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Oberon Design Britannia Metal Craftsmanship

 


All Oberon Design Britannia metal products are hand cast in our studio shop in Santa Rosa, CA. In our casting process we use only the purest, lead free, food grade Britannia metal. Food grade refers to the metal purity of the Britannia metal we use, qualifying it for use in the production of utensils and dishware. Because of its purity, Britannia metal can be cast at very high temperatures that result in a low tarnish, high polish finish.

We carve our own molds and cast all our products in small batches of 6-12 pieces at a time. This insures the casting quality of each individual piece and results in very light weight yet durable parts, especially important in our earrings and hair clips. Our shop features a state of the art water treatment system that utilizes polymers to thoroughly clean soap residues that accumulate in our casting process, eliminating any potential contamination of public water systems.

Caring for Britannia Metal

Mild soap and water is enough to clean Britannia metal though we recommend the use of a silver polishing cloth. The soft cloth method is preferable because it helps to avoid bending or distorting jewelry pieces. Britannia metal is a very soft metal so avoid vigorous rubbing that might dull intricate details in the design. Silver polish paste may be used as well.

About Britannia Metal

Britannia metal is an alloy which means it’s composed of more than one metal. The creation of alloys was one of the most important developments in metallurgy because it strengthened pure metals for use in forging early tools and weapons such as axes and wheels. Most modern Britannia metal is composed of a large percentage of tin and a small percentage of copper although there are many variations. Along with bronze, Britannia metal was one of the first alloys known to man. Britannia metal is considered a soft metal with a very low melting point, lending itself to detailed design work when made into jewelry.

Many metals that are often referred to by name as a pure element are, in reality, metal alloys. For example, the gold found in jewelry is almost never pure gold. Gold, like Britannia metal , is a soft metal and can be readily bent or twisted apart. Copper is the most common additive to gold: the term "karat" refers to the purity of gold in the alloy, with 18 karat gold being one-quarter copper. Most forms of aluminum encountered today are, in fact, aluminum alloys. Many of the alloys referred to with the blanket term "titanium steel" or simply "titanium" are really alloys of titanium, aluminum and vanadium.

Employed for use in jewelry making, etchings, hand engravings, cutlery, and dinnerware, Britannia metal has been found in Egypt and carbon dated to 1500 B.C.E. Pewter was also known in ancient China, Greece and Rome, and was a common metal choice during the Middle Ages (5th-15th centuries) developing with use in Europe in the 11th century and in the 17-1800’s in the American colonies. It’s very evident that pewter design has experienced resurgence in the 20th century and is currently enjoying a new phase in popularity especially as the price of gold and silver accelerates.

Britannia Metal Casting

We purchase Britannia metal in bars or ingots that we cut or melt in whole pieces before placing them in a heated casting bowl. Liquefied Britannia metal is then carefully ladled into a steel centrifuge where our carved rubber molds have been placed. The molten metal seeps into the mold as it spins, filling carved cavities in the rubber that designate the form of earring, necklace or bookmark, etc. When the mold is split open the Britannia metal pieces are lifted out of the mold in the form of a wheel with adjoining spokes where the liquid metal has solidified in our carved, decorative shapes at the tips of the spokes. The jewelry pieces are broken off to make their way through a series of polishing processes where they are vibrated in cone shaped ‘media’ pellets before they are individually hand worked to completion.

“Will the people in the cheaper seats clap your hands? And the rest of you, if you'll just rattle your jewelry.”
-John Lennon

 

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