Cochise College Student Papers in Geology
Roger Weller, geology instructor
Black Hills Gold
by Vicki Larkins
GLG 102 Spring 2005
The Legend of the
first European explorers to see what is now known as the
Lewis and Clark heard tales about the Hills from other traders and trappers, but it wasn't until 1823 that Jedediah Smith and a group of about 15 traders actually traveled through them. While fur trade was at its peak, the
The Lakota never welcomed the white man to his hunting grounds and as immigration increased there was a marked decline in American Indian-white relations. The Army established outposts nearby, but they seldom entered the Hills Black thinking that to do so would surely cause trouble.
Trouble, however, was already brewing. Bands of Lakota reportedly raided settlements and then retreated to the cover of the Hills. Because of this, Lt. G.K. Warren was assigned the task of making a thorough reconnaissance of the plains of
Pressure to move into
the Hills was temporarily halted in 1868 when the land west of the
In 1870 stories continued to circulate
American Indian raids and constant pressure from the citizens of Yankton caused General Phillip Sheridan to propose an expedition to investigate the possibility of establishing a fort in the
The purpose of Custer's expedition was to find a suitable location for a fort. However, for unexplained reasons, a geologist and miners were included in the party. The miners occupied their time searching for gold and on June 30th, near the present day town of
After Custer's report of gold in the Hills, the citizens of Yankton again petitioned the government to open the Hills. The government held firm to the position that the Hills belonged to the Lakota. This did not stop the rush of hopeful miners. The first group to reach the Hills was the Gordon Party. Originally lead by Thomas Russell and later by John Gordon, the party consisted of 28 adventurers including Annie Tallent (Tallent is credited with being the first white woman in the
In 1875 another expedition organized by the Army entered the Hills to determine its true mineral value. Walter Jenney reported gold could be extracted with sophisticated equipment, but individual miners would have a hard time of it.
By 1875 Col. Richard I. Dodge estimated 800 white men were mining or residing in the Hills. Mining camps were established near Custer,
In the spring of 1875 the federal government attempted to solve the problem of ownership of the Hills by inviting American Indian leaders to
The ownership of the Black Hills is still in question. The Supreme Court decision that attempted to settle the issue by paying the Lakota tribes for the land was not accepted by all of the tribes. Many of the Lakota are still trying to gain ownership of a land sacred to them.
creators soon emerged in the booming hills of
The Process of Making
The process of making
The alloyed gold bars are rolled by
presses to different thicknesses for different types of jewelry. Component
parts are carefully stamped, one at a time, out of the rolled gold sheets using
patterns and dies. The solid gold leaves and other patterns are now ready to be
added to a cast jewelry base, created using a method called "lost wax
casting." Lost wax casting begins with an original metal model of a
jewelry item. A vulcanized rubber mold is made from the metal model. A wax
model is then made from the mold when hot wax is injected into the mold.
The wax model is removed from the mold
and mounted to a wax stem called a sprue, which creates an airway for casting.
Investment compound (casting plaster) is poured around the wax patterns in a
steel cylinder. After it hardens, the cylinder is baked in an oven for several
hours, melting the wax away. The cavity inside provides an exact duplicate to
be cast and is filled with molten gold. The cylinder is quenched in cold water,
shattering the plaster and exposing the gold jewelry. After grinding and
polishing, these cast pieces are ready for the stamped components.
The stamped components are individually hand-soldered to the cast gold frame using torches and karat-gold solder. The jewelry is cleaned in a mild acid bath, and then inspected for quality. Pieces that meet the high quality standards are then electro-plated with 24 Karat yellow gold. A finishing method known as wriggling removes the plating from the pink and green leaves, creating a textured or frosty effect. Each leaf vein is then hand-engraved for a brilliant, light-catching finish.
Each piece is polished in several
different steps to bring out its brilliant luster. If the item has gemstones in
its design, it is sent to the stone setting department. Finally, a careful
inspection completes the process that began with pure 24 Karat gold and
finished with a truly unique and beautiful, handcrafted jewelry item --
The Final Products of Black Hills Gold