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Some call this the highest level of metalsmithing, requiring exacting precision and craftsmanship. With a history that goes back several hundred years, Mokume Gane has held a position of status and prestige.
Today it remains one of the most unique methods of metal smithing, with each Mokume Gane ring standing out as a one-off expression of art. If you’re looking for a ring that is unique, you can’t go wrong with Mokume Gane. Chances are you’ll be the only person you know who owns one!
If this sounds intriguing, read on as we outline everything you need to know about Mokume Gane wedding and engagement rings.
What is Mokume Gane?
Mokume Gane is a metal working technique that is said to have originated in Japan in the 1600s. It was initially used to create intricate swords used as weapons, and later on, to decorate knife blades, sword sheathes and handles.
Owning a Mokume Gane object denoted status, as it was a symbol of wealth and prestige. Over time, the use of Mokume Gane declined and this intricate art was almost lost to the world, partly due to how difficult it was to master.
Fortunately, in the mid-20th century, the knowledge of Mokume Gane was revived and brought over to America where it gained popularity as a unique metalworking technique. Today, the process of making Mokume Gane has evolved and the metal continues to be used in a variety of ways, not least of which is in jewelry.
How is Mokume Gane Made?
Typically, Mokume Gane is created by layering sheets of different colored metals and then fusing these together with force and heat to create a billet. A billet basically means a stack of metal fused together. This process requires high skill and expertise, to ensure that the layers are bonded together well without melting.
Once the metal has been created, it can then be manipulated, forged and shaped to create intricate patterns. In general, each Mokume Gane ring is different in the patterns that it exhibits and finding two rings exhibiting the exact pattern is near impossible, making every ring unique.
What Metals are Used to Make Mokume Gane?
Mokume Gane can be made with a variety of metals, but the main feature of the metals used is that they are non-ferrous. This means that neither iron nor iron-based alloys are used to make Mokume Gane.
The best look for Mokume Gane rings comes from metals of contrasting colors. Silver and copper have traditionally been the favorite metals for Mokume Gane objects, as the contrast in color is quite attractive.
Some other metals such as copper, brass, silver, titanium, shakudo (a traditional Japanese copper alloy made of copper with about 5% gold) and palladium are also used, with each metal bringing something different to the end result of the metal.
However, durability should be a concern when purchasing Mokume Gane rings. Mokume Gane made of metals that corrode or oxidize, such as copper, can result in a ring that slowly destructs over time. Also because the process of making Mokume Gane is time-consuming and labor-intensive, it makes sense to use precious metals such as gold or platinum to add to the value of the metal.
When purchasing your Mokume Gane ring, check if your retailer provides you with a certificate of authenticity detailing the metals used.
Is Mokume Gane Worn by Men or Women?
Mokume Gane is more popularly chosen by men than by women, and is an ideal choice for men’s wedding rings. The history of Mokume Gane, its intricate creation process and its connection to the Samurai and battles often makes it very attractive to men looking for something unique and expressive for their wedding ring.
However, Mokume Gane wedding bands with thin widths and engagement rings paired with diamonds are a beautiful choice for women, especially those who aren’t afraid to break the mold.
Whether Mokume Gane is right for you depends on your personal preference. This is a metal that is ideal for anyone.
What are Mokume Gane Ring Prices?
Unlike a lot of the types of jewelry on the market, Mokume Gane is not one that can easily be replicated by commercial manufacturers. It is, after all, a work of art. As a result, it continues to remain an exclusive, labor-intensive and therefore valuable metal.
If you come across extremely cheap Mokume Gane, that’s a red flag that the piece isn’t genuine. In general, a high quality Mokume Gane ring will cost several hundred, if not thousand, dollars. Prices can start around $500 and go up to over $3000.
This is just an estimate and will vary based on a number of factors, including metals used, quality of craftsmanship, brand name and whether or not gemstones have been included.
Mokume Gane Diamond Engagement Ring
Mokume Gane and colorless diamonds are a match made in heaven. Diamonds tend to complement the intricate designs of the metal adding sparkle and brilliance without taking away from the metal itself.
Crafting the perfect Mokume Gane diamond engagement ring is an exacting process and requires high technical skill but the result is an eye-catching elaborate piece of jewelry that stands out on any finger.
