Welcome to my website -- I’m glad you’re here (wherever here is). My name is Patrick Burt and I am an Artisan Jeweler. This title means that I am a custom jeweler of the old school. I have lived in Tempe, AZ (the Phoenix metropolitan area) for the past forty years and I specialize in truly custom designed jewelry. The hallmark of my business is working directly with my clients to produce the top quality gold and silver items they desire. My forte is the design and production of custom wedding rings for couples who know what they want and require something outside the usual.
You will notice many different styles of work on the pages of this website, but remember that most of these images represent the tastes of many different customers over many productive years.
The images you'll see in the slideshow are either the latest designs which I want to show off or the ones which are available for immediate shipment. There are many more photos of unique designs from the past thirty years as well as photos of new work being posted monthly. However, this site will soon be no more than my online portfolio. If you wish to purchase the latest and greatest that I have to offer, you need to visit my site at etsy.com/shop/patrickburt. There you will see items for sale which, in some instances, are still hot from the steam cleaner. Please check it out and tell me what you think.
If you see an appealing image in the slide show, just click on it and you'll be taken to an information page telling you all about that piece of jewelry. Keep in mind that all images are minimal in size to better facilitate loading. If a better image is needed, right click on the image and at the bottom of the menu click on "Refresh image at top quality".
You need to know that I answer all e-mails; if you didn't receive a reply, I never received an e-mail. If you require immediate information or are having problems with e-mail please call me at my office number 480.921.3141. If you have any questions about jewelry or the jewelry industry please ask them. If your questions have a broad appeal or, most importantly, are fertile grounds for childish humor, I will post them on my FAQ (Fervently Annoying Queries).
You may know it as a Roman Chain, an Etruscan Chain or any one of the ancient names, largely forgotten, once borne by this noble construction. Whatever you wish to call it is, I feel, better than the currently popular moniker of the "Loop-in-Loop" chain. A name devoid of all respect not to mention the wonder which this beautiful expression of the Goldsmith's craft can instill. Based on a deceptively simple pattern, this little wonder was produced by almost every civilization which ever practiced the art of Goldsmithing. When I first learned how to make chain it was called Roman Chain and thus it shall remain.
Before I start with a full technical description of how I make a Roman Chain, let me apologize to the casual reader who might feel sandbagged by too much nuts and bolts detail. I'm sorry to bore you with the demanding detail of what can generously be described as a tedious task. You might want to just look at the pictures and continue to wonder how such a thing could possibly be made by human hands. With that out of the way let us begin.
In most instances I pull my own wire for hand made chain. I also feel that it's best to alloy one's own gold in order to feel fully vested in a fine piece of jewelry which will hopefully not only give the client a lifetime of enjoyment but may wind up in a museum of the future. It starts off the long process of individually producing and weaving small rings of gold into a finished masterpiece with a truly tedious and largely pointless task. Let's be honest, refiners of precious metals make a much better wire than I do, I'm just a sucker for taking the long road.
The most important part of this process ( note to young craftspeople ) is the ratio of the diameter of the wire size you have chosen to the diameter of the rod used to shape the rings which will become the links of the chain. I have seen several different charts for this ratio and they are all different than my preference. I use a 24 gauge wire (.51 mm) and a 9 mm rod for forming the links for a ratio of roughly 18:1. A smaller ratio makes a tight chain which can be very hard on the fingertips and a higher ratio makes what I feel is an overly loose and sloppy link. I was initially taught to use a much higher ratio resulting in six or seven chains which were melted and replaced in the years since. This ratio only works for what is technically termed a two axis double backed chain. They can be made as a single axis chain either single or double backed which is known as a foxtail chain, or a triple axis single or double backed which is known as a nightmare.
I use a wooden dowel rod hammered into a tight fitting brass tube as my shaping axle. I cut a slit about an inch and a half lengthwise into this rod and then drill a hole offset at the end of this cut. Step 1.This allows me to insert the end of a four foot length of wire into the hole and begin twisting the wire in a tight coil. When I reach the business end of the rod I apply a strip of thin masking tape on top of the coil to keep it in place for cutting. The wire must be dead soft for chain-making or else it will uncoil at this stage making uneven links. Then, using a fine saw blade ( 7/0 ) I carefully slice the wire down the length of the rod staying within the precut groove. This produces about 40 open rings of wire, all the exact circumference required. I then remove the now delicate assembly of rings leaving the severed tape in place on both sides of the cut. Gently peeling the new edges of tape back to reveal the cut ends of wire, I use a sanding disc to clean the ends of the rings. This facilitates the next process.
Once all of my rings are cut and cleaned ( 22/inch of finished chain ) I begin to fit the edges together for fusing. Fusing unfortunately doesn't work with every metal. Therefore I no longer make chain in less than 18K gold and standard Sterling won't work either. I have found that Argentium Silver works wonderfully and makes a splendid chain.
I highly recommend fusing instead of soldering the rings for a number of reasons. First, it's faster. Much. Second, it's stronger and more trustworthy. I once made a neck chain for a friend of mine in the jewelry business. Unbeknown to me, he was in the habit of putting his chain into an ultrasonic cleaner every night for the cleanest chain in town. About a year later he complained to me that it had some broken links. Upon examination that proved to be every link. The solder holding every single link together in a 20 inch chain had been completely broken down by the ultrasound.
