Mokume Gane Rings

The tale of mokume gane rings begins centuries ago, in the forge of a lone master smith in feudal Japan. Today, you'll find the best of his tradition perfected right here, in the most attractive assortment of custom-designed mokume rings ever assembled. From incredible wedding rings to selections for everyday wear, history lives on in this unique collection by Titanium-Buzz.

 

The Beauty of Wood Grained Metal

Translated into English, mokume gane means "wood grained metal." Take one glance at any of the rings in this collection, and you can see why. The delicate inlays of these rings feature mesmerizing patterns of swirls that look like cross-sections of wood that have somehow been transformed into solid metal. What you're actually seeing is countless layers of precious metals, expertly forged at the place where science meets art.

The History of the Mokume Gane Technique

What is mokume gane? It's a technique that began, we believe, sometime in the late 1600s in the forge of one man, Denbei Shoami. Shoami, a master smith living in the northern region on the main Japanese island of Honshu, used a variety of ancient metalworking techniques to invent an entirely new process for forging layers of different metals together into a single bar or billet. When carved, this hybrid billet revealed striking patterns where the metals had fused together into a swirling arrangement of colors unlike anything that had ever been seen before. Some said the patterns looked like flowing water. Others said it reminded them of the movement of clouds. Others described it as marble turned to metal. And still others, maybe most people, agreed that this new metal reminded them of beautiful, lacquered wood.

How Is Mokume Gane Created?

To create a mokume gane billet, sheets of metal alloy are stacked together in alternating layers. This is usually a mix of valuable, malleable metals like gold and silver, or silver and copper, or shakudo (an ultra-pure blend of gold and copper). The sheets often range in thickness from as thin as paper or foil to nearly half an inch. The width of each sheet influences the pattern and is dependent on the skill of the smith.

After being thoroughly cleaned of dirt, oils, and oxidizing agents, the layers are diffusion welded at high temperatures that allow the "joints" of each layer to partially liquefy and permanently blend together, forming a single billet. The pattern of these joints becomes visible by carving, chiseling, or sanding the billet.

Revealing the pattern of mokume gane is an art in itself. After achieving a good weld, the billet can be cut, restacked, and re-forged to create even more elaborate patterns, in much the same way Damascus steel uses extra folds to create complex, wavy styles. Billets can also be milled, twisted, or stamped to achieve additional unique effects. The possibilities are literally endless.

The Legacy of Mokume Gane

Complex yet organic, the unique look of mokume gane in all of its infinite variety has made it a prized style for a devout following of artists and metal enthusiasts almost since its inception. Fans of Asian history and art can also tell you that some of the finest decorative weapons ever made in Japan were being produced around the time Shaomi invented his technique. As Shaomi began sharing his knowledge with other smiths, many used mokume gane to create elegant sword fittings, guards, and inlays for katana blades and other edged weapons. Other early examples of mokume gane include vases, bowls, and small pieces of decor.

Due to the considerable difficulty and skill required to master the process, however, only a handful of the most experienced artisans ever adopted the mokume gane technique. For this reason, early period mokume gane pieces are relatively rare. This is perhaps why throughout much of the 17th and 18th centuries, mokume gane objects, though well-respected, were little known in Europe and elsewhere except among the most knowledgeable and discerning scholars and art collectors. Even today, mokume gane is not as widely known or practiced as much as its recently rediscovered cousin, Damascus steel. It remains a challenge to all but the most talented smiths.

Mokume Gane's Rediscovery and Rebirth

In fact, the entire process was nearly lost to history. Confusion over the proper steps to the technique, along with its difficulty, meant that only a bare handful of smiths in Europe and the West attempted to make or were even aware of mokume gane until the second half of the 20th century. It had even lost popularity in Japan, which at the time was in the process of reinventing itself as a modern power and had little interest in what many regarded as folk art.

Fortunately for the art, mokume gane was rediscovered by academics in the 1960s and perfected by modern metalworkers throughout the 1970s and 80s. The style has since increased in popularity and, despite being a challenging discipline, is more popular today than at any point during its long and elegant history.

Our Mokume Gane: The Legacy Lives On

All of the mokume gane rings and wedding bands featured at Titanium-Buzz are specially produced by one of the best and most talented American artists in the industry. Each is a custom creation that has been individually crafted for the customer. No two of our mokume rings, including yours, will ever be exactly the same. From our all-time best-selling Gold and Silver Mokume Gane Wedding Band to the stylish slashes of our Mokume Shakudo Ring, over three centuries of skill and superior craftsmanship lie behind these pieces.

Bring more of the best from the ancient masters to your fingertips when you check out our truly one-of-a-kind Damascus rings.

We want to work with you! Want to see a design or style that's not already on our website? Whether it's a different combination of alloys, different shapes, or a different look altogether, we can make your ideas happen and we want to hear your thoughts. Feel free to contact us and let us know what you had in mind.

 

 

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