24 May 2016

/ Artist Profile: David Neale tells us about his passion for Native Gold /

We recently talked to David Neale about his passion for Native Gold...

Tell us a bit about your connection and experience with Native Gold as a material. What is it about this particular type of gold that resonates with you?

I like simple jewellery. If I decide to make a ring, how can I keep it simple, but not boring? What gives interest and preciousness?  Provenance; the story - where the object comes from- where the material comes from. I want to start with the best ingredients. I want to bring you the yummiest Australian gold - and serve it in a simple way that lets the beauty of the gold ‘speak’.

Can you speak about the origins of your Native Gold Ring. How did you first come upon making in this way?

I come form  part of the world that is naturally rich in gold - it's in and of the landscape where I’m from. The type of rock, soil and even plants here are related to the presence of gold. And maybe the type of man too. I feel connected to it somehow. As it occurs in nature, gold is seldom 100% pure - it will often contain traces of silver for example, and is known as ‘native’ gold. Native gold from Victoria's golden triangle region is some of the richest in the world, typically assaying above 95% purity - about 22-23 carat, we might say.

When it comes to creating one of your Native Gold bands,  what is your process of working the gold? Please take us through the making of one of these pieces.

Special knowledge and hard work are needed to find native gold. I carefully select clean alluvial nuggets sourced from clever small-scale prospectors and detectorists. They seek, but not destroy. This material is rare, so has ‘specimen value’, and is more expensive than typical refined gold. 

Using fire, I melt the nuggets together into one shape, called an ingot. I’ve found that native gold is like a friend who is willing to go on any adventure I suggest- as if… as if it wants to become jewellery! Other metals are not like that.  And did you know?- Gold is the only yellow metal we know of. (Ah - I knew you were going to say “ahem... brass?”- but that’s a mix of copper and tin, you see.) 

My thought is to make a ring without any seams or solder joins- it will have a wholeness. To begin the ring, I pierce a hole in the ingot. 

This hole is gradually widened by hammering the gold over a steel cone. This is very simple - but not easy - care is needed to keep the shape right. I don’t polish this ring. I give it a fine, uneven, grainy texture. I use a hammer to achieve this - hundreds of careful taps - and although I've got lots of hammers, there’s a special one that works best. Its an antique I bought at a flea market in Italy. I love that funny little hammer. It gives a texture that baffles the light- sends it wiggling off in all directions -  and the gold now gives its own extraordinary lustre - like those water-worn nuggets I started with. And there it is, unusually heavy in my hand. Not just a ring, but a treasure - with a story.

See our artist profile film on David Neale here.