RISD’s Jewelry + Metalsmithing Department Partners with Platinum Guild International

a student wearing an opera visor closely inspects a platinum ring she is working on

An ongoing partnership between RISD’s Jewelry + Metalsmithing department and Platinum Guild International culminated in a first-of-its-kind spring studio led by Everett Hoffman called Creating in Platinum. Working with donated materials and Lindström tools, students are exploring the unique characteristics of the precious metal and the ethics behind the way it is mined in South Africa and around the world.

“There are fewer and fewer jewelers coming into the industry who are properly trained to work with platinum,” says Department Head Tracy Steepy. “Preparing students to compete for positions in the industry is central to the mission of our partnership with PGI. Platinum’s malleability, ductility and corrosion resistance make it an exciting metal to work with. Everett led our first guild-sponsored platinum course last Wintersession, and we’re thrilled to have him back this spring.” 

Since the donated platinum is intended to be used for multiple classes, each student is allotted 22 grams to work with throughout the semester and all shavings and prototypes are collected and weighed so that they can be melted down and reincorporated into the pool when the course is complete. Students who want to keep a particular piece they design are welcome to purchase it at cost.

faculty member Everett Hoffman demonstrates proper stone-setting technique
a student wearing headphones files a platinum ring at his bench
Above, faculty member Everett Hoffman demonstrates his technique for setting stones into metal; below, grad student Ryan Sotelo uses a file to put the finishing touches on his platinum ring.

Throughout the term, students are learning to properly anneal, solder and weld platinum together using an oxy-propane torch and laser welder and exploring a range of finishing techniques, from high polish to matte to stipple texture. They’re also exploring more advanced processes related to filigree and stone setting.

As the semester draws to a close, grad student Kristina Miesel MArch 24 examines her cast-wax ring, which has just returned from the fabricator cast in a platinum-cobalt alloy and is ready to be filed and polished. The piece is weighed to determine how much it will cost if she decides to purchase it. Senior Jingtong Zhang 24 JM inspects the ring she designed, which she plans to complete with flush-set semiprecious stones.

“Like everything in metalworking, there are multiple ways of flush setting,” Hoffman explains. “It’s harder to work with natural stones because they are less regular in shape. I would recommend practicing in brass, which is accessible and affordable.”

a student uses her whole body to manually draw platinum wire
a student draws platinum wire using an industrial machine
Two techniques for drawing down wire: above, senior Kacie Xiao puts her whole body into the effort; below, grad student Ali Yuner uses the department's draw bench.

Hoffman gathers the class together to demonstrate how it’s done using a variety of burnishers, a ball burr and digital calipers. “You want to leave a half millimeter on each side of the stone and remove just a little bit of metal at a time,” he explains as he works, using a small blob of wax to pick up the stone and carefully place it in the cavity he has created. A stone that is set properly requires no adhesive whatsoever.

When the demo is completed, students spread out to work on their projects. Junior Yuru Chen 25 JM is welding platinum wire to make a pair of earrings. Senior Kacie Xiao 24 JM and grad student Ali Yuner MFA 25 JM are both drawing down wire to be formed into wire-frame rings, Xiao by hand (and foot!) and Yuner using the department’s draw bench.

“One of the goals of this course is developing technical versatility and skill in using platinum,” Hoffman notes, “so I’m happy to see the students taking different approaches to each task. I can’t wait to see how their final projects turn out.” 

Simone Solondz
May 13, 2024

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