One of the benefits of a Mokume Gane engagement ring is that it is very unique. For the bride-to-be looking for a unique ring off the beaten track, this makes a great choice.
Another benefit is that as both the Mokume Gane and the diamond are hard-wearing metal and gemstone with minimal upkeep, taking care of such a ring will not require too much effort.
What are the Best Mokume Gane Patterns?
Mokume Gane patterns can vary, although most patterns are inspired by nature.
Wood grain patterns, such as oak and elm, are probably the most popular on the market. After all, the very words ‘Mokume Gane’ mean wood grain and the soft swirls of metal replicate the essence of wood. Some other popular patterns are star, geometric patterns and symmetrical patterns.
Take a look at the various Mokume Gane patterns on offer and decide which resonates with you. The right pattern is the one that you find beautiful.
What’s the Durability of Mokume Gane?
Like Damascus steel rings, Mokume Gane are highly durable and require minimal upkeep. They are designed for every day wear and therefore are ideal for wedding and engagement rings.
A point to note is that because Mokume Gane rings are typically made of precious metals, they will acquire scratches over time. This is a common occurrence with all types of precious metals, including the hardest out there – platinum.
It is common for a patina to develop on your Mokume Gane ring (depending on the metals used). The patina often helps to bring out the patterns in the ring and is something that is desired by many people.
How Do I Clean and Care for a Mokume Gane Ring?
Mokume Gane rings are easy to clean and maintain. The best way to clean a dirty ring is to wash it with warm water and a mild liquid soap. Use a toothbrush to brush out any dirt or grime that may be lodged in the grooves.
You can also use a commercial cleaner like this popular one to clean the ring.
Take your Mokume Gane ring off when exposed to harsh chemicals or doing rough work, as this will keep the ring away from damage. This tip relates not just to Mokume Gane rings but pretty much to any expensive ring that you want to look after.
One important point to note is that if your ring contains silver is exposed to bleach or chlorine, it can darken and change color, which will often result in the pattern being hidden. To remedy this, polish the ring with a silver polishing cloth and it should return to its usual luster.
Can Mokume Gane Rings Be Resized?
Because Mokume Gane rings are typically made of precious metals, which are softer than industrial or tool metals, they can commonly be resized. However, if there are diamonds included in the ring’s setting, such as in a pave or a channel, it can be difficult to resize it. To be on the safe side, always check with your retailer whether or not the ring can be resized prior to purchase.
What’s the Difference between Damascus Steel and Mokume Gane?
Damascus steel is a metalworking technique that is very similar to Mokume gane. Many people often confuse the two and this is understandable because they are very similar forms of metal art.
The main difference between these two types of metals is in the materials used to create them. As we’ve discussed, Mokume is made of non-ferrous metals, which means that it doesn’t contain iron. It is commonly made using precious metals and as a result is often more expensive. Damascus steel, on the other hand, is made of iron based alloys.
You cannot say that one is better than the other, as they both have their pros and cons and a number of variables are involved which make it difficult to directly compare the two.
For example, a Mokume ring made of gold will be much less durable than a Damascus steel ring as well as more expensive. But if the Damascus steel ring is made of low-quality alloys, it can rust and corrode whereas the Mokume ring may not.
The materials used can widely affect the quality and properties of the metal and as a result, you have to take it on a case by case basis if you want to accurately compare a Mokume gane ring with a Damascus steel ring.
How and Where to Buy Mokume Gane Rings?
When purchasing Mokume Gane rings, it is essential that you choose a retailer known for their quality and trustworthiness. The quality of the metal and craftsmanship is paramount and you want to opt for a retailer who stands by their products.
There are a few jewelers who are dedicated Mokume Gane artists, and a quick search on Google will reveal these to you. Check reviews, after sales policies and the designs to see if they work for you.
Another great option is to take your search to Amazon, where you will find a range of Mokume Gane rings, from simulations that start at about $20 to well-crafted precious rings that command thousands of dollars.
If you’re looking for a designer ring, we recommend purchasing from Brian Gavin who have a gorgeous range of designer Mokume Gane rings at good prices. The quality is impeccable and the designs are stunning. You can check out this collection here.