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  • alisonberthelsen

Peruvian Gold Sunstone Ring

A little earlier this year, I had the pleasure of meeting a lovely gentleman called Kim.

He came to see me with a beautiful Sunstone that was of great sentimental value to him having been given to him by an old friend. He had the stone for many years and was hoping to have it set as a ring.

He also brought along with him a tiny piece of gold.

Unexpectedly for me, the gold came with a wonderful story, being rather unique as he had actually seen it be panned back in the 1990’s out in Peru, and had had it all this time, wondering what to do with it.

It was small and very granular. A bit spiky if you like.

And a very wonderful yellow colour.

Totally pure gold.

Kim proceeded to tell me the lovely tale of how he met his wife many years ago on his gap year in Peru, and has returned most years since to visit family and take & run retreats into the mountains and valleys.

His knowledge of Peru is wonderful to listen to, especially in his softly spoken voice with all the right lilts & accents.

His great love for the country is clearly evident.

He told me how he had watched the gold be panned by a local prospector, dug from the earth, and swilled in a pan to raise the gold dust to the surface. Only then for liquid mercury to be added, and the water squeezed out through a cloth.

It was then heated with a blowtorch to evaporate the mercury, leaving just the gold.

No health and safety masks in those days!

Amazingly, he had photos of the process, and had kept notes. Both of which he was willing to share with me.
As follows.....


2.Panning. Can you see the line of gold dust forming at the top of the water?

3. Squeezing the mercury through the cloth

He has provided me with this original diary entry…..

1 July 1995.
Saturday 1/7 (1995). ‘Timbalero’ [sketch of man (timbalero) standing on grinding-stone] - grinding gold-bearing ore to extract gold. Mercury added to the earth and water, recovered by squeezing through cloth. Stinking gold/mercury mix then heated with blowtorch in the furnace, mercury evaporates, gold left behind. I bought a little piece thus made – 1.3 grams, S/.30 (about US$12). Price US$10 per gram. Yellow gold. Also extract red and greeney gold.

4.Smelting. The gold/mercury mix in the heat. 5.Smelting, can you identify the gold nugget forming?

To expand a little:

The place where this was happening was a village called Turín, in the Ingenio valley, near Nazca, Peru.

Near the village, on the arid, desert, hillsides either side of the river, small-time prospectors worked their claims, digging the gold-bearing earth and stones by hand, grinding it down with a millstone which was worked by having someone stand on the stone, rocking it from side to side till the stones and earth were ground down to a powdery dust.

The men who do this work are called timbaleros. The crushed ore was then panned by hand, to extract the gold dust, which was then mixed with water, liquid mercury added, and the water squeezed out through a cloth. The resulting sludge was heated with a blowtorch to evaporate the mercury, leaving just the gold.

(all pictures and words used here copyright of Kim)

So armed with this knowledge it was now up to me to transform it into the ring he desired and bring the stories together.

The gold was re-heated and milled to create a length that could be used to make the bezel setting that wraps around the sunstone. Then set on a silver band with a silver base.

The gold enables the sunstone to glow and shine like the sun.
Simple was best.
The stone and gold are the star of the show, and need no fuss.

Sunstones are a little soft for daily wear, but as long as the wearer is armed with this knowledge and takes care, there is no reason why it won’t last forever.

The offcuts of the gold were just enough to be made into a tiny 5mm heart pendant, which is going to their grandchild.

Its all just that little bit lovelier when you know that this year is Kim and his wife’s Golden wedding anniversary.

Happy Anniversary to them both.

The gold has been assayed at London Goldsmiths Assay office and is marked as 18ct, with the new Platinum Jubilee mark.

With great thanks to Kim, who was kind enough to allow me to write this blog piece about his experience.

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