The Goldsmith of Salt Spring 10-Year Celebration Events
Welcome to my site. This is a Thank You Page to my customers. Since 2004 we have been bringing new ideas to life while giving personalized thought and attention to more than five hundred customers. I have developed three lectures as a Thank You which are found below. The second part of this page describes the Martinus Story from early beginnings in Germany to a jeweler’s life on Salt Spring.
Three Lectures at the Martinus Studio, November 2014
The Horn of Plenty and the Crater of Beautiful Things
On earth all natural appearance are growing or have been growing deep down in an ancient source. Crystals have inclusions, markings or lines, telling us about their history and how they became what they are now. Those and the metals are closely connected with the early days of our planet. That was when the planet was boiling bubbling and smoking from magma and lava being tossed out of endless craters.
The cooling took millions of years and the poisonous smoke needed to settle before humans could enter the scene. In this scenario landmasses were colliding, mountains like the Rockies were forced out of the wobbly grounds, then shriveling in the cooling. Sometimes the new valleys would open up and swallow again the cooled masses for a re-cooking. All of our known metals and minerals are solidified out of this tremendous stink of earth’s magma boiling days.
Diamonds form at the bottom of the boil, 120 miles below, and slowly pushed up now cold, maybe cold-hearted powerful, or cut for beauty and a love to last.
Shirley Bassey sang it:
“Diamonds never lie to me,
For when love’s gone,
They’ll lustre on.”
When talking Gemstones, we are usually talking about natural Crystals. Most Crystals are transparent or translucent gems. All can be cut with diamond dust on the turntable.
Now imagine you have the hardest mineral on earth in your hands, how would you cut it? Diamonds natural crystal structure is always more compact than other crystals, which already points out that diamond-cutting requires special measures.
The ‘Adamas’ (Diamond), or the Untouchable, was to be conquered through shaping when the first guild of diamond cutters and polishers (Diamantaire) was formed in Nuernberg, Germany in1375.
The ‘point cut’ is to take the one point of the double pyramid away to open the view into the stone. This was a major advancement during the latter half of the 14th century.
During this period, cutters took advantage of the natural cleavage planes in a rough diamond, which had distinct advantages when it came to ‘cutting’ nature’s hardest gem.
The cutter ‘cleaved’ the rough stone into smaller stones that were closer to the approximate final shape that was desired. Cleaving was accomplished by striking the stone in just the right spot with a chisel and a mallet. Cutters with this knowledge were paid the most in the trade. Some had sleepless nights before putting the chisel to a big stone. One can split a diamond not only with a chisel, even a kitchen knife will do. How can the Untouchable allow for that? It has to do with its inner structure of crystal growth.
Today diamonds are cut with a saw. It sounds easy, but it can take days to cut off the top of the double pyramid shape. Polishing is also a very slow process. The stone glows in the making. What is Bruting? This probably has something to do with ‘brutal’. That is, when two diamonds are repeatedly struck against another while one is being held in a dop stick whilst the other is rotating on a motorized wheel. Why is this is done?
If you were to cut the hardest material in the world, how would you do that? It can only be done with diamond against diamond. And a Diamond has actually three different directions of hardness, even though all are far harder than any other gemstone.
Parallel to its crystal surfaces, a diamond can only be cleaved but not cut, that is the hardest direction. Sideways coming in is the next in hardness and from the top of the octahedron is the easiest to grind into a diamonds crystal shape.
The Bort (Diamond Dust) coming off in the cutting is used on other stones to be cut. All the while, there is always the hardest and second hardest direction in the finest grain of diamonds dust. That will do the work slowly, but surely to any stone.
Like all brilliant cut Diamonds, no matter of size, they have 33 facets on the top, called the crown and 24 on the bottom part called the pavilion. In recent decades, most girdles, that is the outer connecting line between top and bottom are faceted. Often we find a laser engraving here that relates to a certificate of quality measures, or on top it testifies its origin.
This Brilliant Cut Style is possible since 1905 but it became popular through technical upgrades before the 1930s. With the new equipment other cuts suddenly were possible too, like the Oval, Princess cut, or Marquise cut.
Going back to the development in cutting, diamond cuts before 1930 were known as Cushion Cuts, Antwerp Cuts, or here in North America known as Old Mine Cuts.
If we take a look through a microscope we can often see a lot about whether a stone is natural or man made. If we see a little cloud in it, it’s a clear indication for a natural stone, even though it’s price is reduced because the light cannot flow through every which way easily.
