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Small grains of silver are fused to a solid plate of silver. They are attached only at the point of contact. This is a technique that dates back to the Etruscans and has been perfected in traditional Balinese jewelry. Silver wire is cut into small bits and then torched so that the bits become spheres. The spheres are then sorted by size through a sifter. Once the granules are sorted they are applied to the piece being made.
When fusing the temperature of both the back sheet and the granules are raised to the point where they melt just enough to permanently adhere to one another. If the temperature is raised too much the granules will melt and if the temperature is not high enough the granules will fall off.
Oxidized silver is darker and has a smoky look to it. A sulfur oxidation solution is evenly applied with a small, frayed piece of wood. This time-consuming method creates a smooth, even surface with no evidence of brush marks. The surface has a dark or antiqued finish. High polished areas are more dramatic against the backdrop of oxidation.
Pearlescent Satin Finish
A satin surface is achieved by etching small criss-crossing lines onto the surface of the silver or gold. This gives the jewelry a soft, rich feel.
Michou’s satin finish was created to resemble mother of pearl. The silver is swirled by hand with a fine steel brush in order to create concentric patterns.
This technique was perfected by Michou’s jewelers in 1994. During this process the silver is torched until it almost burns. The interior of the metal is carefully melted. Since metal shrinks inwards, as it melts the silver exterior wrinkles, resulting in ridges and depressions. Patterns of ridges can be achieved by angling the flame in various directions. Michou has developed several signature patterns.
Fine pliable threads of metal are curled, twisted and plaited in a delicate lattice which often suggests lace. The threads of metal are soldered only at points of contact and often accented with granulation to set off the wire work most effectively. Fine 999 silver is used as sterling silver is too stiff for this work. The art of filigree was perfected in the Greek and Etruscan filigree of the 6th to 3rd centuries B.C. Filligree can be created by soldering wire to wire with no background support; or it can be made by soldering fine wires to a larger metal surface. The more delicate work is often protected by a sterling silver outer wire frame. Soldering together the dainty wire forms of filigree is truly a master’s art.
In an electroplating process, microns of gold are deposited onto a sterling silver surface. The process is intricate in that all details that are not gold have to be painted with a masking solution in order to protect the silver from the gold being deposited on its surface.
Vermeil is the official industry designation for heavy gold electroplating over a base of sterling silver material. A minimum thickness of 2 microns of gold must be deposited before it can be sold as vermeil. Michou plates in 22K gold to a thickness of 3 microns.
Repouse and Chasing
Metal is ornamented or shaped by hammering on the reverse side to create a design or pattern. Repousse is used to create a raised design on the front of the piece by hammering from behind and Chasing is used to refine the design on the front of the piece by sinking parts of the metal in. This is a technique that allows a lot of detail to be seen in the silver without the use of solder.