What is Keum Boo?

February 03, 2021

What is Keum Boo?

What is Keum Boo? 


In recent weeks, I've been exploring the beautiful jewellery making technique of Keum Boo. Literally meaning "applied gold", Keum Boo is an Ancient Korean gilding technique used to fuse sheets of 24ct gold, to silver and a whole host of other metals including copper and steel.

As you can see from the piece below, it creates the most amazing and striking finish on jewellery....It's safe to say, I think this is one of my favourite techniques ever. 


Keum Boo Necklace in 24ct gold and fine silver by Gemma Tremayne Jewellery

The piece above is one that I felt compelled to make at the end of 2020. It's inspired by the lines left in the sand on the beach when the tide recedes. The gold shines through the dark patina and reminds us that there is always light in the darkness....a true symbol of a year spent in a pandemic.


So how was it made?


The piece started off its life like this. I made a disc in fine silver, and attached a jump ring through a drilled hole, to allow the pendant to hang on a chain. 


Fine silver keum boo pendant in progress, by Gemma Tremayne Jewellery

In order for the gold to adhere to the silver, it needs to be applied either to fine silver, or to sterling silver which has been through a process called depletion gilding. This is where the metal is repeatedly heated until pure fine silver comes to the surface of the metal. 

In this instance though, I used a fine silver base for my pendant, which kept things quite simple! 



So the first step was to make sure the silver was clean, and sanded with a really fine grit sandpaper - this helps the gold adhere to the silver. 

Once all the prep is done, the fun really begins! 

Work in progress, handmade Keum Boo Necklace

I began laying down strips of 24ct gold onto the piece. The two metals are fused together using nothing but heat and pressure. Working over a hot plate provides a heat source and then it's a case of waiting until there is enough heat, and using a burniser to push the gold down over the silver. 



work in progress, Keum Boo necklace by Gemma Tremayne Jewellery

The pressure from the burniser combined with the heat forms an electron exchange between the surfaces of the two metals, and gives a permanent bond...It's pretty amazing! 

The act of burnishing polishes the metal, which leaves a rather 'scratchy' look to the piece. These can be polished out easily, or sanded back with fine grit sandpaper for a Matte finish....


And then things get really interesting.....
Handcrafted Keum Boo Necklace by Gemma Tremayne Jewellery
The silver can be darkened with a patina, turning it black....but the patina won't take to the gold...Which leaves this uh-may-zing contrast between the two metals!! 

I adore the high contrast between the metals... And the vividness of the 24ct gold!

I think we'll be seeing some more Keum Boo here at Gemma Tremayne Jewellery soon...
What do you think? Are you a fan of the black and gold combo? Let me know in the comments below !


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