Today we can Google the images of the Diavik Mine high up in the North West Territories about 500 miles before one reaches the Arctic Circle. The very short summers allow for easier work, but only in the winter equipment and supplies can be brought in on trucks across the ice.
And today, many of my customers are burning with the question, is it a Canadian Diamond? If the stone were small, we would not know for certain, because then the girdle of this stone is smaller than any laser engraving can be. Certification would somehow cost more than the price of the gem. Stone sizes of one quarter carat and up can be certified as Canadian Diamonds and are seen as ethically sourced.
If you want a stone with a Polar Bear or a Canadian Maple symbol laser engraved; Yellowknife is the center of Canadian Diamond cutting and Vancouver and Toronto function as the distributors. Over the last twenty years Canada has become a big supplier of the world. Its production ranges at a quarter of world production.
Imagine gemstones forming deep down in a boiling crater, with the diamond at the hottest, deepest places. When the earth was born, layer over layer of compressed, extreme hot carbon crystallized in the earth 120 miles below. So how do these adored crystals come to the surface of this planet?
Volcanic eruptions brings liquid magma, in this case called Kimberlite, or Blue Ground to the surface creating land or mountainous landscapes around the eruption. In the following millions of years the weather will bring them to our eyes. Erosion, caused from temperature changes like rain and ice or burning sun loosens the beauties out of the gravel.
The diamond carrying magma is usually a grayish bluish — a not to dense ground that easily breaks down in a year or two. Mostly heavy equipment is used nowadays to shatter it for faster claiming.
Diamond mines are cooled off craters. They are exploited from the top down into the ground, often thousands of feet deep.
I have a special interest in coloured diamonds. Many are found naturally. A one carat natural pink or blue diamond will bring collectors into play. They pay double or triple the price of a beautiful white one of the same weight. Some stones are treated to enhance the colour. As in nature this happens through radiation on a nuclear level the same way.
Weight is very important too. As a rule of thumb, the price for any diamond usually quadruples if the weight doubles.
What is one carat? One way to say it is, we would need five one carat stones to make up for one gram on the scale and that is not much at all.
The Treshenko, a 42.92 ct fancy blue Diamond was found in South Africa around 1900 to 1905. Blue diamonds are rare and this one is seen as the fourth largest found.
The Koh-i-Noor, a lighter blue Diamond, changed ownership from the Nadir Shah of Persia in the early 1700s, until it was re-cut to 105 carats for Queen Victoria in 1851 by a stone-cutter from Amsterdam. Using a steam-driven cutting wheel, it took 38 days to complete the cutting. It is now displayed in the Tower of London, where it is set in Queen Elizabeth’s crown.
But it was another Elizabeth who understood the underlying message of nature – that a diamond will survive everything, including us. She wrote sadly in her book Elizabeth Taylor: My Love Affair with Jewellery: “I’m here to take care of it and to love it, for we are only temporary custodians of beauty.”
In Europe, coloured gemstones are admired as much as, if not more than diamonds. So when I came to be on the West Coast of Canada, few things took me more by surprise than the diamond’s promise of enduring love.
A Gemstone is a naturally coloured Crystal, transparent or translucent: a compressed matter dating back millions of years when our earth was boiling and magma squished into cavities. Cooling off underground for many thousand of years, they are now buried deep inside the earth or within the mountains. Through erosion some of them were flushed down into the valleys or otherwise mined deep out of the planet. We humans are digging for these treasures for hundreds of generations.
For a Crystal to become a jewel, they are cut either along the crystals length, or across from the top. All can be cut with diamond dust on the turntable. The best transparent qualities are selected for facetted stones to capture the natural light refractions.
Stones cut into the rounded, classic cabochon shape, reflect less light, but often possess a richer, deeper colour. This can be a highly sought after attribute and achieve higher prices in a cabochon shape even if it is not as clear and sparkling as the facetted stone.
In Germany, and in my travels abroad, I too had a fascination for coloured gemstones. I chose each stone I bought from a gem merchant with a vision of what I would make with it. These Crystals are natural, they brought out the artist in me and here in Canada. My life is enriched on top of that with our natural surroundings.
Nature was absolutely generous providing us with gemstone varieties in the hundreds. Let us speak about the better known ones to learn about natures concepts.
Corundum: all Sapphire Colours and Ruby
If we take a look through a microscope we can often see a lot of indications to determine whether our stone is natural or man made. Most natural crystals have inclusions, and are speaking of the days of natural chaos when they were forced out of the magma to cool. In the case of a Sapphire, it grew in these hot days layer over layer crystallizing as Aluminum oxide in the cooling magma later called igneous rock.
