What is Black Hills gold?

Gold and gold jewelry come in a wide variety of shapes, styles, and colors, all of which can combine to make a piece more unique and more aligned with a wearer’s particular tastes and sensibilities.

This is certainly the case with Black Hills gold jewelry, which is made via a one-of-a-kind process to result in pieces unlike any others in the industry.

Here is a closer look at the history of Black Hills gold jewelry, its key characteristics, and the processes that go into creating it.

History of Black Hills gold jewelry

The story of Black Hills gold begins in the region for which it was named.

The Black Hills are a mountainous region in western South Dakota that was long considered sacred by the Native American tribes that inhabited the area. In the 1870s, the Black Hills Gold Rush brought numerous prospectors to the area who began setting up camps in and around towns like Deadwood, Central City, and Lead.

To some, Black Hills gold jewelry is believed to have been created during this period by French goldsmith Henri LeBeau. As the story goes, LeBeau dreamt about the design of the jewelry after passing out from thirst and starvation.

Others believe Black Hills gold jewelry was created by S.T. Butler, a local goldsmith who also lived in the area during the 1860s. Butler’s grandson even started his own company manufacturing Black Hills gold jewelry in Deadwood decades later.

In 1980, the 8th Circuit affirmed an injunction ruling that if a manufacturer was to call their jewelry “Black Hills gold,” it would have to be made in the Black Hills themselves. The state of South Dakota then designated Black Hills gold jewelry as the official state jewelry in 1988.

Characteristics of Black Hills gold

Black Hills gold jewelry is noted not by a single color or type of gold but by the unique design of the pieces, typically handcrafted to depict leaves, grape clusters, and vines. Black Hills gold pieces are easily recognizable for their distinctive colors and are often made with gold colored in more than one tone.

Originally, Black Hills gold jewelry was made with South Dakota-mined gold, but has more recently been made with gold sourced elsewhere since the closure of the Homestake Mine in the area.

Black Hills gold jewelry is made with alloys of gold with standard yellow gold as well as green and pink gold. Silver is alloyed with yellow gold to produce 14-karat green gold, while copper is alloyed with yellow gold to create 14-karat red or pink gold.

It is no longer required for the gold to be mined in the area, but the finished jewelry must be produced in the Black Hills in order to fall under this category.

How is Black Hills gold jewelry made?

Black Hills gold jewelry follows an intricate and detailed process, much like the appearance of the finished pieces themselves. Here’s what the process looks like:

  1. The alloys are created (as described above) and the resulting gold bars are prepared for rolling.
  2. The bars are then rolled by presses to their desired thicknesses based on the type of jewelry being produced.
  3. Each part of jewelry is individually stamped out of the rolled gold sheets using patterns and dies.
  4. The solid gold leaves and any other patterns are then added to a cast jewelry base.
  5. The cast pieces are then polished by one of two methods:
    1. Traditional hand-polishing using a wheel.
    2. Tumbling, wherein many castings at one time are placed in a tub or cylinder with different sizes and shapes of metal, rubber, or other materials in a liquid solution. They are then agitated or rotated until they are polished smooth. The cast pieces are now ready for the stamped components (such as leaves and grapes) to be mounted onto them.
  6. At this phase, some prefer to use traditional methods to attach the pieces, individually hand-soldering the stamped components to the cast gold frame using torches and a karat-gold solder.
    1. Others may place the solder and the components together on the cast item, leaving several such assemblies in a soldering oven where they are soldered by the heat of the oven.
  7. Once soldered, the jewelry is then cleaned in a mild acid bath and inspected for quality.
  8. A finishing technique known as wriggling is then used to texture the leaves, creating a textured or frosty effect.
  9. From there, each leaf vein is hand-engraved and the piece is polished in several steps to bring out its full luster.

Get more for your Black Hills gold jewelry with Gold Guys

At Gold Guys, we are dedicated to helping you get the most for your gold items – no matter the condition or gold content. We buy gold in every karat, which typically varies from 8 karat to 24 karat, helping our customers turn old and unwanted items into cash in a way that’s quick and easy.

We bring unmatched industry knowledge to the table to help our customers know what their pieces are worth and, if desired, help them sell them for a great price, smoothly and successfully. We’re proud to have received an A+ rating from the Better Business Bureau, speaking to the dedication and level of service we provide to each and every customer.

Request your mail-in kit today to receive a free, no-obligation offer for your precious metals, coins, and diamonds.