Robin Phillips Jewelry

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Keum Boo

keum boo earringsKeum Boo (also spelled kum-bu) is an ancient Korean technique of permanently bonding 23k gold to silver, giving the appearance of the two metals being one.

The object is made in sterling silver and depletion plated to bring a layer of fine silver to the surface. This is done by repeatedly heating and then quenching the metal in acid. This process is repeated 4-5 times.

23k gold is placed on the depleted silver while gently applying heat with an open flame. The piece is then placed on a steel block and, using a polished steel burnisher, the gold is pressed down over the surface - fixing it permanently in place. 23k gold will only bond to fine (pure) silver.

Any future soldering can affect the keum-boo so care must be taken not to over heat the piece. After completing the process the piece may be textured by putting it through a rolling mill or using a scratchbrush. The finish is permanent.



The name repoussé is derived from the French pousser, “to push forward.” I love that you can take a flat piece of silver sheet, coax it into 3 dimensional life, and turn it into something wonderful.

The piece is secured face down in heated pitch and then shaped from the back with either steel or wooden punches and a mallet or hammer. Care must be taken not to destroy the surface by inconsistent hammer blows, easy does it. Metal is not very forgiving if you put big dents or scratches in it. Consistent hammering makes a beautiful texture too.




forged collarsMetal can be stretched, curved, flattened, folded and domed. Forging is the basis of silversmithing. From bowls and cutlery to rings and collars, knowledge of forging techniques is essential.


Hand or Hydraulic Pressing

hand pressed keum boo bracelet

When a three dimensional object requires a consistent shape, I hand make my own die and then form the piece with either a hand vise or hydraulic press. I always test the accuracy of the die with copper plate before I commit myself using gold or silver.











Cloisonné and Champlevé Enamel

cloisonne brooch

The term Cloisonné is derived from the French, cloisons, meaning "partitioned cells". Champlevé refers to a technique where a recess is made in the silver either by incising, etching or making a framework that is fused or soldered onto a fine (pure) silver plate. It is in this recess that the enamel is applied.

Enamel is finely ground glass, with various oxides added for colour. Enamel consistency is similar to very fine sand. The enamel is applied with a fine brush in very thin, individual layers, then dried, and fired in a kiln. This technique requires many, many firings to complete a piece.

Thin metal wires (cloisons) of either fine silver or gold are first bent into various shapes to separate the enamels from one another and to add to the internal design.

After the first thin layer of enamel is applied and dried it is ready to be kiln fired, somewhere around 790 - 810 degrees celsius.

Enamel colour does not blend together when it melts, it is the painstaking skill of the practitioner who by careful placement of each grain achieves the gradation of colour and appearance of depth.

The enamels continue to be built up and fired repeatedly until the colours become vibrant and there is a feeling of depth to the piece. Each large piece may be fired over twenty times. Unlike pottery, each piece is always fired on its own.

The piece then needs to be refined by removing any excess enamel that has covered the cloisons. Using a series of diamond files (from coarse to very fine) the piece is gently filed flat until the cloisons are revealed and the depth of the enamel is consistent and free from any scratches caused from filing.

The last firing gives the glassy finish enamels are known for. The final depth of the enamel is less than .9mm.

Enameling is a labour intensive art and not without risk, as silver has a relatively low melting point. The enamelist must be vigilant in order to ensure that the work is not lost during the firing process.





Married Metal

married metal 'zig zag' necklace

Married metal is a term used to describe the process of soldering different metals together using high temperature solder. I usually use a combination of silver, gilding metal, nickel silver and copper, although other metals can be used.

After soldering the pieces together, they can be re-cut and re-soldered thereby altering the pattern that had been initially formed. This can be done again and again, making the pattern quite intricate. When happy with the pattern, the piece must be filed back to clean away all the excess solder (and there is a lot!), revealing the subtle pattern beneath.

The finished piece can be coloured by introducing an open flame which will intensify the colour of the metals, or it can be left to oxidise naturally. Sometimes I use a sealant to keep the colour permanent. I usually set the piece as I would a stone because to solder it again I run the risk of the joins opening and the piece buckling.



inlaid necklace

This is similar to the 'married metal' method. A design is saw-pierced from one metal and inlayed into an exactly matching opening in a different metal.

The pieces are soldered together with high temperature solder. As with married metal, the piece must be filed back until dead flat and all solder removed.

It can be coloured with an open flame or left to oxidise naturally. It can also be sealed to preserve the colour.






All photographs are by Robin Phillips and may not be used without her written permission.

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