GEO.2 Laser Welding
The idea of designing large scale jewellery pieces in a hollow and light, but very strong, structure was inspired by designs found in architecture or aeronautics, where large bodies with maximum strength and minimum weight is needed.
Inspired by the American designer, architect and visionary Richard Buckminster Fuller (1895 – 1983) and his giant Geodesic Dome designed as a lightweight structure with maximum strength for the Montreal World Expo in 1967 (pictured left) Tom first introduced this delicate technique in 1995. Over the last 15 years he has developed his intricate laser-welding technique called ‘GEO.2’ to its present high standard.
A very thin Platinum wire (0.2mm) is welded over a body which represents the final shape and has multiple laser welds at each joint. The whole structure and the laser joints are so fine that the entire work has to be manufactured under a microscope.
After the laser welding is finished, the body is dissolved to create a hollow structure. For some designs, like rings, where extra strength is needed, the wire joins of both layers are connected to each other, adding more wire by laser welding. The arrangement of the wire is not arbitrary: the pattern of each join follows a planned system. The angle of the joins, as well as the shape and size of each single segment, plays an important part in arriving at the strength required for a high quality piece of jewellery.
After finishing the welding process, some designs are submitted to various thermal hardening processes to enhance the final strength of the product to the maximum achievable. Approximately 4,500 single laser shots per square inch and layer are needed to create a strong structure that can easily withstand normal daily usage.
Tom uses mainly Platinum for this technique, as this element provides the best parameters for laser welding. The Platinum alloy he uses was specially developed to be used for this technique. High end manufacturing methods and alloying provide an extremely hard Platinum alloy, unique to the market and exclusively manufactured for Tom Rucker. The alloy contains over 95 percent Platinum and fulfils the standard of the UK’s hallmarking guidelines.
There are no metal supplements used (e.g. Titanium or Nickel) which could cause skin irritations. Because of the very high content of Platinum and other precious metals, this alloy is very suitable for people with skin allergies.
While the use of Gold for laser welding is limited, due to the softer and more heat conductive nature of this precious metal, Tom has worked out special methods for gold welding using rare gold alloys, adjusting the settings of the welding equipment to make gold suitable for this technique.
The highly polished structure reflects light from any source at hundreds of different angles, comparable with the brilliant reflection of a diamond and creates a fantastic three-dimensional light effect.
Platinum belongs to the most rare and dense of precious metals and has nearly doubled its price in the last two years. Therefore the use of this highly precious metal needs to be carefully considered in regard to the weight of the finished piece of jewellery. For some jewellery, e.g. ear rings, weight must be limited.
The light nature of Tom’s ‘GEO.2’ allows nearly all dimensions from fragile and tiny, to large and chunky, without the uncomfortable feeling of a heavy piece of jewellery.
Tom prefers to choose a strong contrast between the high reflective surface of the platinum structure and precious stones or pearls. Natural colours of diamonds, varying from champagne, to cognac, or even rare pink, sapphires in all imaginable colour shades, rubies and emeralds are all considered.
In 2007 & 2008 Tom was given an award for his laser welding technique under the patronage of HRH Princess Michael Of Kent from the highly prestigious Goldsmiths’ Craft & Design Council for the high standards of excellence in his technological expertise and innovative manufacturing techniques.