Get to know the ultra-precious new metal that’s exclusively SK
“I remember my great grandmother loved black coffee and that was my inspiration,” says metalsmith Elías Ruíz of the hue that inspired the new Black Gold pieces he developed for Spinelli Kilcollin. “Next time you have a café Americano and you see the bubbles, that’s the color Black Gold is.” The nine-piece collection, which features a new breakthrough in metallurgy, came about from equal parts necessity and the pursuit of perfec- tion. As Spinelli Kilcollin cofounder and sales director Yves Spinelli explains, “We started thinking about this several years ago because we would do black rhodium plating on silver and gold and it always eventually starts to fade, and in some cases will completely wear off.”
Black Gold, by contrast, never fades or loses its sheen. It’s the result of a collaboration with SK’s go-to jeweler, Rogelio Ortega of RCJ Jewelry, and Ruíz, his metalsmith, who formulated the custom metal for the brand. While most black jewelry on the market is in fact black rhodium-plated gold, and loses its luster over time, the new metal that Ruíz and Ortega developed for SK is actually black through and through, and retains its color permanently. It’s also denser and more valuable than 18 karat gold, as it comprises a mix of gold and opulent palladium. “It’s more valuable than platinum and gold together,” says Ortega. “It’s a very special metal; a very special combination.” Ruíz spent years tinkering with the formulations out of his down- town Los Angeles workshop to get the blend just right.
“You won’t find that color at the market,” Ruíz says, and indeed, it’s an innovation that required ex- tensive trial and error. “I did hundreds of tries to find the right mix of metals and get the quality they asked for,” he explains. There are lots of things that can go wrong when mixing metals. “Laymen will say, let’s just experiment and throw all kinds of different alloys in and see what colors we can come up with and that’s not really the way it works,” Spinelli says. “Because it needs to be pulled into wire, it still needs to be set with stones, it can’t be brittle and crack.” “Sometimes the metal doesn’t melt; if it doesn’t get to the right temperature it breaks,” Ortega adds.
Fortunately, Ruíz is something of a genius with mixing colors and metals (“he’s almost like a scien- tist,” Spinelli asserts), having already formulated SK’s signature yellow and rose gold hues from scratch, rather than relying on the premixed concoctions widely available from gold distributors. Since Ruiz was a child growing up in Oaxaca, Mexico, he was fascinated with color, and had an affinity for sorting the vibrant hues of baby clothing at his family’s in-home factory. “I never imagined I’d still be sorting colors when I grew up,”
For Black Gold, SK reimagined some of the classic bestselling silhouettes of the Core collection, the all- silver grouping of rings that they first started with as a new company in 2010. “It was before we had the money to use a lot of diamonds and gold, so our designs back then were based mostly on silver, and as we’ve elevated the brand it’s something we missed doing,” says cofounder and creative director Dwyer Kilcolin. “It’s exciting to use more expensive materials, but we’ve been wanting to bring attention back to those classic, more street-looking styles that are focused on pure metal.” Styles that got the Black Gold treatment include the Orion, which stars three bands in different gauges with yellow gold connectors and rose gold annulets, and the Vela, which features five bands in different gauges. New styles include the four-band Cassini BG, which incorporates gray diamonds, and the Cici BG, which has three black gold bands flanking one made of yellow gold. “Yellow serves to make the black look a little bit darker, and the dark bands around the yellow really make the gold band pop,” says Kilcollin.
Back in their workshops, Ortega and Ruíz labor over each ring with the image of the SK customer in mind. “We work thinking about the looks on the faces of people admiring the beauty of the pieces,” Ruíz says. “Whether it’s a girlfriend or a mother putting on the ring for the first time and seeing it on her hand, and saying ‘Look!’”
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- Written by Christine Whitney