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Mokume Gane: A Brief History


About Mokume Gane

Unique Mokume Gane rings by Andrew Nyce Designs are forged from precious metal alloys to create an heirloom quality piece strong enough to last many lifetimes.

Our distinctive Mokume Gane wedding bands, commitment rings, and diamond engagement rings are handcrafted to your specifications.

Mokume Gane (Mo-KOO-may GAH-nay) is an old metalworking technique that originated in Japan in the 1700s. The words translate to “wood eye metal,” which accurately describes the topographical patterns that appear when metals are twisted and forged using this process. The look is similar to the swirling, watery patterns of Damascus steel or ancient Chinese lacquer work. Though the technique was initially developed for use in sword making, jewelry and hollowware are the most common modern commercial applications of this method.

"My first attempt to make Mokume Gane ended in failure which created a desire to learn the art of making Mokume Gane. I am intrigued by the process of patterning Mokume Gane. And I am passionate about using Mokume Gane as my canvas, metal working tools as my brushes, and different color alloys as my paints in order to create miniature paintings.
There is a personal satisfaction in making a billet of Mokume Gane by selecting alloy sheet thicknesses, stacking arrangements and colors, and, then, individually patterning each Mokume Gane ring. For me, learning to pattern Mokume Gane was a process of thinking in three dimensions and then countless hours of hands-on experimentation." ~ Andrew Nyce

The Ancient Story

Japanese craftsman Denbei Shoami (1651-1728) is credited with the invention of Mokume Gane for embellishing samurai weapons and hilts. The process was only used in sword making until the 19th century. Changes in Japan’s political and social structure in the late 1800s saw the collapse of the caste system dominated by the samurai warriors. They were no longer allowed to carry their katana (sword) in public so demand for these arms decreased. Metalsmiths then began transferring their skills to create more artistic products.


The Modern Story

The husband and wife team of Eugene Michael Pijanowski and Hiroko Sato Pijanowski brought Mokume Gane to the United States in the early 1970s. They learned the technique from ninth generation metalsmith Norio Tamagawa. Watch a video with Hiroko and Gene demonstrating the Mokume Gane technique.

Today, Mokume Gane jewelry, flatware, hollowware and art objects are created by layering precious and semi-precious metals such as Gold, Platinum, Palladium, Sterling Silver and Copper. The layers are bonded and deformed by rolling, forging, and twisting. A combination of techniques including punches, chiseling, carving, and surface abrasion exposes the beauty of the work: the unique layering of these metals. A Mokume Gane artisan can make an unlimited number of distinct patterns with no two being precisely the same.