All Sapphire colours, and Rubies as well, are following a hexagonal crystal pattern. They speak about the crystal growth like the rings in a tree. Within the lines there can be some imperfection that floated in within the making, or tiniest air channels refract the light so beautifully creating the asterisk of Star Ruby or Star Sapphire.
Now we come to a favourite of mine — The Tourmalines. They are from boron as a mineral. Depending on additional faint hints of metal oxides in the melt or surrounding gases in the cooling, these stones present to us a beautiful array of rainbow colours.
These stones are recognizable because of a distinct double refraction. This means that the light passes through in one way easily and is held back through the other side. This separates them from ruby and emerald clearly.
So what is light refraction all about? Don’t feel sorry you asked.
The refractive indices specific to a certain gem are speaking of the capacity that this gem has to return as much light as possible back out on the top, where it entered the cut crystal before through its facets.
Most of you will probably remember the prism in physics class that broke up the natural white light into the colours of the rainbow. Gems are passing the light through the same way and the gem cutter has to be aware of the species he is cutting for the right angles and proportions.
Amethysts belong to the Quartz Group like Citrine. These crystals can be found all over the world. They mostly grew in geodes, meaning cavities with stinking hot gases settling down as crystals are growing toward the center of the cavity.
Weather Erosion and Mining
Now imagine the weather loosens the rock and causes the gravel to slide down the mountain together with the gems. Like in Thailand, for example, lots of gravel and gems are now found in active and hidden riverbeds. Dried riverbeds in Sri Lanka are the typical mining locations to find the most wanted colours of Sapphire, Garnet and the famous sheen of Moonstone.
I have been to gem dealers in Colombo and Gale in Sri Lanka, at the southern tip of the green Island, searching for stones with little success. Most of finer gems are exported through government channels. That means I can get better stones through my merchants than in the countries of origin.
Australia is famous for the multi-coloured Opals that are found there. Queensland opals are small spotted on a milky ground, whereas the fierier big spotted colour changing ones come from a mine in Lightning Ridge New South Wales.
Opals come into existence as thin layers in-between a brown rock called boulder. To make use of this beauty in thin layers the cutters invented a way to adhere them to onyx with the same temperature expansion as opal.
Their mineral structure is amorphous, different to crystalline. The material is silica that took on moisture from the ancient days of earth, which is responsible for the light diffraction and the colour spread of light.
Another amorphous gem is Lapis Lazuli. Earlier on we spoke about the earth opening up its Valleys and re-melting the cooled off surface again.
Lapis Lazuli is from that phase of the earth’s beginnings where up to three minerals are compacted in this beautiful rock. It’s colour comes from Lazurite, a sodalite group mineral often mixed with golden spots of Pyrite and in the lower qualities also seen with veins of Calcite . The bluest ones are found in Afghanistan. Lapis is not the hardest but most stunning in its blue.
Hardness is one important measure of what gems are known for. The Hardness of a stone is responsible for it’s durability in daily wearing. It is not especially wise to wear your emerald with your rubber boots while gardening. Emerald is way too sensitive for such endeavors; only Diamonds have the hardness for that. Still it’s not clever to challenge your rock on the rocks. Your setting might give in and you don’t want to start mining for gems in the garden!
Love your jewels, they cannot love you. As Oscar Wilde put it “One Should Either Be a Work of Art or Wear a Work of Art.”
Imagine, you are panning for gold, your back is aching and you have been in the water for five hours, covered in mosquito bites. Most everything that settles in the pan is just waste. Stones, moss, silt, are just so much debris to be discarded in favour of even the smallest particle of that one rare metal that you’ve placed above the ordinary. Then you get to the bottom of the pan and see a flake of gold and it gleams and sparkles and you soon forget you are cold and wet.”
Picture places like Terry Creek in the Caribou Region and Dease Lake high up north in Canada. If you are a native British Columbian, you might have relatives who had strong gold fever. They say, once you are hooked, it is for a lifetime.
Some of the nuggets they found are rounder than the others and some have Quartz attached. The rounder ones are from a gravel-carrying stream, whereas the flakier ones are from a dried riverbed. That means they were not tumbled for millions of years. Wherever you see quartz in rocks or in the mountains that means gold could be there too. Quartz and gold are indications for each other. Colour differences have to do with the areas that gold comes from. That gets us to the thousand dollar question, what has the one got that the other one doesn’t have?
