eventually attain the same patina and become more matte. By repolishing or re-applying the satin finish, the ring can look brand new rather easily.