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Mokume Gane: A Mystery from the Past Becomes an Art of Today

Mokume gane (moh’-coo-may gah’-neh) is the art of fusing layers of precious metals to form a single piece with unique markings (Mokume Gane in Japanese means wood-grain metal). It was first developed in feudal Japan by a Seventeenth Century mastersmith, Denbei Shoami, who used Mokume in decorative elements for Japanese swords. These fabulous pattern-welded steel blades constituted one of the highest art forms inJapan at that time, and with Mokume furnishings, they sold for a king’s ransom in Europe. The Japanese closely guarded the secret art of fusing precious metals over generations of masters and apprentices.

In the 1970s, a few modern artisans studied with mastersmiths in Japan, and brought the art to the West. But creating Mokume has always been difficult. Even now, most billets, or working blocks, are formed by hand, and aside from some art pieces, nearly all the products on the market are wedding bands–a simple celebration of the material itself and the fine art of creating it.

Michael Daniels Goldsmiths

M•D goldsmiths have developed a proprietary combination of heat, pressure, forging, and carving to produce the bold M•D patterns. Their process of solid-state diffusion bonding starts with making their own alloys, including the 18K golds, as well as the dark and light contrast layers. This gives them a stable billet with crisp, clear layers of the different metals, and provides fine control of color balances. It also helps prevent melting during bonding, and delamination later.

M•D Mokume patterns are unique, using up to seven alloys. Indeed, the patterns a goldsmith cuts in Mokume are as individual as a painter’s identifying brushstrokes.