Keum-boo: An Ancient Technique for Modern Metalsmiths

By Helen Driggs

Did you know that keum-boo is a historic Korean metalworking technique for creating a eutectic bond between fine gold and silver? If that sounds too technical to you, think of it this way: it’s possible and easy to bond gold–real, pure, beautiful gold–to silver permanently, simply, and using just a few inexpensive tools. Best of all? You’ll be adding the value of real, wonderful, gleaming gold to your metalwork–in an easily achieved and economic way.

keum-boo brooch/pendant by Joe Korth
applying gold foil to silver for keum-boo

Keum-boo Techniques: Add Gold Foil to Silver Jewelry is a brand-new video I recently co-produced at the Sweetman-Allen studios in Denver, with incredibly talented expert teacher Joe Korth. Joe has studied in Korea with a few keum-boo masters, and he really knows his topic. I learned so much about this technique from him that I’ve been inspired to try it myself this winter, especially now that precious metals prices are trending in a direction I can finally afford. I love the graphic potential and stark contrast between blackened silver and gold, and for me, learning this technique to recreate in my own studio was really fun and interesting. Plus, I also learned how to create my own keum-boo gold foil, too. For a metalhead like me, that’s really the fun part of this process, because as a metalsmithing purist (um, geek), I believe that all jewelry making really does start at the metal.

textured keum-boo earring by Joe Korth

Even if you aren’t up to rolling your own foil, you can buy it, so don’t let that sidetrack you! Joe is a super metals teacher, and he also discusses design concepts–like pattern, repetition, shape, positive and negative spaces, figure and ground–and also how to take inspiration from nature and manmade sources using your own photographs or clip art to create pleasing keum-boo designs of your own. You’ll also learn his methods and tips for cutting foil with scissors, a craft blade or scalpel, paper punches, and other tools.

keum-boo and gemstone earrings by Joe Korth

This isn’t just a technique video, either. He shows you how to make two or three simple pairs of earrings, and in the course of doing so, you’ll see several demos on adding texture to keum-boo jewelry using a rolling mill and texture plates, a texture or standard forming hammer, or other hammers. Once you are finished, you’ll also discover several methods for protecting the finished metal surface and making it as permanent as possible using powder coating, Renaissance wax, spray varnish or lacquer.

If you like the look of gleaming yellow gold against jet black, keum-boo is a technique that’s worth a try, because you really only need a hot plate, a burnisher, and some metal to do it. The trick is in careful metal preparation, good design, and sound technique. If you watch Joe at work, you’ll get all of those things–plus the know-how you need to add this ancient metals technique to your own jewelry-making skill set. So why not give it a try? –Helen

See how easy that can be? Keum-boo is an ancient Korean art that you can do in your own home with limited basic tools you probably already have–plus it allows you to create eye-catching designs, highlight texture, and create modern contrast through the mixture of white metal accented with bright, rich gold. Order Joe Korth’s video Keum-boo Techniques: Add Gold Foil to Silver Jewelry and see how to get so much bang for your buck!





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