GOLD CUBAN CHAIN TRANSFORMATION!
Since we released our 1-kilo Cuban link chain video on YouTube back in mid-2020, it has gone viral and generated over 20 million views on our main page (and millions more on our Spanish channel). Since that time, it has also been featured on multiple viral channels, like Art Insider and Un Poco De Todo (to configure and get a price for your desired chain based on the real time price of gold, click here).
Our goal this year is to improve upon the success of that video by enhancing both the quality of production and presentation associated with the Cuban chain making process. The video embedded above is our first crack at this! It showcases the process of taking an existing 10-Karat Cuban chain, melting it down, and alloying the resulting metal correctly to make a longer, better quality chain out of 14K gold.
Unlike the chain that was made in our first video, the one in this video includes a box clasp. Below you’ll find the before and after specifications for the chain, as well as a breakdown of the different sections of the video, along with links to those sections. Enjoy!
Initial Chain Specifications:
- Length = 18 inches
- Thickness = 12 mm
- Weight = 173.9 grams
- Gold Fineness = 10K
Final Chain Specifications:
- Length = 24 inches
- Thickness = 12 mm
- Weight = 247.7 grams
- Gold Fineness = 14K
Melting the 10K Gold Chain
The first step was to melt the lower quality 10-karat chain the client brought in to see exactly how much gold it contained. The reading from the x-ray analyzer showed that the original chain did not even reach 10K (the exact reading was 9.88 karats). The weight of the bar was around 15.75 pennyweights (dwt), which is approximately 173.4 grams.
Alloying the Metals to Make 14K Gold
The 173.4 grams of the 9.88-karat gold was then combined with around 46 pennyweights (71.5 grams) of 24K gold (pure gold), which added up to 157.5 pennyweights or 244.9 grams of 14K gold. This was approximately the weight of the final 24-inch, 14-karat gold Cuban link that was made.
It’s important to note that this amount of gold was not enough to make the chain. Why, you ask? Remember that the style of Cuban link most clients want is the Miami-style Cuban link, which has flattened links (not round). In order to create that finished, flat look, from 50 to 70% of extra gold (varies from manufacturer to manufacturer) is needed initially. This gold is eventually removed in the filing process.
On the video, the excess gold is alloyed by combining 24-karat gold pellets with a Copper-Zinc-Silver (Cu-Zn-Ag) alloy that has traces of gold (Au) and chromium (Cr). The scale on the video read 98.3 dwt when all the additional gold/alloy mix was weighed, around 62% higher than the batch of gold weighed earlier for the final chain.
Stretching Gold Ingot into a Wire
Once the resulting 14K gold bar was formed, it was time to stretch it into a wire using an automatic rolling mill. Throughout this rolling process, the gold wire was stretched thinner and thinner until it reached the proper gauge (thickness) and length necessary to make the new 14-karat, 24-inch-long chain. The process involved annealing the wire with the torch and feeding it through a metal plate using different sized holes to continue the rounding out process.
Soldering the Links & Twisting the Chain
The finished wire was rolled onto a copper wire using a drill to form the coil that would then be used to make the individual links. A special saw was then used to cut through the coil and separate the links of the chain. Whenever a new chain is made, there are always a few extra links left over as a backup. If one main link would get damaged in the manufacturing process, it could then be replaced.
The link soldering process takes quite a while, since each link needs to be pried open using pliers at its cut end and attached to to another link before it is flushed closed and soldered. This daisy chain process continues until all the links are joined and soldered to form the first rough version of the chain.
The opposing ends of the rough chain were then attached to an industrial twisting machine that exerts enough torque in opposite directions. This caused the links to bend and force adjacent links to stack in the same horizontal plane, which is necessary before commencing the filing process. Any additional minor torque necessary to align the links was then added manually with a wrench.
Filing the Links
The filing process is quite a lengthy one, as each side of the chain must be filed down independently and equally using progressively less coarse files (4 in total) until the links are sufficiently smooth. Before the filing began, the chain was affixed to a wooden board by melting Shellac glue (a resin mixed with alcohol) over it. All the gold dust collected from filing is used to make future Cuban link chains.
Making and Attaching the Box Clasp
Even though some clients like a no-clasp, continuous design when it comes to Cuban chains, most customers prefer a clasp. On this section of the video, the box clasp was made, attached to each end of the chain by first cutting the end-links open, then welded shut.
Polishing, Final Weigh-in and Wearing the Chain
During the final two and a half minutes of the video, the chain undergoes different levels of polishing. First, it goes through a touch up inspection, then a major polishing/buffing for maximum shine. After the chain is cleaned and steamed, it finally goes through a 14K electroplating solution to maximize shine and luster (this part definitely looks like a chemistry experiment!).
Notice how much nicer the 24-inch, 14-karat chain looks on our model at the end of the video. The 10K, 18-inch chain looked way too short. Furthermore, the final weight of our Cuban chain was 247.7 grams, pretty close to the initial 244.9 grams that we had calculated.
You can use our Cuban Link online calculator to get instant pricing for chains of different dimensions, by clicking here.
Click here to shop for our most common Cuban chains.