In our story, Terry Creek gold has the higher pure gold count 87% to the Dease Lake sample at about 82%. Gold always comes as a mix of metals. In these natural alloys we find Silver, sometimes Copper, sometimes Platinum. Now let’s consider a different batch panned at different time in your old uncles life. That gold had iron in it, which bubbled out in the melting and caused that the ingot from this melt would later crack in the rolling mill. With all such unclear components in the gold, no one can make reliable jewelry. Only a trusted refinery, like Imperial Smelting in Toronto, can separate these by-metals correctly. So we have no other choice but to refine. What is the outcome and how is it done.
Let’s follow the story of Gold Panner Joe. What he finds he takes to raw Gold Trader Erwin who has also collected from other panners in the region. Let’s say he delivers ten ounces of raw gold to the Smelter. That is 311 grams in metric measure. Imperial is going to assay the batch. The batch will be melted and weighed again afterwards. It will be around 6 grams less than supplied. The reason for this is that gold can evaporate in the melting. Think of it like water being solid when cold as ice. The next stage would be liquid until boiling. Even before it boils some particles turn into steam. The same happens to gold only at a higher temperature. Pure gold melts at 1063 degree Celsius or 1850 Fahrenheit.
At a now new weight of 305 grams Imperial Smelting drills a little hole into Trader Erwin’s metal and melts the drillings again together with lead, something I remember from my apprentice times. (As a teenager, these exams were nothing short of torture.) Next the lead will be evaporated. That takes out the impurities and gives the refiner a percentage of gold content. And Erwin the Trader can get paid for the pure gold in the entire batch. That is the same percentage of 87 or 82 in purity we touched on earlier. At this point in the story, Imperial Smelting has not yet done the refining. It pays the Gold Trader, stores the metal, and waits for more to come before heating the crucible.
A Martinus Batch of old jewelry arrives shortly afterward, collected from his customers over a year together with filings from our production. The Smelter melts it, and as it happens, we loose the same 2% of weight. Then we get an assay done and have to confirm the findings. Different than the trader, we want the pure gold returned.
If we agree to the findings in our assay, we are in effect worth the grams or ounces we provided and have that weight applied to our gold account with the refiner. The pure gold is poised to be used even before the actual melting has happened. Next day the Trader’s and our metal goes together in the big crucible. It is melted with silver batches of other companies to stretch out the gold content to less than a quarter of fine gold. The block that comes out of this melting will be rolled out to thin metal sheet and dissolved in Nitric Acid. That takes all the silver, the copper and impurities out and leaves a sponge of pure gold behind. This sponge undergoes an electrolytic process to become 99.9 % of fine gold and to be re-melted to little grains.
This is what I receive from our refinery. It is unlikely though to ever have my own gold back. It’s at least mixed with the Trader’s stuff, but we will never know who else is in the mix. But Pure is Pure and that’s what’s needed to make reliable jewelry.
Most people are aware of the stamps in jewelry. What do they tell us? In a nutshell, less than half pure gold at say 41.5% gold content, would be stamped10 Karat gold in yellow gold, equally mixed with silver and copper. When there is more than half in gold at perhaps 58.5% it is called 14 Karat. Lastly a gold content of 75%, together with a mix and silver and copper at equal amounts is 18 Karat.
It becomes obvious here that we both need reliable assays. As a Goldsmith I need to guarantee my jewellery. Equally, you want to know the value you are contributing, when you bring us your old jewellery. We have test solutions to find out which gold alloy you are providing if your pieces are not stamped. Our brochures explain how we handle your materials.
Now comes something fascinating. How do we change the colour of pure gold from white to yellow to rose gold? The gold content of 18 karat will stay the same, even if the colour changes. Pure gold is alloyed with silver and copper equally to keep the colour yellow. Think of adding more copper and less silver the colour changes towards the red of the copper. Take more silver and less copper the colour goes pale yellow. Now mix in Nickel or palladium a platinum metal and you steal the gold its colour. It turns light gray and will never be as white as silver or platinum, which are totally white by nature.
Where does gold come from in nature before it can be mined? Let’s go back into ancient millions of years back in time, when the earth was boiling of molten Lava and Magma spilling out of craters. Gold, Silver and Platinum as well as all other metals are closely connected with the early days of our planet. That was when the planet was boiling burping and smoking from magma and lava being tossed out of craters.
