Material Spotlight: Gold

Gold, with its luminous sheen and inherent value, has been a symbol of wealth for millennia. As the material of choice for goldsmiths and silversmiths, gold’s history is as splendid as the artefacts crafted from it. As renowned luxury silversmiths, the team here at Grant Macdonald London often incorporate this precious metal into our masterpieces, so we’re very familiar with the timeless appeal and versatility of gold.

Historical Significance

Gold has been in demand for a very long time, and the allure of this precious metal goes back to ancient civilisations. The Egyptians, around 2600 BCE, were among the first to master goldsmithing techniques, creating stunning jewellery and artefacts. Gold’s durability and resistance to tarnish made it an ideal material for coins and royal regalia, solidifying its status as a symbol of eternal wealth and divine power. The Incas considered gold sacred, while in Europe, gold became the foundation of monetary systems, influencing trade and economy.

Goldsmithing and Silversmithing

Gold’s unique properties make it a favourite among craftsmen. Its malleability allows it to be hammered into thin sheets, or drawn into fine wires. This flexibility allows our master craftsmen to create intricate designs and detailed engravings. Gold is also highly ductile, which means it can be stretched without breaking, an essential quality for delicate filigree work.

Gold is often alloyed with other metals to enhance its strength and alter its colour. For instance, mixing gold with copper produces rose gold, while adding palladium or nickel will give you white gold. These variations provide diversity on an aesthetic level, but also cater to different functional requirements.

Despite its many advantages, gold does have limitations. Its softness is great for certain techniques, but does mean pure gold isn’t ideal for items subject to wear and tear, like rings or bracelets. That’s why gold is often alloyed, to increase hardness and durability. The high cost of gold is another prohibitive feature, making it less accessible for larger projects, and a tricky material to get hold of as a novice craftsman. 

Techniques in Handling Gold
Silversmiths and goldsmiths make use of several techniques, handed down through the generations, to work with gold effectively:


This involves melting gold and pouring it into molds to create a desired shape. Lost-wax casting is a popular method, where a wax model is encased in plaster. Once the plaster hardens, the wax is melted away, leaving a mold for the gold.

Hammering and Forging

Gold’s malleability allows it to be hammered into thin sheets or shaped into various forms. Forging involves heating gold to make it more pliable before hammering it into shape.


Our skilled artisans use fine tools to carve intricate designs into the surface of gold. This technique requires precision and a steady hand, but allows for detailed and personalised creations.


This delicate technique involves twisting fine gold wires into intricate patterns. Filigree work is often used to create decorative elements in jewellery and ornamental pieces.


Occasionally, our craftsmen will use soldering to join pieces of gold together. This involves melting a filler metal (solder) to bond the gold pieces without melting the gold itself. Soldering requires careful temperature control to maintain the integrity of the gold. 


Gold is a cornerstone material for goldsmiths and silversmiths, cherished for its beauty, versatility and inherent value. While it presents certain challenges, its unique properties allow our master craftsmen to create stunning works of art. At Grant Macdonald, we use casting, engraving and filigree, along with other techniques passed down through the generations, to elevate gold and silver into something that will be cherished for generations to come.

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