Each link now has to be adjusted so that the ends butt together as tightly as possible for a sound fusion. They are then laid out on a flat surface, I use a steel anvil plate for convenience, and a touch of gold flux is applied to each joint. Using a number three torch tip for my small torch, I pick up each link with a fine tip hemostat and fuse the ends together. Some melt away but that's the way it goes. I usually don't lose more than about 5 % of my links using this method. I use to solder them whilst flat but that failed far too often. Fusion happens in the blink of an eye so a fast hand is needed. All of the now fused rings are pickled clean in a standard sparex solution and washed clean.
The next process of stretching the circular rings into long ovals has a nice by product of culling insufficiently fused pieces out the herd. I use a dedicated pair of needle nose or chain nose pliers which I modified for this process. I filed small grooves into the tips of the pliers so the links would have a standard seat giving each one an identical profile. This is most important. Any deviation in the shape of the formed links will give rise to mounting inconsistencies in the finished chain which is unacceptable. The link is gripped on the tips of the pliers with the fusion joint at the twelve o'clock position. This assures that the joint will be positioned in the middle of the now oval link which puts the joint in the middle of the chain where it will remain unobtrusive. Each ring is gently spread outward giving it a flat oval form ( Step 8 ). The wire should only be pulled enough to form it, not to stretch it, which again would differ the one link from the rest. This is the point where badly fused links will tend to break and usually in a dramatic fashion. The ring will be on the tip of the pliers one moment and gone the next. Eye protection is always a great idea.
I use a small clip-on loupe through which I watch all steps of the chain-making process. Quality control must be an unblinking eye. Another 5 % of all links make me suspicious of the integrity of the joint. The fused joint has a slight haziness to it for lack of a better term. Even rings which passed the spreading stage can still be suspect. There are not many moments in Goldsmithing worse than finishing a beautiful new chain and finding broken links inside it. No repair is possible. If for no other reason than peace of mind, suspect links are set aside to be used in other phases of the job. One of those phases is the next.
I use two of these links and solder them to a 2 mm square silver rod at 90 degree angles. These become the foundation upon which the chain is built. After they are soldered square and even they are bent upwards to become the first two links. Now I use an old beading tool which I have sanded into a long tapering point and mounted into a handle. This is what's used to open both sides of every link to facilitate the insertion of the next link. In a nutshell, the pattern is this. Each link is inserted through the last two links of its axis and on top of the links of the opposite axis and bent upwards. Oscillate from the x axis to the y and back again, repeat until all loose links are contained within a new chain, stop. The photos from step 12 to 19 probably tell a more succinct story than I could. The physical weaving of a Roman Chain is at once the simplest, the most tedious and the most demanding thing a goldsmith may ever do in the course of a career. Most jewelers I know have only made one if any at all. It simply requires too much. Too much focus, too much time and too much energy.
I start the weaving using nothing but the suspect links. If they are going to break later it's best that they break here where they will be cut apart from the rod anyway. I would advise virgin smiths to focus your attention on your fingertips and not listen to loud music. Sometimes a bad link is devious enough to pass all previous tests and still make it into a chain. This is the last stand for that most evil of units. The bad ring will break or weaken when you bend it upwards. This is usually only perceptible to educated fingertips although sometimes an audible snap is heard. Just pull it out and melt it for it's good for nothing else. The weaving of a Roman chain must happen in one sitting. If too long a break is taken, namely overnight, a visual difference is apparent. The muscle memory changes and the next link doesn't bend quite like the last did. If I sound a tad obsessive about this process it's because I am. This is not a quest for perfection but regularity and it doesn't take much to alter that.
When the last golden ring has found a home with the rest of his brothers and a deep sigh of relief is heard from the goldsmith's bench, there remains one last hurdle. This will only take a moment but it will be a make or break moment. That is the pulling of the finished piece. Pulling smoothes and evens the links which right now are still slightly askew. I use an old maple bench pin which I have drilled out to make it a drawplate for chains. Never use a steel drawplate for this. Steel is far more rigid than the gold and will misshape the links in a horrible way. Maple or any of the finer grain hardwoods is great for pulling a chain because the links are coerced not forced into a slightly new arrangement. The image of Step 20 shows how the wood has been grooved by the passage of many chains. These grooves help unruly links to more easily find an orderly arrangement. No lubricant is needed. Just insert the still attached foundation rod into the business end of the desired draw hole and gripping the silver rod with a pair of vise grips or draw tongs, slowly pull the chain through. Keep an ear bent for the telltale snapping of bad links. A truly horrible sound. I usually rotate the foundation rod 90 degrees and pull the chain a second time to keep everything even.
Given that everything is copasetic at this point a simple rub down with a polishing cloth is all that's needed to finish this bad boy off. I pull the chain at increasing angles through a handheld polishing cloth. Immediately a suppleness appears in the chain which quite recently was rather rigid. It's this tactile sensuality which is the calling card of a well made Roman Chain. Cut the end away from the foundation rod being careful not to mar the first two links so that they can be reused on the next chain. The clasp shown is my design so you should dream up one of your own.
I hope this article has been sufficiently descriptive for the average civilian and hopefully helpful to someone just learning the craft. If I can answer any questions please ask them and thank you all for reading.