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Posts Tagged ‘soldering flux’

Yogyakarta Day 3: Friday, August 4, 2017

 

Silver flowers with red centers

My first stop for my custom tour was a silver jewelry workshop in Kota Gede, the old capital of the region. These intricate flowers are a good example of the style of jewelry made here.

My driver for the day was Haru, the concierge at the Hotel Jambuluwuk that I had made these arrangements with the day before. It was another private tour, but I was paying a good rate for it. I am grateful that the stipend I received from the Teachers for Global Classrooms program was generous enough to cover the costs for these extra five days. I am learning a great deal, and it is complimenting what I saw and did during the three weeks of the regular program so that I will have true expertise in several aspects of Indonesian culture that can enrich my teaching.

Making silver grains

My driver, Haru, knew this workshop where they do tours. This man was cutting exact lengths of silver wire, then heating to melting with the blow torch to cause the wire pieces to pool into beads of exactly the same size. The beads are glued onto the jewelry piece using a yellow paste made from red piling-piling seeds, then soldered onto the piece with a blowtorch.

My first stop was to travel to a nearby city called Kota Gede, which was the traditional capital of area. It is only a few kilometers away from the center of Yogyakarta, and the two cities have mostly merged together. The only way I knew we were there was that the streets narrowed and became more twisted, a sure sign that we had entered the heart of an old city.

Silver forge and quench

This forge is used to melt an alloy of about 92-95% silver with 8-5% copper (sterling silver), which is cast into bars and quenched.

Haru knew of a place that makes and sells silver jewelry and that could show me the process of how it is done. I had made my desires known, and there was no established tour that I could find online that did all that I wanted to see, so that is why I arranged this custom tour. There had been one tour that had tourists riding bicycles out to Prambanan, and that sounded nice, but given the traffic and tropical heat and humidity in Indonesia I decided it was best not to book that one.

Silver plate press

The sterling silver bars are passed through this press and squeezed down into silver plate, which is then drawn through a die to make silver wire of various gauges.

We pulled into the small parking area in front of the factory and walked in. Haru had called ahead, and a man was waiting to take me downstairs from the sales room and out the back door and across a courtyard to the workshop itself. Not a lot was going on – it depends on the day and the demand, so only a few people were working and they weren’t doing any melting or forging. But they did have photos and explanations of the whole process.

Butterfly ring

Making rings with butterfly mounts. The sterling silver has taken on a coppery color, but is finally cleaned and polished to provide the bright white silvery finish prized in the final jewelry.

The silversmiths of Kota Gede are known for their fine filigree silver work. They start by taking pure silver and alloying it with 7 to 9% copper (making it into sterling silver). This is done by melting them together in a crucible, then pouring the alloy into mold to form a thin rod.

Harley Indian silver

Some of the pieces are free-standing sculptures encased in plexiglass cases, such as this Harley-Davidson Indian motorcycle sculpture. It was a bit outside my price range.

The rod is then forced through a series of holes in a hard steel plate to make a wire of a specific gauge. This is done using a device with cranks and gears. The wire is forced through successively smaller holes to make thinner and thinner wire.

The wire is then cut into lengths and curled, or short, thin pieces are heated with an acetylene blowtorch on a ceramic plate to cause them to melt into small beads. The wires and beads are glued together using a paste made from red piling-piling seeds to form a piece such as an earring or broach, and the whole thing is heated with a torch to solder it together. The paste acts like a flux to melt the silver at a lower temperature. Then the piece is carefully cleaned and polished to get the white satiny sheen of silver.

Prambanan-Garuda-Wayong silver

Silver encased in lucite, showing Prambanan, the Garuda Pacasila symbol, and wayang figures.

After watching the workmen making the parts and preparing to make pieces, I walked back to the showroom with my guide and looked at the pieces there. I was surprised at their overall low cost for the quality of the workmanship. There were some more expensive works, of course, such as horse carriages or becak drivers or wayang puppets or even models of Borobudur. But there were also silver filigree flowers and butterflies, dragons and phoenixes, all with delicate traceries of silver wire. I found a section that showed silver plated pieces instead of sterling silver, and I found some I liked for a very reasonable price. I bought two pieces for my wife, knowing that she would love them.

Silver flowers

Silver wire filigree flowers on sale at the Kota Gede workshop showroom. I bought a flower broach similar to the large own second from the right, and another design with leaves and stems.

I have been through many silver mines in my explorations of the American West, including ones in Utah, Nevada, and Colorado. I certainly have documented how silver is mined and refined. But this was the first time I saw it turned into finished products, which completes the story of silver for my Elements Unearthed project and this website.

Silver filigree flowers

Silver filigree flowers, made from wire and beads glued together by piling-piling paste and soldered with a blow torch, then cleaned and polished. This was more in line with what I wanted, and I bought two silver-plated flower broaches for my wife. She really enjoys them.

My second stop for this day was to be at the Monggo Chocolate Factory where I hoped to see the whole process of chocolate making. First we stopped at a chocolatier next door to the silversmiths, and it was interesting but this wasn’t a factory. All they were doing was packaging the chocolate. They had several flavors, including durian fruit chocolate (what a terrible thing to do to chocolate!). I tried some mango flavored chocolate and bought a bar of it, but it couldn’t compare to Armano Artisan Chocolate in Orem, Utah where I live. I’ve been through their factory and have seen the whole process.

Silver dove

A beautiful silver filigree dove in a lucite case. This took some time to do, gluing in each wire with piling-piling paste, soldering the whole piece with a blowtorch, then polishing it to a white finish.

We wound up having difficulty finding the Monggo Chocolate Factory despite it being all over the Internet as a thing to do in Kota Gede. There wasn’t much to see: a store counter with samples and some people pouring and molding chocolates in a back room, but without good enough lighting to really get a decent photo through the window. They did have a timeline of chocolate history I found interesting.

Pink flower

A pink frangipani flower growing outside the silver workshop at Kota Gede. Many of the designs were based on these flowers.

After only a few minutes there, we loaded back into the car and took the twisty roads back out of the center of Kota Gede. Haru provided me with a small lunch and water, and I also ate my chocolate bar. We were heading now past the airport and out to the most important stop today: the Hindu temples of Prambanan.

Chocolate Monggo

We stopped next door at a chocolate outlet store, then did some searching to find the famous Monggo chocolate factory, which was a bit disappointing. There were no tours, despite claiming such on their website.

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