This wonderful abstract brooch is by the Scottish designer Hazel Thorn. It is made from silver and gilding-metal. Gilding-metal is a high-copper brass alloy made from 95% Copper and 5% Zinc, which are fused together. Firstly, Hazel fuses rods of the two metals (silver & gilding-metal) together side-by-side. These are rolled out as one sheet, cut up and reassembled to create the “fractured” pattern. Ammonia vapour is used to patinate the finished piece. This turns the gilding-metal black and leaves the silver white. The blue veins develop forming a new alloy where the two original metals have melted into each other and combine. This work is unique to Hazel and I have nothing else like it in my collection.
Hazel loves wild places and natural objects, her designs are abstract but related to patterns found in the natural world, for example, rock structures, ice crystals and Jupiter’s moon Europa. She says she finds the complexity, order and chaos of these forms and places feed indirectly into her work.
Hazel grew up in a remote part of the Highlands and trained at the Edinburgh College of Art. I met her at the annual Goldsmiths’ Fair, where new and established silversmiths and goldsmiths have an opportunity to showcase their work.
Gilding-metal is used for a variety of objects, badges, buttons and in armaments.
For the British Army, as laid down in War Office (1904) Dress Regulations for the Officers of the Army, gilding-metal should be “8 parts copper to 1 of zinc”, making the zinc 11% of the composite alloy.
In 1944 the USA mint melted down gilding-metal shell casings into pennies which replaced the unpopular steel cent.