All of our known metals and minerals are solidified out of this tremendous stink of earth’s magma boiling days. Everything is still bubbling tremendously hot down 120 miles right under us. Gold usually solidifies in gaps and cracks of the earths crust, pushed up with the mountain out of the wobbly grounds.
Then Erosion weathers off the outer crust of our planet, gold becomes exposed, rolls down into the valleys, washes into the creeks and rivers that can be found here. This is one of the reasons British Columbia is rich on gold, and ethical mining was born on the principal of using gravity to separate gold from gravel. The same principal is used in bigger operations. Those companies dig up soil to eliminate finest grains of gold from the gravel. Usually 1.5 tons of gravel goes through the machinery to find one gram of pure gold. A few little splashes of gold could have potentially come out of three tons of gravel.
The main technology is to separate the heavier gold from the lighter gravel. What the miner shakes out in the gold pan, a heavy box, called a sluice box, does it in a similar way. The gold is held up when gravity makes it sink down while gravel and soil is rattled and washed of. When the gold grains are so fine that they could be flushed out with the soil, mining companies try to bind it with mercury, and chemicals. That has become a problem here in Canada and the government is feverishly trying to find a means through regulations.Tailing ponds up north were not looked after and heavy rain has broken dams where the poisonous mix got into the rivers and lakes. I hope a solution will be found that will protect our environment and surrounding animals.
Gold is gold and where it comes from is a part of it’s mystic. As a young woman, Daisy Roper, come gold panner in Scotland, recently described the years leading up to her marriage – ‘It is absolutely amazing to think we found the tiny flakes of gold in bits of dirt and now they have all been put together into rings which fit our fingers perfectly.’
Manuscript: Martin Ebbers
Editing: Jackie Hayes
Check the new designs here and in our showcases!
Find out more about my Vision, my Training, my Team and how it all came together.
For ten years now I have developed a business that is of great pleasure to me. Here I have come to create jewelry that resonates with the curl of a wave, the twist of a leaf and the colours of a spring day. Shape is a feeling to me and this is why it has felt right to be here for me. Let’s see how that all started.
A Jewelers Pain – A Jewelers Fun
At 15 years of age I was very serious when I found myself sitting between three jewelers and two Master Goldsmiths in my hometown Bremerhaven, coastal Germany. One Master was Dieter and the other was Elsie each thirty and forty years older than I. Dieter was kind and employed; he was technically outstanding and guided me into my life’s work. Elsie was the boss, running the place like an army general; everything was timed to the minute. Fun was only her fun! Those were the toughest three years of my life.
After good exams I was called a journeyman Goldsmith (Goldschmiede Geselle); I took one year to finish my high school and then worked the minimum three years in order to be accepted into Masters Training. So at age 21, I started to see jewelry as an art form and also tested my talent, winning my first internationally recognized award in European diamond competitions.
Then came the most wonderful time in design college “Staatliche Zeichen Akademie Hanau” to study intensely – fine technique, history and style. I took it all in; the art that I could see in Paris, Prague, Amsterdam, Strasbourg . . . it was laid out to me by my professors.
Finally at age 24, I was now the Master Goldsmith myself with a Design Degree on top. I started my own German studio the same year. But as an artist who always looks for inspiration, no place in the world ever appealed to me more than Salt Spring Island. The combination of nature and the peace to enjoy what I do the best.
In a way are the ones that have co-created my success while on top providing learning opportunities for apprenticing students to excel under my supervision.
Passing It On
These long-term students stayed for many years. Alex for example escaping the black sheep position in his Montreal Jewish family. He was with us for more than seven years becoming a great jeweler and a good friend. Raven learning jewelry techniques while also offering a warm smile and trusted knowledge to customers and visitors for more than two years now. Helicopter technician Paul started in Italy, then learned the jewellery trade fast in only four years here. He is leaving us with a new professional pride, ready to work in Maastricht Holland. Now – keen Meike from Germany twenty years of age, has arrived only weeks ago, stepping into Paul’s big shoes. She comes with three years of German training. She is here to refine her skills for the final exams as a journeyman “Goldschmiede Geselle” in 2016 back home. It is wonderful to see them all finding confidence in work and life. Very important to my business is Megan,our administrative wizard and web updating specialist. She is here for five years now, uploading everything you find in front of you here!
If you are customer of mine, you will remember your Certificate of Authenticity for that special piece I made for you? A client of mine said – “It’s like a birth certificate of something beautiful that makes me feel beautiful.”
Customers like this are my real treasures.
With thanks to all of you – Martin Ebbers for Martinus-